Journalists’ Code (Serbia)
1. Introductory notes
This document is based on the recognition of professional and ethical norms and values in the performance of information work in the media. The information work is performed not only by journalists, but also by cameramen, newspaper photographers, editing staff, directors, owners – anyone employed in the media. Accepting of their own free will the ideas recommended by it, the members of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS*) achieve the program purposes of their Association and undertake the obligation to promote them.
The Code concerns equally the NUNS members working in other information sectors (PR, agencies, governments, bulletins and other).
The NUNS recommends the Code to other associations of journalists, media and related organizations, and particularly to representatives of all levels of authority.
2. Principles and rules
It is a duty of a journalist to act in accordance with the highest professional and ethical standards.
In every situation and with no exceptions, a journalist will defend the principles of freedom of information, protecting the right to information and to the expression of commentator’s and critical attitude, in keeping with the old rule that the facts are obligatory, but the attitudes are free.
On any occasion, a journalist will strive for freedom in searching, receiving and dissemination of information through any means, irrespective of boundaries. A journalist will particularly fight against misinterpretation of facts and against censorship.
Respecting the rules of the profession of a journalist, a journalist has a duty to give truthfull, confirmed, complete and timely information, and to name the persons or institutions he got the data or statement from.
If he acts with due professional care, a journalist reserves the right not to disclose the source of his information.
A journalist is obliged to make a timely correction of any harmful untrue information, to publish a correction and apologize to the person concerned or institution, allowing the criticized persons to reply, if the subject in question merits discussion.
In obtaining the information, photographs and illustrations, a journalist will not use dishonourable means, but only those in line with the dignity and tradition of the journalist’s profession, respecting the principle that all parties should be heard. Any violation of this rule will be appraised on the basis of the predominant interest of the public to get the information so obtained.
Taking care of the justified interest of the public to learn the relevant facts from all fields of life, a journalist will not make public any information that offends the privacy of citizens.
A journalist will refuse any privileges that might influence the independent performance of his professional duties.
A journalist must not use any data relating to ethnic affiliation, race and religion, if such information could be used for discrimination on that ground. Such information on any person may be used only exceptionally, if it is an essential element of the content of the text or their work, and do not violate any rights of the person in question or cause any inconveniences.
A journalist will not put to his private use any advantages based on information received in performance of his professional duties, before such information becomes available to the public.
3. Relation to facts
The basic duty of a journalist is to accurately, exactly, objectively, fully and timely inform the public on the events of interest for the public. In the selection of facts and positions he publicises, a journalist will be governed by the need of the public to be objectively and timely informed on events of public interest, or on the events of interest to special social groups or individuals.
The selection of facts must be such so as to make objective information possible, and a view of all relevant aspects of an event.
The task of a journalist is to speak the truth. A journalist must not blindly believe the sources of information.
A journalist must not forget that the sources he is in contact with often have their own interests in mind or the interests of the social groups they belong to, and so adjust their statements to such interests.
Before he makes the information public, a journalist has a duty to establish all relevant facts to the maximum extent possible.
To keep silent on any facts that might significantly affect the position of the public about an event is the same as to distort or misrepresent them.
By intentional suppression of important facts a journalist – a NUNS member, commits a gross violation of this Code.
4. Relation to the authorities
Journalists support the a principle of spreading information in the public interest. Because of that, holders of public office, on all levels of authority, must not have a preferential treatment in the media – regardless of the fact that objectively they are a significant source of information. Favouring such information and positions on account of other sources will be considered a violation of this Code.
Government information is subject to verification and public critical evaluation in the same manner as all other information from all other sources.
On the occasion of any significant violation by any governmental authority of legal regulations pertaining to the avalability of information, journalists will ask for proceedings to be instituted as provided by the law, and will inform the public accordingly.
The public should also be informed also about cases when the government withholds those pieces of information that according to the law it is not obliged to publish, when the medium finds that it would be detrimental to the public interest, and when it can provide for the proper reasons for such a position.
Journalists will insist on informing about the activities of opposition organizations, groups and individuals in proportion to the power of their arguments and the extent of their influence in society. Suppression of information on opposition activities in connection with governmental actions will be considered a violation of the Code.
