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SERI ES

CI Debat es
N . 9 February 2011
ISSN 2176-3224
The Importance
of Self Regulation
of the Media in upholding
freedom of expression
Communication and Information
Andrew Puddephatt
SERI ES
CI Debat es
N . 9 February 2011
ISSN 2176-3224
The Importance
of Self Regulation
of the Media in upholding
freedom of expression
Communication and Information
Andrew Puddephatt
UNESCO 2011
Editing: Paulo Selveira
Cover and design: Edson Fogaa
The number nine of Debate Series CI has been prepared in cooperation with Ford Foundation as part
of the Project Legal framework for communications in Brazil: an analysis of the system in the light of
international experience.
The authors are responsible for the selection and presentation of facts contained in these articles, as
well as the opinions expressed in them, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO nor commit the
Organization. The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not
imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of
any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers
or boundaries.
BR/2011/PI/H/4
Brasilia Office
SA S, Q uadra 5, Bloco H , Lote 6,
Ed. C N Pq/IBIC T/U N ESC O , 9 andar
70070-912, Braslia, D F, Brasil
Tel.: (55 61) 2106-3500
Fax: (55 61) 3322-4261
E-m ail: grupoeditorial@ unesco.org.br
Office in Brazil
Praia do Flam engo, 154 - 8 andar
22210-030 - Rio de Janeiro, RJ
ford-rio@ fordfound.org
w w w .fordfound.org
T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S
Forew ord.....................................................................................................................................................7
Introduction the im portance of freedom of expression ...............................................................................9
H ow freedom of expression is supported the U N ESC O fram ew ork .............................................................9
M edia independence w hat is the role of the state? ..................................................................................10
The m edia as a platform and a social actor.................................................................................................11
W hat is self regulation and its advantages? ................................................................................................12
Journalists codes of conduct.......................................................................................................................12
Editorial independence...............................................................................................................................13
Professional guidelines...............................................................................................................................14
Im plem enting standards.............................................................................................................................14
The G lobal Reporting Initiative....................................................................................................................15
Role of internet as digital platform and im plications for self regulation .......................................................16
C onclusion .................................................................................................................................................16
A bout the author.......................................................................................................................................18
A ppendix ...................................................................................................................................................19
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F O R E W O R D
The freedom of expression is a pivotal com ponent
of our individual developm ent as hum an beings
and as political anim alsand to im prove and
radicalize dem ocracies.
The invention of the press therefore constitutes
the turning point for the debates about freedom
of expression. G uaranteeing each individual's right
to freely seek, receive or im part inform ation w hile
interacting w ith other individuals ceased to be
enough. It w as necessary to go beyond, upholding
this right allied by an interm ediary that radically
m agnified the outreach of opinions, inform ation and
ideas: the m ass m edia.
U nder this perspective, m any foundational pillars
of the contem porary debate on hum an rights
(the G lorious, A m erican and French Revolutions;
the w ritings of John M ilton, A lexis of Tocqueville
and John Stuart M ill, am ong others) dedicated
substantial attention to freedom of expression and
its links to the m ass m edia.
The idea of a free, independent, plural, and
diversified m edia has becom e the ideal to be
achieved in order to fully ensure the right to seek,
receive and im part inform ation. Finding the
appropriate form at for State participation in this
equation of fostering m edia system s endow ed w ith
these characteristics have quickly constituted one of
the m ost relevant pieces of the puzzle.
This challenge becam e particularly com plex w hen
broadcasting took over the system 's leading role
in the beginning of the 20th C entury. The possible
hypothesis that each legitim ate interest from the
different social groups m ight have been voiced in
their ow n new spapers did not prove to be true in
relation to television and radio. The electrom agnetic
spectrum is a finite public resource and needs to
be regulated, at least as far as frequencies are
concerned.
Therefore, m edia regulation started its developm ent
hand in hand w ith guaranteeing, prom oting,
and protecting freedom of expression. In fact, the
ultim ate goal for regulating m edia should be to
protect and deepen this fundam ental right.
