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Newspapers' code of practice

Print edition : Dec 02, 2011

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The Press Complaints Commission in the United Kingdom is charged with enforcing the following code of practice which was framed by the newspaper and periodical industry.

All members of the press have a duty to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards. In doing so, they should have regard to the provisions of this code of practice and to safeguarding the public's right to know.

Editors are responsible for the actions of journalists employed by their publications. They should also satisfy themselves as far as possible that material accepted from non-staff members was obtained in accordance with this code.

While recognising that this involves a substantial element of self-restraint by editors and journalists, it is designed to be acceptable in the context of a system of self-regulation. The code applies in the spirit as well as in the letter.

Any publication which is criticised by the PCC under one of the following clauses is duty bound to print the adjudication which follows in full and with due prominence.

1. Accuracy

(i) Newspapers and periodicals should take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted material.

(ii) Whenever it is recognised that a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report has been published, it should be corrected promptly and with due prominence.

(iii) An apology should be published whenever appropriate.

(iv) A newspaper or periodical should always report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party.

2. Opportunity to reply

A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies should be given to individuals or organisations when reasonably called for.

3. Comment, conjecture and fact

Newspapers, while free to be partisan, should distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

4. Privacy

Intrusions and enquiries into an individual's private life without his or her consent are not generally acceptable and publication can only be justified when in the public interest. This would include:

(i) Detecting or exposing crime or serious misdemeanour.

(ii) Detecting or exposing seriously anti-social conduct.

(iii) Protecting public health and safety.

(iv) Preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of that individual.

5. Hospitals

(i) Journalists or photographers making enquiries at hospitals or similar institutions should identify themselves to a responsible official and obtain permission before entering non-public areas.

(ii) The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospital or similar institutions.

6. Misrepresentation

(i) Journalists should not generally obtain nor seek to obtain information or pictures through misrepresentation or subterfuge.

(ii) Unless in the public interest, documents or photographs should be removed only with the express consent of the owner.

(iii) Subterfuge can be justified only in the public interest and only when material cannot be obtained by any other means.

In all these clauses the public interest includes:

(a) Detecting or exposing crime or serious misdemeanour.

(b) Detecting or exposing anti-social conduct.

(c) Protecting public health or safety.

(d) Preventing the public being misled by some statement or action of an individual or organisation.

7. Harassment

(i) Journalists should neither obtain nor seek to obtain information or pictures through intimidation or harassment.

(ii) Unless their enquiries are in the public interest, journalists should not photograph individuals on private property without their consent; should not persist in telephoning or questioning individuals after having been asked to desist; should not remain on their property after having been asked to leave and should not follow them.

The public interest would include: (a) Detecting or exposing crime or serious misdemeanour. (b) Detecting or exposing anti-social conduct. (c) Protecting public health and safety. (d) Preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of that individual or organisation.

8. Payment for articles

(i) Payments or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information should not be made to witnesses or potential witnesses in current criminal proceedings or to people engaged in crime or to their associates except where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and the payment is necessary for this to be done. The public interest will include: (a) Detecting or exposing crime or serious misdemeanour. (b) Detecting or exposing anti-social conduct. (c) Protecting public health and safety. (d) Preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of that individual or organisation.

(ii) Associates include family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.

(iii) Payments should not be made either directly or indirectly through agents.

9. Intrusion into grief or shock

1. In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries should be carried out and approaches made with sympathy and discretion.

10. Innocent relatives and friends

Unless it is contrary to the public's right to know, the Press should generally avoid, identifying relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime.

11. Interviewing or photographing children.

(i) Journalists should not normally interview or photograph children under the age of 16 on subjects involving the personal welfare of the child, in the absence of or without the consent of a parent or other adult who is responsible for the children.

(ii) Children should not be approached or photographed while at school without the permission of the school authorities.

12. Children in sex cases

The press should not, even where the law does not prohibit it, identify children under the age of 16 who are involved in cases concerning sexual offences, whether as victims, or as witnesses or defendants.

13. Victims of crime

The press should not identify victims of sexual assault, or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless, by law, they are free to do so.

14. Discrimination

(i) The press should avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to a person's race, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or handicap.

(ii) It should avoid publishing details of a person's race, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation, unless these are directly relevant to the story.

15. Financial journalism

(i) Even where the law does not prohibit it, journalists should not use for their own profit financial information they receive in advance of its general publication, nor should they pass such information on to others.

(ii) They should not write about shares or securities in whose performances they know that they or their close families have a significant financial interest, without disclosing the interest to the editor or financial editor.

(iii) They should not buy or sell, either directly or through nominees or agents, shares or securities about which they have written recently or about which they intend to write in the near future.

16. Confidential sources

Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.

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