Code of Ethics of Lithuanian Journalists and Publishers
We, the journalists, organizers and publishers of public information, attending the general meeting of the representatives of journalists and publishers’ organizations;
Recognizing that journalism may be just and fair only if journalists exercise the freedom of self-expression guaranteed by the law, and being well aware of the role of mass media in the modern society and the responsibility of journalists for their work;
Holding that the greatest treasure of mass media is reliance on mass media, as built not only by contemporary journalists and publishers, but also by the free senders of the word of earlier generations;
Understanding that the basis for such reliance lies in independence, justice and impartiality;
Being aware that the primary duty of a journalist is respect for the truth and people’s right to the truth;
Seeking for non-belittling of our creative work and not relating our activities to the organizers of public information who tolerate indecent journalism or the principles of unfair competition;
Having a feeling of professional duty and responsibility to a democratic society for the freedom of speech and freedom of information;
Herewith approve this Code of Ethics of Lithuanian Journalists and Publishers and undertake to adhere to it.
I. GENERAL PROVISIONS
The opportunity to receive and disseminate information, as one of the universal fundamental freedoms, shall be respected, but implementation thereof must ensure all other human rights and freedoms. Proper balance of the mentioned human rights shall be sought in view of the interaction of these rights.
Organizers of public information should not consider information to be their own property or merchandise. The freedom of information is incompatible with buying information for money or other consideration unless this information is clearly published as commercials and/or advertising.
Respecting the human right to obtain truthful information, the journalists and public information organizers shall propagate true and correct news as well as a full range of opinions. While conveying diverse opinions, the journalists and public information organizers shall not disseminate opinions which are in breach of law and ethics.
News and opinions shall be clearly identified as such. The journalists and public information organizers have to ensure that an opinion is presented fairly and ethically, without any distortion of facts or data.
With due respect to diversity of opinions, the journalist and public information organizers have to present as many opinions as possible of impartial individuals. This is particularly vital when public information serves as a response to some relevant, ambiguous or contradictory issues of life.
The journalists and public information organizers shall assess their information sources in a critical way, scrutinize facts with due diligence on the basis of several sources. If verification of the information source is not possible, this should be indicated in the published information.
When it is impossible to verify the truthfulness of information in a proper manner, the journalist and public information organizer may publish such information exclusively in cases when delayed publication thereof would cause damage to the public, provided that the unverified nature of the published information is indicated.
Information shall be gathered in ethical and lawful ways.
When requesting information, the journalist has to identify himself/herself, specify the editorial staff and his position as well as warn the individual that his/her words may be published in mass media.
The journalist is not obligated to adjust the final version of his/her creative work with the informant unless this contradicts a previous agreement between the journalist and informant to agree upon the information before it is published.
While requesting information, the journalist has no right to use pressure or offer any compensation to the source of information in exchange for information, or to abuse his/her public status and professional opportunities.
Before publishing the information obtained from an individual under stress, shock or in a helpless position, the journalist and public information organizer must ensure that publishing of such information will not violate the rights of such individual and make efforts to foresee any likely negative impact on him/her.
The journalists and public information organizers shall take care of children’s welfare and shall not cause sorrow or fear to children by publishing certain information.
Questions posed to children shall be carefully contemplated and suit their age. It is prohibited to force children to speak about the relations of their parents, family life, conflicts, etc.
The journalist and public information organizer should not use for direct quotation audio and video recording devices, if the private informant is opposed to it.
The journalist and public information organizer should identify the source of his information. For this reason he has to obtain permission to refer to the informant’s name. If the source of information requests a journalist not to disclose his/her name, the journalist and public information organizer has no right to disclose it. In this case the journalist and public information organizer shall assume legal and moral responsibility for the published information.
When inserting information, the journalist and public information organizer select the information, the publishing of which is indeed justified by the public interest and information which satisfies human curiosity only.
Journalists and public information organizers should not publish information directly or indirectly which incites to crime, violation of public order, emulating aggressive conduct. In addition, it is prohibited to publish information promoting and reflecting in an attractive manner on smoking, drinking, drug-taking and other substance abuse.