For this reason, the m ost im portant international
instrum ents on hum an rights (the U nited N ations
C harter; the U niversal D eclaration of H um an Rights;
the International C ovenant on C ivil and Political
Rights; the C onventions on the Rights of the C hild,
on the Protection and Prom otion of D iversity and
C ultural Expressions, on the Elim ination of A ll Form s
of Racial D iscrim ination, and on the Rights of
Persons w ith D isabilities) address to the m atter
in different perspectives. The sam e holds true for
regional hum an rights instrum ents and for legal
instrum ents of the w orld's m ost consolidated and
longevous dem ocracies.
The internal division of laborof the U nited
N ations System has delegated to U N ESC O the
responsibility of w orking through international
cooperation to guarantee that freedom of expression
is effectively ensured through a free, plural,
independent and diversified m edia system , am ong
others. To fulfill this m andate the O rganization has
availed itself of different strategies. O ne of the m ost
recent and com prehensive ones is the delivery of a
set of indicators to assess m edia developm ent in
various nations (See: Media Development Indicators:
a framework for assessing media development).
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In light of the elem ents proposed by the Media
Development Indicators, U N ESC O in Brazil, in
partnership w ith Ford Foundation, decided to offer
a high-level technical contribution to the discussion
that Brazilian society has to a greater or lesser extent
been w aging over its m edia system , at least since its
C onstituent A ssem bly. A m ong the highlights over
the last yearsdiscussions are: the final form at of
the Social C om m unication C hapter in the Brazilian
C onstitution, regulation of the articles in the C hild
and A dolescent Statute on relations betw een
children and the m edia, the creation of the Social
C om m unication C ouncil, the opening of the sector
to foreign capital, the cancelling of the Press Law , the
definition of digital television as w ell as paid
audiovisual services m odel, and a new regulatory
fram ew ork for com m unication.
In this sense, w e offer to the key players involved
in building the different aspects of a regulatory policy
for the m edia sector a three-article-series of studies
that m ay be useful to decision-m aking processes,
w hich w ill need to be taking place in the com ing years.
U pon request to U N ESC O international consultants
Toby M endel and Eve Salom on, w ho have together
w orked on sim ilar issues in m ore than 60 countries,
have signed tw o texts of this series:
1.The Regulatory Environment for Broadcasting:
an International Best Practice Survey for Brazilian
Stakeholders. The authors discuss how m edia
regulation is addressed in the international arena
and in 10 dem ocracies (C anada, C hile, France,
G erm any, Jam aica, M alaysia, South A frica, Thailand,
U nited Kingdom and U nite States) as com pared to
the Brazilian status quo. To do so they build upon
the follow ing central axes: Independent Regulatory
A uthorities, C oncessions, C ontent Regulation and
Self-regulation, Public Broadcasters, C om m unity
Broadcasters and O w nership regulation. A fter
each them atic session, they have discussed m ajor
recom m endations for the Brazilian case.
2. Freedom of Expression and Broadcasting
Regulationdefends that regulatory policy m ust focus
on strengthening freedom of expression.
In addition, the U N ESC O international consultant
A ndrew Puddephatt w eaves a discussion on The
Im portance of Self Regulation of the M edia in
U pholding Freedom of Expression. It is this article
that our esteem ed readers hold in hands.
Finally, w e w ould like to highlight that a particular
discussion about internet regulation w as not
included in these studies. This is an ongoing debate
for the U N System ; therefore regulatory international
standards are not clearly defined. H ow ever, w e
believe that the general principles of freedom of
expression, of a transparent and independent
regulatory policy and of a fully protection of hum an
rights should also be a central com ponent of the
debate about internet.
W e hope the three above m entioned articles w ill
provide an effective reference tool to support the
ongoing debate on the m atter in the Brazilian public
sphere.
Enjoy your reading!
The Importance of Self Regulation of the
Media in upholding freedom of expression
Andrew Puddephatt
1.Development as Freedom, A m artya Sen, O U P 1999.
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Introduction the importance
of freedom of expression
Freedom of expression has long been regarded as
a fundam ental right, one w hich is im portant in itself
and also helps to defend other rights and freedom s.
