The number of professional codes, charters, declarations, principles and other style guides has been increasing for the past ten years, both for the profession in general but also internally within newspapers.
These texts are, above all, tools for self-regulation and show a genuine desire on the part of the profession to express its freedom and independence with relation to economic and political powers.
They highlight common values and set professional rules or ethical procedures, even if these are not directly enforceable by French employers who have not signed any of the collective national or international charters drawn up by trade unions.
The charter for the professional duties of French journalists was drawn up by the national trade union for journalists in 1918, reviewed in 1938 and again in 2011 under the new title The ethics Charter for profesional journalists. It remains the document of reference and served as the model for the 1971 Munich Charter which was signed by several European journalist trade unions.
A charter for news quality was presented at the journalist association, Assises Internationales du Journalisme et de l’Information in May 2008. For the first time, a text of this sort had been written by all those involved in the information chain – journalist trade unions and colleges, legal experts, members of the public and publishers. But this charter has gone unheeded.
Following the summit for print media organised by the government in autumn 2008, a committee, was formed, including Bruno Frappat, and made up of independent individuals and representatives of professional organisations, to draw up a proposal for a professional code of principles. This text was presented publically in October 2009 but was then abandoned, the social partners being unable to agree.
Internal media charters
We find these within press groups (see the professional standards charter for Lagardère Active, given to each journalist on their arrival in the group but not available on a public site). They are also found within individual titles (see the daily newspaper, Le Monde and the weekly journals L’Express and Nouvel Observateur).
The France-Télevisions group has posted on-line its Program’s Charter.
These charters are seldom referenced and are relatively unknown to salaried staff and even less so to the public, with the result that they are not used much.
Professional interest group charters
Young journalist charters
Rules and usage for the regional daily press
Professional standards charter for the weekly regional press
Rules of the national federation for specialised press
Charter for the rights of freelance journalists
Charter on safety for journalists in areas of conflict or tension
In addition, Fidéo, the self-disciplinary association for stock-market and financial news was created in 2007 by print media, audio-visual and agency publishers who adopted a ‘good practice code for media regarding the production and circulation of investment recommendations’. A sanctioning system was provided for.
The setting up of two equivalent press councils – French and Flemish languages – has helped advance professional ethics and standards texts in Belgium.
The General Association of Professional Journalists in Belgium signed the 1971 Munich Charter, adding a Code of journalistic principles 10 years later, signed by newspaper and magazine publisher associations in 1988.
On 6 October 2010 the Flemish Council for Professional Ethics and Standards (Raad voor de journalistiek), introduced a new professional standards code for the Flemish community media: .
On 11 December 2013 the French language council introduced an up-to-date code for journalistic profesional standards .
The association of professional journalists continues to introduce and update recommendations on themes relating to professional ethics and standards:
Recommendations on news relating to foreign-born individuals following an impact study on the way migrants and migration were treated in the media
Recommendations relating to insider dealing, markets, investment manipulation and conflicts of interest
Guide to good practice regarding journalists and their sources
Internal media codes have been increasing in number in Belgium for the past fifteen years.
A declaration of duties and rights for journalists was drawn up by journalists from the Association for Swiss Press, the forerunner of Impressum, the most important professional journalist association in Switzerland today: .
The associations for newspaper publishers and public service radio and television are committed to ‘recommending that their members draw up the rights and duties for editors in the editorial statutes or equivalent text and enshrine in this text a compulsory ethical code for journalists’.
The incentive is there but the implementation has not been tested; in other words, each publisher is encouraged to use it but nobody controls its application.
Since 2000, the Swiss Press Council has proposed precise directives for the declaration. These directives are regularly updated to take into account developments in the press, in legislation and in journalistic practice. The latest version came into effect in July 2013.
Since 2008 and the admission of publishers to the council for the foundation of the Swiss press, the declaration has been recognised by newspaper publishers and public service radio and television.
The code for Brazilian journalist ethics came into being in 1987 after approval by the National Congress of Journalists. It was updated in 2007. According to the national federation of Brazilian journalists, the document ‘sets the standards which journalists should adhere to in their relationships with the community, with information sources and with other journalists.’
In 1992 the College of journalists of Catalonia published the first professional ethics and standards text in Spain. The code includes 12 principles and five additional points detailing specific recommendations regarding the manipulation of images, photo-journalism, Internet, gifts and remuneration, as well as the coverage of armed conflicts or war.