Journalists and public information organizers should not promote supernatural, unrealistic properties, paranormal phenomena except for cases when such information is published for entertainment or as research not prohibited by law. It is not allowed to give the impression that astrologists, chiromancers, parapsychologists, extrasensory individuals, bioenergetics may make reliable recommendations concerning future, health or other matters.
The journalists and public information organizers shall rectify the mistakes and inaccuracies they have made that might insult particular persons without waiting for the insulted individuals to so request.
If it becomes obvious that the information in any mass media contains untrue facts, the information shall be retracted or erroneous and inaccurate facts denied immediately by publishing them in an adequate place in the same mass media, using a font of the same size, in the same form and without any comments from the public information organizer.
When publishing information about criminal acts, accidents and other cases when material or non-material damage is caused to individuals, the journalist or public information organizer should take care not to cause additional suffering and pain with such information to the victim and innocent parties.
The journalist and public information organizer shall follow the rule that the limits for criticizing a private individual are much narrower compared to a public person. Therefore, when publishing information about private individuals, priority shall be given to the protection of private life, and when publishing information about a public person – to the public interest.
In addition, the criticized individual shall always have the right to reply, i.e., he/she shall be given an opportunity to justify himself/ herself and to explain or deny incorrect information. In case of failure to have such a possibility or if the person concerned refuses to exercise it, the public shall be informed to this effect.
The journalist shall be professionally trained. Correct language and standard of speech are one of the most important professional requirements for journalists.
II. INDEPENDENCE OF JOURNALISTS AND PUBLISHERS. TRANSPARENCY OF THEIR ACTIVITIES
Every journalist and public information organizer shall be free and independent.
The journalist shall refuse to carry out assignments of a public information organizer and/or his superior if such assignments contradict the national law, journalism ethics and journalist’s beliefs.
While carrying out their activities, the journalists have no right to assume any other liabilities but professional obligations to the public information organizer.
The solidarity of journalists demonstrates the respectability thereof. Journalists and public information organizers shall unite with each other in defence of illegal prosecution and use for their defence all available legal and ethical measures.
The journalist shall not have the right to accept gifts, paid trips, to go on vacations paid for by somebody else and accept any other benefits that might affect his independence. The journalist must notify the public on any received support, except for the remuneration for work paid by, or other support received from, the public information organizer with whom the journalist is in an employment or creative relationship.
The journalist and public information organizer shall resist any attempts to curry favor in the form of any awards, privileges, etc.
The journalists and public information organizers shall not use professional information for their personal purposes and benefit.
Mass media shall clearly distinguish commercials (political advertising including) from the works of journalists. The journalist shall be entitled to refuse to produce promotional information.
It shall be forbidden to publish commercials under the guise of impartial information or otherwise conceal commercials.
The journalist shall not use his name, image and voice for advertising, except in cases when such advertising aims at social or humanitarian goals.
The journalist who prepares information about a company in which he holds some interest, must disclose in the information published by him the relations and circumstances that can render such information less objective.
Having obtained the information held by a public information organizer and not yet made it public, the journalist, public information organizer and their family members shall have no right to buy or sell securities relating to such information.
When publishing information recommending or offering investment strategies related to securities or their issuers, including opinion as to their current or future value, the journalist and public information organizer must disclose his relations with the recommending authorities and circumstances that may render such information less objective; this is particularly relevant to material financial interests in respect of related securities and material conflicts of interests in respect of the issuer.
When publishing summarized investment recommendations of third parties, the journalist and public information organizer should make reference to original recommendations and indicate where they are available, if such information may be freely accessed.
III. PROTECTION OF PERSONAL HONOUR, DIGNITY AND PRIVACY
The journalist shall not have the right to publish facts about an individual’s private life without his/her consent, except when they are related to a public person and these facts are important to society or criminal actions are envisoged.
The journalist and public information organizer shall uphold the presumption of innocence. An individual may be accused exclusively on the basis of an effective judgment or ruling of a court.
The journalist and public information organizer shall not publish groundless, unverified accusations not supported with facts.
Data on pre-trial investigations shall not be published unless the publishing of such data is in the public interest.
It is prohibited to publish personal data of a person suspected of having committed a crime if the identity of the suspect may be established from such data.
