YPC Weekly Newsletter

2007


18 MEDIA ADOPTED CODE OF CONDUCT

On March 10 Yerevan Press Club hosted a meeting of heads of media and journalistic associations, who supported the YPC initiative to jointly develop the main norms of professional ethics and further follow them in their day-to-day activities. At the meeting the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives was adopted and signed (see below). The Code was developed by a working group created on February 2 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 2-8, 2007).

The Code of Conduct was signed by heads of 18 media: TV companies – “A1+, “Gala”, “Lori”, Second Armenian TV Channel, “Sosi”, “Tsayg”, “Yerkir-Media”; Radio “HAY”; newspapers – “168 Zham”, “Aravot”, “Azg”, “Civil Initiative”, “Delovoy Express”, “Kumayri”, “Respublika Armenia”; Lragir.am online publication; “Media Style” LLC (publishers “Capital” and “90 Minutes” newspapers); “Arminfo” news agency.

At the meeting the Media Ethics Observatory was elected, listing 7 members: Hagop Avedikian (Chief Editor of “Azg” daily), Levon Barseghian (Chairman of the Board of “Asparez” Journalist’s Club of Gyumri), Astghik Gevorgian (Chairwoman of the Union of Journalists of Armenia), Emmanuil Mkrtchian (General Director of “Arminfo” news agency), Mesrop Movsesian (President of “Meltex” LLC), Boris Navasardian (Yerevan Press Club President), Lilit Simonian (lawyer, Head of the Center of Right and Information). The mission of the Media Ethics Observatory consists in considering the complaints-appeals regarding the violation of the Code of Conduct and presenting its opinion on them.

The signatories also committed to the Declaration on Election and Referendum Coverage Principles (see below), narrated in the Appendix to the Code.

CODE OF CONDUCT

We, representatives of mass communication media,

– Recognizing the necessity of following and uniting around rules of professional conduct, as well as the obligation of journalists to maintain the highest possible standards of work and ethics,

– Emphasizing the right of the public to be informed and the duty of the media to inform,

– Pointing out the necessity of safeguarding editorial independence and of not restraining journalists by any private interests,

– Agreeing that the media and journalists are accountable to their audience and each other,

– Stating that a single set of rules cannot be established for all cases, but common standards of professional journalism can be respected,

have adopted the following principles and the commitments that arise from them:

1. Accuracy and Impartiality

Honoring this principle means:

1.1. Prior to publishing, to check the accuracy of information from any source, not to conceal and not to distort facts, and not to publish obviously false information;

1.2. If the editorial office has received information of public significance, but has been unable to verify the facts, to mention so in the publication;

1.3. To rely on accurate facts when making analysis and comment;

1.4. To clearly distinguish facts and information from opinion and comment;

1.5. To seek ensuring that headlines, reports, photo, video and audio materials correspond to the reality, and that quotations are not used outside of context;

1.6. Not to distort the substance of photo or video materials, to mention about technical tricks in photos and video materials if any.

2. Integrity in Relations with Sources of Information

Honoring this principle means:

2.1. To the extent possible, to specify the sources of information;

2.2. To the extent possible, to avoid using confidential sources of information and, before promising to keep the source of information confidential, always to find out the motivation. However, if the information is provided upon condition of keeping the source confidential, never to disclose the source;

2.3. To avoid the use of undercover and secret methods of obtaining information, with the exception of cases when open traditional methods do not ensure the receipt of information of public interest. The need for such methods must be explained in the actual publication;

2.4. To respect copyright, to preclude plagiarism, and to mention the sources whenever quoting or making reprints.

3. Editorial Independence

Honoring this principle means:

3.1. To draw a clear line between journalistic materials and advertisement: each publication for which payment has been made, must have a relevant notice about it;

3.2. To give no advantage to advertisers and sponsors in editorial coverage;

3.3. To resist pressure by advertisers, sponsors, and media owners, which is aimed at influencing the reporting on events;

3.4. To refuse payments and gifts promised for publishing or not publishing information that contradict professional independence and result in a loss of trust.

