The Media have a responsibility to the public to provide accurate and impartial information, which will enable citizens to make better informed choices.
The Constitutions of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Montenegro guarantee freedom of expression and information, and the right to express opinion and criticism freely. Editors, journalists and programme makers in the electronic media should not allow their work to be influenced by their personal beliefs or by pressure, be it from political, commercial or other special interests.
These principles embody the professional ethics of the media. They encompass the duty, within the framework of the Constitution and international obligations, to maintain the standing of the electronic media and to be committed to media freedom.
The Journalist's Responsibilities
Reporting must be firmly based on facts supported by evidence: generally two sources should confirm the information before it is used on air. Accuracy is often more than a question of getting the facts right. All relevant information should be weighed to get at the truth of what is reported or described.
Accuracy is more important than speed, especially when the safety of human life may be involved.
Contentious information and opinion should be attributed to its source.
If the journalist is prevented by legal or any other constraints from broadcasting information, the fact that he/she is so prevented should be made public.
Journalists should strive to be impartial in their reporting and ensure that no significant strand of thought or opinion goes unreported or reflected. In situations where it is impossible to get information, opinions or views from one of the actors in a story the journalist must inform the audience that this was the case. Similarly if an actor in a story refuses co-operation this must be explained.
Broadcasters must vigorously challenge participants in live programmes if they insult or use offensive languages.
Where, for whatever reason, wrong information has been broadcast, stations should correct the error as soon as possible. If the wrong information was about a person or organisation an apology may also be appropriate.
Library/archive material should be clearly labelled as such in order not to mislead the audience.
- Editors and journalists should ensure news (factual reporting) and opinion are clearly separated.
- Journalists must ensure that the widest range of voices and opinion are heard on matters of controversy.
- An individual journalist's opinion or beliefs should not influence the selection of stories or the way they are told. The audience should not be able to deduce a journalist's personal opinion or beliefs from what they see or hear.
- Journalists must clearly challenge those who advocate any denial of human rights or discrimination of any kind towards any group.
- Journalists have a duty to protect their sources of information.
- Journalists must honour promises given to their sources. If a source has given information 'off the record', the information so gained must not be attributed or used in such a way that he/she can be identified.
- Editors and journalists may not be active members of political parties nor should they campaign for nor represent other interest groups be they commercial, religious or have any other purpose.
- Journalists should disqualify themselves from involvement in any reporting concerning people or organisations with whom they have a relationship. Should the management or owner of a station have connections with any persons or organisations which are the subject of a report this should be made clear in the coverage.
- Journalists should not accept money, any gifts or favours from any person or organisation which may feature in news and programmes.
- Journalists must not use their position for any personal gain.
- Where offers are made for facility trips care should be taken. The donor (commercial or any other) may not determine which journalist is sent nor what they report nor whether they report at all.
- Editors and journalists may not be active members of political parties nor have any public association with them.
- Editors should retain total editorial control of both the content and the context of information programming. No one may dictate terms and conditions for their participation.
- Editors and journalists should be open and honest with the audience and must ensure that it is aware of any special circumstances surrounding a broadcast. If a politician refuses to take part in a multi-party debate for whatever reason, the planned programme may go ahead but the absence of the party concerned should be explained.
- Editors and journalists should be open and honest with all contributors about their participation, and care should be taken to ensure the circumstances and context of their participation is understood. If recorded material is to be edited before transmission great care should be taken to ensure his/her views are properly represented. However contributors do not have the right to dictate how material may be edited or presented.
- Political broadcasting, whether purchased or aired at no cost, should be strictly limited, fairly distributed and identified.
- If political broadcasts have been purchased they must be clearly labelled and announced as being so. This applies to any form of programming paid for by political parties, politicians or any other special interest group including commercial organisations.
- The media should be united in efforts to withstand pressure from government, political parties and any other special interest groups, including commercial interests.
- Editors and journalists must resist attempts by government to stop news organisations covering events and issues on the grounds that the reports may damage the national interest, since the interest of any given government are not necessarily the same as the national interest.
- Censorship is expressly forbidden under the constitution and editors and journalists should resist all attempts to interfere with their work in normal times.
- The broadcasters first accountability is to their audience. The more they are accountable the less they are subject to interference.
Diversity and portrayal
- Broadcasters have a particular responsibility to the public when covering diversity, racism, religious intolerance and other forms of discrimination to be truthful, engage in unbiased reporting and clearly separate news from opinion.
- Stations must enforce a ban on all forms of discrimination, including that based on ethnicity, religion, political background, gender, sexual orientation and mental or physical disability.
- Broadcasters must avoid stereotyping of, or prejudice towards, any group in their own reporting and vigorously challenge such stereotypes when presented by others in interview or discussion.
- Broadcasters must avoid pejorative language in all programmes. The terminology and language used must not be offensive to members of the groups concerned.
- If pejorative adjectives or characterisation are used by a source or in a statement, programme makers should consider carefully whether they should be broadcast. If they are essential to the report then they must be attributed.
- Ethnicity, or other group identification, should be mentioned only if it is material to the report; it is very rarely material when reporting common crime.
- Broadcasters should be very specific in naming groups committing acts of violence, they must take care not to identify a nation, ethnic or any other group with the acts of a particular section within a community.
- Broadcasters should avoid using adjectives or adverbs when describing any group or organisation, as any so used implies a judgement.
- Broadcasters should offer a reasonable right of reply to offended groups even when the offence was caused by a contributor, and not by a member of the station's staff.
- Broadcasters should not equate the state with either nation or religion.
- Broadcasters, editors and journalists must provide fair and equal reporting on, and treatment of, all groups and sectors of the community in all programming.
- Broadcasters must ensure warnings are given before pictures of massacres and other disturbing material are transmitted.
- The media should not broadcast the identity of anyone injured or killed until the families have been notified by the authorities.
- The media should respect the right to privacy but this may be qualified by issues of public interest.
- Special care should be taken in broadcasts which are likely to be seen by children.
- Material which is likely to distress or disturb children should not be broadcast before 10pm. This especially applies in the areas of pornography, violence and inappropriate language.
- Extreme care must be taken when including children in programmes. Permission to do so should be sought from parents or guardians.
- If a journalist receives information/a warning about a violent attack, his/her first responsibility is to inform the police. Thereafter, in consultation, information about the event should be treated with care since human life may be at risk.
- Broadcasters should not provide a platform to those who promote or incite violence. They should avoid sensationalising or glorifying violence.
- The decision to broadcast information on groups that use extra legal means to achieve their goals, must be motivated by public interest.
- Live interviews with such groups are not recommended.
- The usual procedure is to publish the full name of the interviewee unless the person's safety is in question. If anonymity is guaranteed it must be effective.
- When reporting on extra legal political activities journalists must not forget their responsibility to report facts fairly an honestly, and extreme points of view must be firmly challenged.
It is recommended that all professional bodies, media organisations and individual broadcasters and journalists adopt this code. It should form the basis for the training of all workers in the electronic media, and should underpin the media's accountability to the audience and its responsibility to serve the interests of all sections of the community.