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Ethics, Conduct

What Ethics and Codes of Conduct are Publishers and Writers bound by?

Journalists operate under, and accept controls, imposed on them by a code of professional ethics as well as restrictions that are imposed on them by law.

What is the difference between what is ethical and what is legal?

The law determines what is legal or illegal and ethics determine what is right or wrong, moral or immoral. Regulations in relation to the law are imposed from outside of the profession; ethics are a set of rules or guidelines that are imposed from within the professional body. A code of conduct or ethics is self regulatory, either determined by the individual or by the profession for its members. It is important to understand that although an act may be legal it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is also ethical or moral. For example it may be legal to publish a photo of deceased victims after a care accident however it may not be seen as moral or ethical to do so.

Maintaining Impartiality and Accuracy
Journalists in most democratic countries have an enormous amount of freedom and are meant to be outside of government or business influence. Censorship of the press is rare and usually illegal. Journalists and publishers fill the role of the watchdogs of society in relation to political, social and business issues, they provide an avenue of debate for the public. Due to this they need to be objective in reporting facts and should not allow personal prejudice or opinion to influence them.

All areas of society should be accorded the same value and should not be discriminated against due to culture, gender, age, economic situation, religion or political beliefs.

Publishers and their editors have the responsibility to ensure that the writers they employ are writing objective, balanced and accurate stories. In ethics, an impartial standpoint is one which treats everyone as equal.

Journalists should avoid conflict of interest situations and avoid reporting issues on which they have particularly strong opinions that could influence their objectivity. They should at all times act independently and be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know; be accountable to their audience and to each other; minimise harm by respecting their sources, subjects and colleagues; write truthful, fair and honest articles.

In most countries journalists are able to join a professional body that has a code of practice.

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