There are three reasons w hy freedom of expression is
so crucial. Firstly it is a hum an need to be ourselves
and have our ow n identity, and the ability to express
ourselves in w ords, m usic, dance or any other form
of expression is central to the realisation of our
hum anity. Secondly it is a foundation for other rights
and freedom s as w ithout freedom of expression it is
not possible to organise, inform , alert, or m obilise in
defence of hum an rights. Thirdly, as A m artya Sen has
persuasively argued its the pre condition of social and
econom ic developm ent as transparent and open
com m unications are necessary to ensure econom ic
and social developm ent that benefits everyone
1
.
The im portance of the right to freedom of
expression is reflected by its w idespread protection
in international law at the global and regional level.
The right is protected in all significant international
and regional hum an rights treaties, including A rticle
19 of the U niversal D eclaration of H um an Rights
(U D H R) and A rticle 19 of the International C ovenant
on C ivil and Political Rights (IC C PR). It is also protected
in regional treaties: by A rticle 13 of the A m erican
C onvention on H um an Rights; by A rticle 9 of the
A frican C harter (elaborated by a specific declaration
agreed in O ctober 2002); and A rticle 11 of the
European C onvention on H um an Rights (EC H R). Its
significance is uncontested.
If it is to be fully realized, how ever, freedom of
expression requires a public dim ensiona m eans of
com m unicationin order to facilitate the exchange
of opinions, ideas and inform ation. It follow s that free
expression activists have focused a great deal of
attention on the structure and regulation of the
m edia environm ent, for it is these that provide the
principal platform s for public expression, from books
and new spapers to the broadcast m edia.
How freedom of expression is
supported the UNESCO framework
Free expression has alw ays required a m eans of
com m unication to be effective, otherw ise com m unication
is confined to those w e can im m ediately speak w ith.
A m egaphone goes farther than a hum an voice, a
radio transm itter even further. These platform s have
changed over the centuries, from w all paintings
to print, through radio to analogue television. This
m eans that the m edia m ust have the freedom to
provide the m eans of inform ation exchange, debate
and opinion that is necessary to enable us to realise
our freedom of expression in the fullest sense. It is
inevitable therefore that free expression activists have
alw ays concerned them selves w ith the operations
of the m edia and its ability to function free from
repression and governm ent control.
M uch attention has been paid to the norm s and
standards that freedom of expression requires in the
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traditional m edia w orld. The consensus is that a
m edia environm ent capable of supporting free
expression w ill have a num ber of characteristics: it
w ill be a diverse m edia environm ent, part public, part
private and part com m unity; a plurality of different
m edia outlets; and a system that is broadly self-
regulating w ith the exception of broadcast m edia
(w here spectrum has been lim ited and a regulatory
body allocates bandw idth). M edia professional w ill
have sufficient training to understand and im plem ent
the dem ands of their profession and there w ill be
adequate access to the m eans of the com m unication
for people as a w hole. This fram ew ork is elaborated
in detail in U N ESC O s M edia D evelopm ent Indicators
2
adopted by U N ESC O in 2008. The analysis sets out
five m ajor categories of indicators that can be used
to analyse the m edia developm ent of a country.
Each category is broken dow n into a num ber of
com ponent issues w hich in turn contain a series of
broad indicators.
Media independence what is the
role of the state?
In the past m any advocates have argued for
m inim al state interference in the m edia as the
necessary condition for a m edia environm ent that
can support dem ocracy. This argum ent has particular
currency in the U nited States w ith its First A m endm ent
statem ent that C ongress shall m ake no law
abridging freedom of speech or the press...
3
O thers,
including U N ESC O have argued that the construction
of a m odern m edia environm ent capable of
supporting dem ocracy and good governance m ay
require a proactive role by the state in providing
infrastructure, funding a public broadcaster, ensuring
the right kind of regulatory environm ent. N orris and
Zinnbauer
4
argue that independent journalism , as a
potential check on the abuse of pow er, is a necessary
but not sufficient m eans of strengthening good
governance and prom oting hum an developm ent.
