The Code of Ethics in the cornerstone of media and media work in most countries of the world. The basic standards of impartiality, fairness, integrity accuracy, lawfulness, observing public interests and professional independence have been underscored in media systems of many countries, and the Journalism Code of Ethics has evolved on the basis of these standards.
These standards are interpreted differently in each country. Internal conditions, political structures, as well as creedal and cultural values of the different societies have shaped the construction of these codes of ethics locally.
In Afghanistan, the media has experienced considerable growth over the past couple of years.
And impact of media’s activities on public opinion, and political, social, economic and cultural processes in the country is undeniable.
Given the Scope, effectiveness and efficiency of the activities of media in the country, the need to ensure the professionalism and safety of journalists, the characteristics of Afghan society, and the challenges of security and stability in Afghanistan, a number of media activists undertook to develop the journalism code of ethics for the media community.
This code of ethics underscores the principles and values of new global journalism, and the realities of media work and freedom of expression in the country.
In drafting the document, the assigned committee studied the standards of domestic and international institutions of journalism, and consulted experts in the area of public relations and media in the country.
The National assembly for the approval of the code of ethics was held by Afghanistan Journalists and Media Federation with the support of INTERNEWS Kabul office on 25th of May 2016 in Kabul.
Participants of the assembly have discussed the draft document in working groups. The following was unanimously approved in the general assembly.
- Observe the constitution and mass media law of the country while performing their professional duties on the basis of the principles of freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to access information.
- Mention the source in the event of publishing and broadcasting products made by others.
- Provide opportunity for self-expression and mutual accountability in the face of claims and accusations.
- Observe public interest while performing professional tasks.
- Avoid Insulting, accusing, defaming, degrading and abusing others in media products.
- Accurately broadcast in the media a complainant’s response after a complaint is reviewed by the mass media commission.
Journalists during the course of undertaking their professional activities, must only pay attention to the public’s right to have access to information away from any racial, ethnic, party, regional, religious and gender associations or affiliations. Journalists must:
- Avoid participating in any activity that may tarnish their professional integrity and credibility.
- Refuse special proposals, gifts and other types of favors that can be a means to influence products of their professional work.
- Not self-censor, and should not prefer personal interests to the common good.
- Observer impartiality and fairness in the process of obtaining, processing and publishing/broadcasting media products.
- Not submit to direct or indirect pressures by government authorities, non-governmental agencies, individuals and influential groups to publish or not publish, to broadcast or not broadcast, facts according to the desire of others. They must be courageous but vigilant about personal security.
- Avoid professional conflicts or interests with fellow journalists, real or perceived.
Journalists must check the information obtained with the relevant sources and exercise caution to prevent mistakes, and under no circumstances deliberately manipulate or distort information.
- In providing opportunity to all the sides, treat in a balanced way and fairly those who are somehow involved in a news piece, report or other media genres.
- Identify sources to their audiences; if obtaining information from known sources is impossible, only use the information from the sources that do not want to be named in the case of it being in the public’s interests.
- In the event of deciding not to identify the source, ascertain the sources’ motives and goals in supplying information.
- Ensure that the information, documents and evidence obtained are not misleading.
- Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information (efforts to record voices through eavesdropping devices, listening to telephone conversations and attempting to access private correspondence), except when traditional open methods will not yield the information vital to the public and explain use of such methods as part of the story.
- Give priority to free exchange of views and perspectives while these perspectives belong to terrorist or armed opposition groups whose goal is propagating violent overthrow of the system.
- Remember that official and unofficial sources can both be equally valuable, but must not place statements by terrorist groups on the same value-level as those by the spokespersons of the government.
- In covering crime news, exercise caution that the public’s right to know does not override the rights of the accused.
- Not refer to as criminals. Individuals who yet to be recognized as such by the judiciary or are in the process of being tried in a court of law.
- Treat interviewees respectfully and courteously without any derision or disparagement while carrying out and interview or moderating programs such as roundtables.
- Not sacrifice balance, accuracy, integrity, impartiality and observance of public interests for quick publication or broadcast of information.
- Avoid deliberately downplaying or overplaying events in different media products.
- If an interview is carried out based on the principle of “off the record”, this promise should not be broken later.
- Must remember that news or press embargos are not to be trampled upon.
Journalists, while interviewing, photographing or filming those affected by tragedy or grief must be sensitive in order not to inflict further psychological harms.
- Avoid publishing or broadcasting violent contents.
- In obtaining, producing and compromise other individuals’ privacy. Only and extraordinary need to provide special information to the public justifies recourse to individuals’ private lives and private space.
- Refrain from raising and provoking issues that confuse the public, generate fear and increase social gaps in the community.
- Avoid discrimination and stereotyping by ethnicity, language, region, race, gender, disability, mental diseases etc. in the process of obtaining, processing and publishing/broadcasting facts and events.
- Avoid photographing, filming and interviewing under-age children (based on law) without the permission of parents or legal guardians. In case reporting the news concerning victims of violence is for any reason assessed to be in the victim’s interest, avoid publishing/broadcasting anything that compromises the dignity or material and spiritual interest of victim.
- Refrain from pursuing subjects that result from lurid curiosity.
- The principle of seeking the permission of seniors is also to be observed.
- Distinguish news from propaganda and refrain from engaging in the violent propaganda that confuse the public.
- Remain vigilant about the conduct of individuals and groups that hold power of attempt to gain power.
- Never distort contents of news, images or videos.
- Avoid disseminating staged news events and misleading re-enactments.
- Be wary of sources offering information for money and avoid bidding for news.
- Exercise caution while publishing facts and figures that different sides may inflate or deflate based on their own interest.
- Remember that there is a difference between facts and opinions – do not cast personal analyses and opinions as facts in supplying, publishing and broadcasting media products.
- Distinguish news from advocacy – do not get involved, directly or indirectly, in advocacy activities that harm professional integrity and credibility.
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