Any attempts at putting pressure on the media and journalists by holders of public office should be disclosed to the public. The public media, owners, editors and journalists under pressure from holders of public office because of informing the public, will have open support of the NUNS members, in defense against such pressures.
Journalists must not give any specific information to holders of public office on the events they inform about, unless the law stipulates that they have to give them.
5. Violent conflicts – terrorism, crimes, armed conflicts
Themes of terrorism, crimes and armed conflicts must be treated by journalists with the utmost professional care.
NUNS members must not belong to, or be associated in any way with, members or activities of individuals or groups favouring the use of violence.
This Code is particularly opposed to any favouring and/or justification of the use of violence for any purpose whatsoever.
A journalist is entitled to refuse at any time to treat a subject in a way that would result in any kind of interfering in a conflict. In such cases it is a duty of NUNS to provide any protection possible to its members who find themselves in such a situation.
In the event that on the occasion of dealing with the subjects of violent conflicts, any violation of the profession rules and of this Code take place, NUNS will undertake, within the shortest time posible, all the measures prescribed in the Statute of the Association.
6. Social groups and social values
Journalists must not create, use, instigate or justify stereotypes in the treatment of themes concerning any social groups (nations, minorities, groups formed according to political, religious, interest, racial, historical, sexual or any other affiliation or conviction).
Any form of discrimination against any social group is considered a grave violation of this Code. Manipulation trough the affiliation to a certain social group is considered a grave violation of this Code. Journalists are obliged to observe this principle in all circumstances.
Affiliation to a certain social group is important in terms of information only if it is a motive, background or a consequence of a certain event.
It is most strictly prohibited to use inappropriate, disturbing, pornographic contents and those that may have a harmful influence on children.
7. Personal ethics
This Code strictly prohibits any form of corruption of journalists, editors and media managers.
Journalists will insist for every medium to indicate in a visible way the name of its majority owner and to inform the public of donations and gifts that cover the costs of its operations, as well as about the proportion of donations and gifts in the annual budget of the particular medium.
All commercial segments must be visibly separated from other information. Journalists will sign neither content created on a commercial basis nor content with commercial messages, and they may not participate in any form of advertising by any institution, of any goods or services – except when it is of a clearly humanitarian nature.
Journalists are forbidden to promote their own private interests in their work. Also, they may not report on events that could cause conflict between their personal and public interests.
Journalists will not receive gifts from sources of information. If a source of information bears the travel and accommodation costs of a journalist, the journalist is obliged to inform the public about it in an adequate manner. Reporting on sponsored events, journalists will indicate the sponsor’s name only in cases when announcing the sponsor’s name is in compliance with the comprehensive informing of the public about such event.
Journalists may receive free copies of books, free tickets to cultural and sports events and other events, but reporting on and reviewing of such books and events must not be conditional upon free access.
NUNS’s members are under an obligation not to take part in any disloyal contest in the market of Serbia, including the disloyal contest between the media themselves.
All forms of unauthorized use of some author’ work will also be considered disloyal contest.
In accordance with the position that their main task is providing the public with objective and truthful information, NUNS members are expressly forbidden to take part in any form of advertising an exception being taking part in humanitarian campaigns.
8. Owners, editors and journalists
Journalists should refuse any orders and requests by their editors in cases when they are convinced that these would be contrary to basic rules of the profession and of this Code.
It is contrary to this Code that editors ask journalists to act accordingly to the will and the interests of the owner, forgetting about the basic purpose – providing the exact, objective and complete information to the public. Any violation of this provision will be considered a grave violation of this Code.
Editors should refuse the owner’s requests to accommodate the needs of the owner, his company or a social group he belongs to, if such requests are contrary to the freedom of providing information and to the principles of this Code.
Editors and journalists are particularly obliged to refuse requests of the owner that would mean the misuse of the media for the purpose of insulting and underrating others.
9. Final provisions
The provisions of this Code will be interpreted and applied in accordance with the principles of the European Human Rights Convention and the practice of the European Court of Human Rights.
NUNS membership is conditional on the acceptance of the conditions of this Code.
A journalist carrying out his profession in the spirit of this Code enjoys the support of his professional organization.
The NUNS Statute contains the measures and sanctions prescribed for violations of this Code.
This Code will come into force on the day adopted by the NUNS Assembly.