They suggest that these goals are achieved m ost
effectively under tw o further conditions. Firstly, in
societies w here channels of m ass com m unications are
free and independent of established interests; and
secondly, w here there is w idespread access to these
m edia. Both of these m ay require som e action by
the state.
U N ESC O s approach takes as its starting point
that any attem pt to m easure m edia developm ent
m ust em brace issues of both independence and
access as w ell as the absence of restrictions on the
m edia. W hat m atters is the extent to w hich all
sectors of society, especially those w ho are m ost
disadvantaged or m arginalised, can access the
m edia to gain inform ation and m ake their voices
heard. Lim ited access to or lack of engagem ent
w ith the m edia is a function of poverty and poor
education. It m ay also be caused or exacerbated
by language, gender, age, ethnicity or the urban-
rural divide. W hatever the cause, it contributes to
an environm ent that can underm ine dem ocratic
developm ent.
H ow ever, the absence of state intervention on its
ow n is no guarantee of a rich m edia environm ent.
O n the contrary: to prom ote a m edia environm ent
characterised by pluralism and diversity, state
intervention is necessary. To guarantee pluralism
requires provisions for public broadcasting, com m ercial
broadcast and print m edia and com m unity-based
broadcast and print m edia. A s w ell as investm ent
in hum an resources, specifically in building the
professional capacity of m edia w orkers, both
journalists and m edia m anagers, through academ ic
and vocational training, on-the-jobdevelopm ent
and the developm ent of professional associations.
Infrastructure capacity is also crucial: prom oting
a diverse m edia environm ent requires m oney to
flow into supporting the m eans of com m unication,
including broadcast reception quality, the provision of
electricity supplies and access to telephones and the
Internet, all of w hich m ay require state support. In
m any parts of the w orld there is little or no access to
the m eans of com m unication in such environm ents,
form al freedom s m ean little.
To ensure m edia pluralism m ay require the
application of com petition law by the state to prevent
2.http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-U RL_ID =26032& U RL_D O =D O _TO PIC & U RL_SEC TIO N =201.htm l
3.http://w w w .law .cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.htm l
4.N orris, Pippa and D ieter Zinnbauer (2002), Giving Voice to the Voiceless: Good Governance, Human Development & Mass Communications,
UNDP Human Development Report Office (available at: http://hdr.undp.org/docs/publications/background_papers/2002/N orris-
Zinnbauer_2002.pdf)
m onopoly. In the past m any countries have sought
to prohibit a com pany from occupying a dom inant
a m arket share or cross m edia ow nership (w here a
com pany ow ns new spapers, television and radio
stations). This can be necessary to ensure freedom
of expression.
In addition w here bandw idth analogue spectrum
for the m ost part it is accepted that there needs to
be a state m echanism to allocate that bandw idth.
The m ain justification argued by governm ents
is that broadcasting uses spectrum , and spectrum
is a public resource, allocated to nations in ac-
cordance w ith com plex international agreem ents.
A s such, it is a scarce resource: there is only so
m uch spectrum available for broadcasting use in
each country. A nd therefore, because it is a
scarce resource, it is valuable. ... It is therefore
reasonable for the State, as the ow ner of spec-
trum , to place obligations on broadcasters w ho
use that resource.
5
Finally m any countries accept that w ere one form
of m edia is overw helm ingly pow erful and influential
in a dem ocracy the state m ay have a role in requiring
this dom inant m edia to display a degree of balance
in reporting. In the case of public service m edia
this requirem ent is particularly im portant to avoid
accusations of governm ent or factional political
control of the m edia
6
.
The other circum stances w here the state plays a
role, through its judicial arm , is in the regulation of
content in certain lim ited circum stances. Freedom of
expression is not an absolute right and it can be
restricted to protect the rights of others for exam ple
by prohibiting speech that incites violence or hatred
against a particular racial group; to protect children
from sexual exploitation or to protect the reputation
of individuals from false accusations. The accepted
practice is for such restrictions to be narrow ly defined
and only applied by the courts w here there is a clear
public interest in so doing.