If publishing of the name of person suspected of having committed a crime, the accused or the offender is necessary for the public interest and the fact of crime is not proved thereafter, the journalist and public information organizer must forthwith inform the public of the innocence of this person.
Personal data of a victim of a criminal act shall not be published without the victim’s consent or, if the victim is killed, without his/her relatives’ consent. This information may be published without the consent of a victim or his/her relatives exclusively in cases when the victim is a public person or when publishing such data is in the public interest.
It is prohibited to publish the personal data of a witness to a criminal act, if the identity of the witness may be established from such data.
The journalist and public information organizer shall not publish personal data and solvency-related information of persons in debt unless it is in the public interest.
Personal data on the individuals who have committed minor crimes and have been lightly punished shall not be made public.
The journalist and public information organizer should not recall old crimes committed by an individual who has served his/her sentence. This rule shall not apply if such individual continues his/her work that is related to the criminal acts committed by him/her in past or aspires to a high position in society.
The journalist and public information organizer shall not publish information about family conflicts. Exceptions may be allowed in respect of persons holding high positions in society, aspiring to such positions or in cases when the publishing of such information is in the public interest.
The journalist and public information organizer shall not abuse pictures of catastrophes, traffic accidents, deaths, assault or aggression that may hurt the feelings of the persons concerned or their relatives likewise the sensibilites of readers and/or spectators.
It is prohibited to publish information about persons in a state of distress or at death’s door, also to publish footage and photos of such persons.
Showing respect for the privacy of individuals and their relatives, the journalist and public information organizer shall not mention the name or other particulars related to suicides or attempted suicides, if such information may help to establish the identity of such individuals (minors in particular).
When publishing information about suicides or attempted suicides, the journalist and public information organizer should be particularly careful in pointing out the motives and circumstances of the suicide or attempted suicide, so that the public information would not inspire suicidal behavior in society. It is recommended to provide information about available psychological and social assistance in the context of publishing the above-mentioned information.
It is prohibited to publish the name or other data of an individual exposed to sexual abuse without his/her consent if the identity of the individual may be established from such data.
The journalist and public information organizer shall not publish any juvenile’s personal data in association with criminal acts or other violations of the law if the identity of the minor individual may be established from such data, except for cases when he/she is hiding from law enforcement institutions or a court.
On publishing private letters, the consent of the author of the letter and recipient shall be obtained. After the death of such persons, consent is required from their spouses, parents or children.
Showing respect for private life and its secrecy, the journalist and public information organizer shall not publish information about individuals’ state of health, treatment, medical prognoses and other health-related information without the consent of such individual or his/her representatives at law. Such information may be published without the consent of the individual’s relatives only if all the following conditions exist: the individual concerned is a public person, publishing of such information is in the public interest and official medical opinion is available from the medical institution.
The journalist and public information organizer shall not humiliate or mock an individual’s family name, race, nationality, ethnicity, religious convictions, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability or physical deficiencies even if such individual has committed a crime. In addition, the journalist and public opinion organizer shall neither stress nor associate the nationality, ethnic origin or social group and sexual orientation of the suspect, accused or offender with a crime committed by him/her.
It is prohibited for the journalist and public information organizer to provoke, whether directly or indirectly, discord or incite hatred of any group of individuals or its members on the grounds stipulated in Article 54.
The journalist and public information organizer shall not publish artificially manipulated photo arrangements, false signatures under photos that might insult the individuals portrayed. The journalist shall not publish audio and visual materials that distort the ideas or facts of the informant. This provision shall not be applied to the publication of caricatures, cartoons or comic plots.
The journalist and public information organizer must respect human rights and freedoms even in cases when an individual does not know or is unable to understand his/her rights.
The journalist and public information organizer shall not abuse the weaknesses and immaturity of an individual, non-understanding of his/her rights and freedoms, provoke individuals to commit humiliating acts or behaviours, or portray them in situations humiliating to human dignity.
IV. PROFESSIONAL SOLIDARITY AND FAIR COMPETITION
The professional duty of the journalist and public information organizer is to defend the freedom of information and other democratic values.
The journalist and public information organizer should not publish critical works for purposes of revenge.
