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Old Thursday, September 26, 2013
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Codes of ethics

The question as to which norms are to guide the activity of journalists is answered by trying to provide documents on basic principles, such as "Cannons of Journalism," press codes, etc. These kinds of professional ethical documents on basic principles distinguish themselves in most cases through the use of very broad, imprecise formulations, often empty of content and producing platitudes. Thus the "Canons of Journalism" of the "American Society of Newspaper Editors" begins with the following trivial programmatic statement: "The primary function of newspapers is to communicate to the human race what its members do feel and think. Journalism, therefore, demands of its practitioners the widest range of intelligence, knowledge, and experience, as well as natural and trained powers of observation and reasoning." In addition, the statement, "Good faith with the reader is the foundation of all journalism worthy of the name," is, as the main connecting theme for the practice of journalism, not too informative. The problem of applicability to practical journalistic activity is tackled in the professional principles agreed by the "International Federation of Journalists" in Bordeaux in 1954:
"Preamble: This international declaration is proclaimed as a standard of professional conduct which every journalist should keep to in his or her work:
1. Respect for truth and for the right of the public to truth is the first duty of the journalist.
2. In pursuance of this duty, the journalist shall at all times defend the principles of freedom in the honest collection and publication of news, and of the right to fair comment and criticism.
3. The journalist shall report only in accordance with facts of which he/she knows the origin. The journalist shall not suppress essential information or falsify documents.
4. The journalist shall only use fair methods to obtain news, photographs and documents.
5. The journalist shall do the utmost to rectify any published information which is found to be harmfully inaccurate.
6. The journalist shall observe professional secrecy regarding the source of information obtained in confidence.
7. The journalist shall be alert to the danger of discrimination being furthered by media, and shall do the utmost to avoid facilitating such discriminations based on, among other things, race, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinions, and national and social origins.
8. The journalist shall regard as grave professional offenses the following: plagiarism; malicious misinterpretation; calumny; libel; slander; unfounded accusations; acceptance of a bribe in any form in consideration of either publication or suppression.
9. Journalists worthy of the name shall deem it their duty to observe faithfully the principles stated above. Within the general law of each country the journalist shall recognise in professional matters the jurisdiction of colleagues only, to the exclusion of any kind of interference by governments or others."
As an internationally useful, though strongly interpretative variation on the professional principles, two German communication scientists, Noelle-Neumann and Schulz (1971), name the following 10 points:
1. Awareness of the responsibility of the journalist in the fulfilment of his/her public role in the service of the general public;
2. Protection of internal and external independence;
3. To speak up for human rights, especially for the basic right of freedom of speech, of the press, and of broadcasters;
4. Tolerance towards those belonging to other nations, races and religions. To speak up for peace and international understanding;
5. Respect for the truth. Reliable information about the public, whose sources are checked. Correction of inaccurate reporting;
6. Safeguarding professional confidences, on which trust in a journalist is based;
7. Respect for privacy, and people's private lives;
8. No defamatory criticism, unless required through legitimate perception of the public interest;
9. No glorification of power, brutality and immorality. Consideration for the special situation of young people;
10. A level of education of journalists which does justice to their high degree of responsibility.
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