The media as a platform and
a social actor
W ith these exceptions how ever, the consensus is
that the state should stay out of regulating m edia
because of its im portance in supporting the hum an
right to freedom of expression. M edia outlets are
crucial to the exercise of freedom of expression
because they provide the public platform through
w hich this right is effectively exercised
7
. The idea of
m edia as a platform for dem ocratic debate em braces
a w ide variety of overlapping m edia functions. M edia
outlets are channels through w hich citizens can
com m unicate w ith each other, acting as a facilitator
of inform ed debate betw een diverse social actors,
encouraging the non-violent resolution of disputes.
The m edia dissem inates stories, ideas and inform ation
and acts as a corrective to the natural asym m etry of
inform ation
8
betw een governors and governed, and
betw een com peting private agents. The m edia can
also function as a w atchdog, prom oting governm ent
transparency and public scrutiny of those w ith pow er
through exposing corruption, m aladm inistration
and corporate w rongdoing, and thereby be a tool
to enhance econom ic efficiency. The m edia can be a
national voice, a m eans by w hich a society or a
country can learn about itself and build a sense of
com m unity and of shared values, a vehicle for cultural
expression and cultural cohesion w ithin nation states.
H ow ever the m edia m ay potentially fulfil any or
all of these functions, or none of them . In som e
contexts, the m edia m ay serve to reinforce the pow er
of vested interests and exacerbate social inequalities
by excluding critical or m arginalised voices. In m ore
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5. U N ESC O , G uidelines for Broadcast Regulation, 2nd edition, w ritten by Eve Salom on (http://unesdoc.unesco.org/im ages/0018/001832/
183285e.pdf)
6. ibid
7. W hat follow s is a synthesis of various reports on the m edia and dem ocratic developm ent, including: A rticle 19 (2004), Freedom of
Expression and the Media, w ritten for the British C ouncil (w w w .britishcouncil.org/governance-foe-booklet.doc); Islam , Roum een
(2002), Into the Looking G lass: w hat the m edia tell and w hy' in The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic Development,
W ashington, DC: The W orld Bank Institute (http://w w w -w ds.w orldbank.org/external/default/m ain?pagePK=64193027&piPK=64187937&the-
SitePK=523679& m enuPK=64187510& searchM enuPK=64187283& siteN am e=W D S& entityID =000094946_02111404075733); G lobal
Forum for M edia D evelopm ent (2006); N orris Pippa and D ieter Zinnbauer (2002); U N ESC O -C entre for Peace and H um an Security,
Sciences Po -Paris (2006), Press Freedom and Poverty: an analysis of the correlations between the freedom of the press and various
aspects of human security, poverty and governance, U N ESC O -C PH S Research Project, prepared by A nne-Sophie N ovel (http://gem .scien-
ces-po.fr/content/publications/pdf/novel_pressfreedom _poverty__150606.pdf).
8. Islam , Roum een (2002), 'Into the Looking G lass: w hat the m edia tell and w hy' in The Right to Tell: The Role of Mass Media in Economic
Development, W ashington, D C : The W orld Bank Institute (available at: http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:XU O fPO iFZvU J:
w w w .w orldbank.org/w bi/RighttoTell/righttotellO verview .pdf+right+to+tell& hl=en& gl=uk& ct=clnk& cd=1)
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established dem ocracies, the role of the m edia
has com e under attack from those w ho believe it is
underm ining dem ocracy through the trivial, anta-
gonistic and personalized nature of its coverage
9
.
A t its m ost extrem e, the m edia can prom ote conflict
and social divisiveness, particularly in a non-pluralistic
m edia environm ent
10
.
W e think of the m edia as a place in w hich
journalists convey ideas, inform ation and stories
to the listener, view er or reader. If the view s they
present are representative of society as a w hole then
they are fulfilling our individual hum an rights, as
readers/consum ers, to freedom of expression. But this
representation is only part of w hat they do. The other
elem ent is their ow n view s and interests as journalists.