The journalists and public information organizers should not impede their colleagues from gathering information unless such activities contradict the law and ethics.
It is prohibited for the journalist and public information organizer to plagiarize works created by other individuals.
The journalist and public information organizer should identify the primary source of information if he referred in his work to the information developed or published by some other journalist or public information organizer.
The journalist shall not write for any other individual, use the true name of any other person or sign the work written by him/her.
If the journalist offers the same work or public information to several editorial boards (public information organizers), he shall warn them to this effect.
V. MUTUAL OBLIGATIONS OF JOURNALISTS AND MANAGERS OF EDITORIAL BOARDS (PUBLIC INFORMATION ORGANIZERS)
The public information organizer must have in-house rules of procedure and/or in-house codes of ethics. At least one document approved by the public information organizer should define the rights, obligations, responsibility, employment relations of the journalist as well as his protection against possible restriction of his rights.
The public information organizer should agree with the journalist in writing on the use of the journalist’s work. The absence of a written agreement between the public information organizer and the journalist as to the use of the journalist’s work shall not release the public information organizer from his duty to pay proper remuneration for such work.
The journalist has the right to refuse his authorship and not to undersign his work if its content was materially distorted in the process of editing.
The journalist shall keep confidential the secrets of the public information organizer unless they are related to violations of laws and ethics.
VI. RESPONSIBILITY FOR VIOLATIONS OF THE CODE OF ETHICS OF JOURNALISTS AND PUBLISHERS
Journalists and public information organizers must adhere to the norms of professional ethics laid down in this Code of Ethics.
Activities of the journalist in violation of the provisions of this Code shall serve as a basis for:
1) the administration of the public information organizer to impose disciplinary measures on the journalist
2) the professional association of journalists to expel such member-journalist from the association
3) concerned persons to defend their infringed rights
4) applying other statutory sanctions.
Activities of the public information organizer in violation of the provisions of this Code shall serve as a basis for:
1) the Ethics Commission for Journalists and Publishers to assign him to the category of public information organizers who do not adhere to their professional ethics
2) concerned persons to defend their infringed rights
3) applying other statutory sanctions.
Having violated this Code, the journalist or public information organizer must publish in the same mass media a relevant decision of the Ethics Commission for Journalists and Publishers and in certain cases, when it is necessary to ensure adherence to the basic principles of public information, the operative part of a decision of the journalism ethics inspector.
If the public information organizer does not violate this Code for a period of 2 years from its approval, the Ethics Commission for Journalists and Publishers may grant such public information organizer (or his unit) the right to use a special mark of honour established by the Commission; the mentioned right may be revoked by the Commission if the public information organizer violates this Code.
While safeguarding their professional honor and reputation, the journalists and public information organizers shall improve the self-organization in the field of public information.
VII. RELATIONS OF THIS CODE TO OTHER CODES OF PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE IN THE FIELD OF PUBLIC INFORMATION
This Code does not preclude from complying with other codes of professional ethics and practice in public information activities (particularly with in-house codes of ethics of the public information organizer) which may include more detail and stricter obligations.
Where provisions of the norms of professional ethics in other codes contradict this Code, the provisions of this Code shall apply.
Composition of the work group which drafted the new edition of the Code of Ethics of Lithuanian Journalists and Publishers:
1. Mr. Romas Gudaitis, journalism ethics inspector
2. Mr. Paulius Egidijus Kovas, President of the Lithuanian Radio and Television Association
3. Mr. Romas Pakalnis, Chairman of the Council of the Lithuanian Radio and Television
4. Mrs. Renata Paleckiene, Directress of the Lithuanian Centre of Journalism
5. Ms. Maryte Kontrimaite, Deputy Chairperson of the Lithuanian Association of Journalists
6. Mr. Dainius Radzevicius, Chairman of the Lithuanian Union of Journalists
7. Mr. Leonardas Remeika, President of the Association of Regional Televisions
8. Mr. Gintaras Songaila, Chairman of the International Advertising Association for Lithuania
9. Mr. Rimantas Sukys, President of the Lithuanian Association of Publishers of Periodicals
10. Mrs. Vaiva Zukiene, President of the Lithuanian Association of Cable Television.