4. Respect for Privacy and Other Human Rights

Honoring this principle means:

4.1. To respect and to protect the human right to private life: public need can only justify interferences with the privacy of officials, public figures, and individuals aspiring to the power or public attention;

4.2. In case of a conflict between the freedom of expression and other fundamental human rights, the medium itself decides what to give preference to and carries responsibility for its decision;

4.3. To be especially tactful when the sources of information or the heroes of publications are children or minors, and to be careful when disclosing the identity of juvenile defendants and victims of sexual crimes;

4.4. When collecting information about people that have suffered tragedy or sorrow, when taking interviews or photos of such people, or when broadcasting video or audio materials about them, to be tactful towards them;

4.5. To respect the presumption of innocence: when publishing the names of crime suspects before the trial, to consider the public need for doing so – striking a balance between the presumption of innocence, the right of crime suspects to fair trial, and the right of the public to be informed.

5. Respect for Representatives of Different Groups and for Universal Values

Honoring this principle means:

5.1. To avoid prejudice against people on the ground of their race, sex, age, religion, nationality, geographic origin, sexual orientation, physical handicap, external look or social status;

5.2. Not to promote in any way ethnic or religious hatred and intolerance, or any discrimination on political, social, sexual, and language grounds;

5.3. Not to advocate war, violence or pornography in any form;

5.4. To be careful when disseminating information about terrorist acts, to rule out content and reports that may instill sympathy towards terrorists, to treat witnesses of events as sources of information delicately, and to avoid disclosing the identity of relatives or friends of hostages and possible victims without their consent.

6. Integrity in Relations with the Public

Honoring this principle means:

6.1. To support the free exchange of opinions, regardless of any differences between such opinions and the editorial views;

6.2. To be ready to meet with and allow a response from individuals against whom accusatory publications have been made;

6.3. To admit mistakes and to be ready to correct them;

6.4. To encourage the public to express their criticism of the media and to be ready for a public discourse on matters of journalistic ethics.

We undertake to follow the principles laid down in the Appendix to this Code of Conduct during the official promotion campaign for elections and referenda.

We, the representatives of mass communication media that have signed this Code of Conduct, hereby submit to the authority of the Media Ethics Observatory elected by us to examine the conformity of our acts and publications to the provisions of this Code, and state our willingness to publish decisions of the Media Ethics Observatory in our media.

Adopted at the meeting of media and journalists who signed this Code of Conduct on March 10, 2007.

Appendix
To the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives

DECLARATION ON ELECTION AND REFERENDUM COVERAGE PRINCIPLES

We, the representatives of mass communication media that have signed this Code of Conduct, hereby undertake to follow the principles laid down below during the official promotion campaign for elections and referenda:

1. To be tolerant in respect of all parties and candidates;

2. Not to insult the candidate personally and not to ridicule a candidate’s views and opinions;

3. Not to publish materials containing defamation, blackmail, and threats aimed at candidates;

4. To give all candidates equal possibilities for presenting their platforms and views in the media, and to apply the same tariffs when allocating paid space or air time in media;

5. Not to publish materials containing hidden political advertising, and to separate materials presented for (free or paid) publication by groups supporting any party or candidate or produced at their request from other materials, or to make mention about it;

6. Broadcast media must refrain from supporting any specific candidate or party, and the print media must provide clear advance announcement of their intent to do so.

We hereby submit to the authority of the Media Ethics Observatory elected by us to examine the conformity of our acts and publications during the official promotion campaign for elections and referenda to the provisions of this Declaration, and express our willingness to publish decisions of the Media Ethics Observatory in our media.

On March 13 at the Journalists Union of Armenia a press-conference of the members of the Media Ethics Observatory was held. At the meeting with journalists the initiative of media representatives was presented along with the documents adopted and the principles of the Observatory’s work. It was also stressed that the Code of Conduct remains open for signing. The initiative can be joined by phone: +374 10 53 00 67, 53 35 41 or by e-mail: pressclub@ypc.am

Complaints to the Media Ethics Observatory can be sent via e-mail to boris@ypc.am or mesrop@ypc.am

The support of self-regulation initiatives by Yerevan Press Club is provided under a project “Introduction of a Self-Regulation Model in Armenia as an Advocacy Tool for Freedom of Media”, supported by OSI Network Media Program.