The m edia, in reporting events, creates a social
environm ent in w hich parties to the various debates
in society, including the journalists them selves
represent their ow n view s. The m edia thus becom es
an actor w hen it takes an editorial position, or w hen
the broadcast m edia focus on certain issues or take
a particular perspective. The idea that the journalist
sits outside of the events they are covering, sim ply
representing our rights to freedom of expression is
only part of the picture.
M edia constitute a space in w hich the debates
and issues of a society can be articulated but are
inevitably them selves actors in that conflict. To use
sociological term s the m edia are both structure and
agency. Policy m akers tend to focus on the m edias
role in constituting the public sphere of society how
that can be fostered and nurtured in a w ay as to
perm it the expression of the fullest range of view s. By
public sphere is m eant that range of com m unication
outlets and m edia w hich enable a society to view the
representations of itself. To function properly a public
sphere m ust have free flow ing access to inform ation,
and enable the view s of ordinary citizens to be heard.
In the w ords of Jurgen H aberm as it is a discursive
arena that is hom e to citizen debate, deliberation,
agreem ent and action
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. But it is also im portant to
understand the role of the m edia as a social actor in
itself, a partisan participant in the very debates that
in covers, shaping them by com m ission or om ission.
If the state has no role in requiring the m edia to act
in a responsible m anner in the coverage of events, to
ensure that it does not abuse the pow er it carries as
a structure by exploiting its role as an agency, how is
the m edias ow n accountability to be achieved? The
answ er has been self regulation. This is particularly
im portant in countries w here the m edia are linked to
prom inent business interests of political parties.
What is self regulation and its
advantages?
W hat do w e m ean by self regulation? Self
regulation is com bination of standards setting out
the appropriate codes of behaviour for the m edia
that are necessary to support freedom of expression,
and processhow those behaviours w ill be m onitored
or held to account. The benefits of self regulation
are w ell rehearsed. Self regulation preserves
independence of the m edia and protects it from
partisan governm ent interference. It could be m ore
efficient as a system of regulation as the m edia
understand their ow n environm ent better than
governm ent (though they m ay use that know ledge
to further their ow n com m ercial interests rather
than the public interest). A s the m edia environm ent
becom es global (through the developm ent of the
internet and digital platform s) and questions of
jurisdiction becom e m ore com plex then self
regulation can fill the resulting gap. It is less costly
to governm ent because industry bears the cost and
can be m ore flexible than governm ent regulation. Self
regulation m ay also encourage greater com pliance
because of peer pressure (although there is also
evidence that regulation or the threat of regulation is
m ore likely to secure com pliance). Self regulation can
also drive up professional standards by requiring
organisations to think about and even develop their
ow n standards of behaviour.
Journalists codes of conduct
For m any years self regulation w as deem ed to
be the professional responsibility of journalists
them selves and a variety of attem pts have taken
place to codify the responsibility of journalists,
often through the m edium of their professional
associations. W hile various existing codes have som e
differences, m ost share com m on elem ents including
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9. Lloyd, John (2004) W hat the M edia is doing to our politicsC onstable.
10. Thom pson, M ark (1999) Forging W ar: The M edia in Serbia, C roatia, Bosnia, and H erzegovinaLondon: U niversity of Luton press.
11.Villa, D ana R. "Postm odernism and the Public Sphere." A m erican Political Science Review , Vol. 86, N o. 3 (Septem ber 1992).
the principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity,
im partiality, fairness. The earliest attem pts to draft a
code of ethics seem to be the C ode of Journalistic
Ethics adopted by the first Pan-A m erican Press
C onference held in W ashington in 1926. It w as
adopted as policy by the Inter-A m erican Press
A ssociation at a conference held in N ew York in
O ctober 1950.
The first International Federation of Journalists,
established in 1926 but dissolved after the Second
W orld W ar, took various steps aim ed at self-regulation
by the profession, including the establishm ent of
an International C ourt of H onour in The H ague in
1931 and the adoption of a professional code of
honour in 1939. Refounded in 1952, it developed a
professional ethical code for journalists and adopted
a declaration of journalistsduties in 1954, at its
Second C ongress
12
. Subsequently six journalists
trade unions of the European C om m unity adopted
a D eclaration of D uties and Rights of Journalists
in N ovem ber 1971
13
. A range of national m edia
institutions have developed their ow n codes of
conduct, for exam ple the Sw iss Press C ouncil
14
.