A year later, on 27 November 1993, the FAPE (a federation of Spanish journalist associations) drew up a professional ethics and standards charter for all journalists in the country, consisting of 20 criteria.
Two other texts were drawn up later: a professional ethics code for Galicia and a professional ethics code for the Madrid union of journalists in March 2000.
All professionals belonging to the NUJ must sign the text.
British press publishers drew up their own Code of pratice in 1991. The text was reviewed in 2012 and signed by the Press Complaints Commission, equivalent to a press council, for which it is the reference.
Germany has had a general reference text since 1973. It was drawn up by the press council and various press associations and then reviewed in 2006.
De Standaard : No
De Standaard does not have an internal charter. It uses the Professional standards and ethics code for the Flemish community drawn up by the equivalent of the Press Council of which the newspaper is a member.
Europe 1 : Yes
A new charter was adopted at the beginning of 2012 to clarify the relationship between editorial policy and advertising and to guarantee the integrity between them. The charter, which was set up by the news management team in partnership with the Human Resources department, is subject to the Association of Editors and serves as a basis for discussion and cultural exchange.
France 24 : Yes
Le Monde : Yes
The ‘le monde libre’ company which took over the majority capital share of the Group added an ethical code to the newspaper’s Statutes/Articles of Association at the end of 2010.
This Charter for personal ethics and professional standards replaces the style guide which had been drawn up by the newspaper’s management at the beginning of the millennium and updated in 2004. It is made up of two parts: a set of professional rules specific to the newspaper and a set of very precise rules relating to vocabulary and typography.
The style guide, intended mainly for journalists, was sold in newspaper kiosques while the charter is now available on the internet.
Ouest France : Yes
The General News/News in Brief Charter was drawn up in June 1990 and later modified. The latest version is simply called Charters with commitments on the handling of general news/news in brief and justice, partnership programmes (emphasising the newspaper’s editorial independence regarding its 1 500 annual partnerships), how photos are dealt with, how multimedia works, etc.
In the first semester of 2009, the Charter was distributed to all the editorial staff in the interest of internal communication.
A public version has been available on-line since autumn 2009.
Berliner Zeitung : Yes
The Berliner Zeitung adopted an internal charter (Redaktionsstatut) in August 2006.
The charter defines the organisation’s editorial ethics and standards (journalistic independence, clear demarcation between advertising and editorial, etc.), as well as the internal structure of the newspaper (complete editorial). The document is not available to the public.
ZDF : Yes
The ZDF television channel drew up a charter called (Richtlinien für die Sendungen und Telemedienangebote) (Guidelines for televised programmes and audio-visual services) when it was created in 1963 which was updated in 2009.
A number of the many articles available on-line are directly concerned with journalistic output.
• ZDF-Leitlinien (Internal code of conduct for inter-personal matters) upholds the values of humanity, liberal democracy, cultural conscience and journalistic freedom
• Leitordnung (Code on editorial freedom)
• Mitarbeiterkodex (a separate internal code of conduct determining the measures and anti-corruption sanctions that aim to guarantee editorial independence).
The editorial committee within the organisation advocates the setting up of a Redaktionsstatut (editorial statute) to establish firm rules that guarantee complete internal editorial independence. Relationships between editors and their hierarchical superiors are defined, including the right of the latter to intervene.
The ZDF is a member of the European Union for Radio-Television (EUR) and subscribes to their principles.
The Irish Times : Yes
The founding trust of The Irish Times drew up broad principles for its political and ethical direction. These include basic rules for its journalists: precise and comprehensible information must be fairly presented; comments and opinions must be informed but also clearly separated from the presentation of the facts; particular care must be taken in the treatment of minority interests and divergent viewpoints, etc.
These principles are made available to the public.
Polskie Radio, kanal 3 : Yes
Polskie Radio has drawn up rules and duties for journalists but these are not available to the public
BBC : Yes
The Editorial Guidelines were drawn up in 1989 by John Wilson, the first Director for Editorial Policy.
It has since been the responsibility of David Jordan, journalist and new Director for Editorial Policy and Standards.
The Guidelines are revised every four or five years and a copy is given to all BBC programme journalists and producers. It is also available to the public on the website: www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/ .
These are constantly being improved and the Guidelines are now accompanied by a casebook which outlines and analyses daily practices and commitments: www.bbc.co.uk/editorialguidelines/guidance/ .
The Guardian : Yes
The professional standards code was drawn up 10 years ago and was updated in August 2011 by the current editorial director.