These codes tend to focus upon certain accepted
principles a respect for truth and for the right of
the public to truth; the right to fair com m ent and
criticism ; factual and objective reporting; the use of
fair m ethods to obtain inform ation; the w illingness to
correct m istakes; respecting the confidentiality of
sources. These draw upon w hat is usually regarded as
the essential elem ents of journalism for exam ple as
sketched out by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel
15
w hich they define as:
Journalism s first obligation is to the truth.
Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
Its essence is discipline of verification.
Its practitioners m ust m aintain an independence
from those they cover.
It m ust serve as an independent m onitor of pow er.
It m ust provide a forum for public criticism and
com prom ise.
It m ust strive to m ake the new s significant,
interesting, and relevant.
It m ust keep the new s com prehensive and
proportional.
Its practitioners m ust be allow ed to exercise their
personal conscience.
The lim itation of codes of conduct is that they are
difficult to uphold. They are essentially professional
codes adopted voluntarily by journalists but w ithout
sanction if breached. It w ould be possible for a
journalist association to expel a m em ber w ho
consciously breached such a code but that w ould not
necessarily prohibit them from w orking as journalists.
M oreover journalists often have little pow er w ithin
their organisations. D ecisions about w hat stories
to cover, how m uch budget is allocated to each story,
w hat prom inence is given are usually m ade by
editors or senior m anagers. M edia ow ners can use
their pow er to influence how new s is reported and
published and shape the priorities of the m edia
organisation. In such circum stances a journalist code
of ethics w ill be relatively pow erless.
Editorial independence
A longside journalists codes of ethics therefore it is
helpful to have guarantees of editorial independence
so that the journalist are able to operate free of direct
control of the com m ercial interests of the ow ners.
Editorial independence is taken to m ean the right
of journalists to decide w hat to cover, how to cover
it and w here to place the story in a new spaper,
m agazine or broadcast, regardless of the view s of the
ow ners. In m ost countries editorial independence is
undefined in that there are relatively few form al codes
specifying w hat it m ight m ean. A notable exception
is the agreem ent betw een the then National Association
of N orw egian N ew spapers (now the N orw egian
M edia BusinessesA ssociation) and the A ssociation
of N orw egian Editors. They adopted a declaration on
the rights and duties of the editors in 1953, w hich is
know n in N orw ay as the Redaktrplakaten or Editors
C ode
16
. This code includes the follow ing:
The editor shall prom ote the freedom of opinion
and in accordance w ith the best of his/her abilities
and strive for w hat he/she feels serves society.
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12.See A ppendix for the text of the code.
13.http://w w w .rjionline.org/m as/code-of-ethics/journalists-union-declaration
14.http://ethicnet.uta.fi/sw itzerland/declaration_of_the_duties_and_rights_of_a_journalist.
15.Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel (A pril 24, 2007). "The Elem ents of Journalism ; W hat N ew speople Should Know and the Public Should
Expect, C om pletely U pdated and Revised". journalism .org. Retrieved 18 O ctober 2010.
16.http://w w w .inform aw orld.com /sm pp/content~db=all~content=a788048456~frm =titlelink
14
Through his/her paper the editor shall prom ote
an im partial and free exchange of inform ation
and opinion.
It also assum es that the editor is legally responsible
for the content of the m edia they edit. A lthough this
w as a voluntary agreem ent in recent years there has
been an attem pt to m ake it legally binding.
O ther codes of editorial independence, such
as the IFJs non binding code specify that editorial
independence includes the right of the editorial council
to be consulted on decisions, personnel policies,
the right of the journalist to refuse an assignm ent if
the assignm ent proves to breach journalists professional
ethics, the right to define editorial policy and content
of the paper/broadcasting station.
Professional guidelines
A third elem ent of professional self regulation
is the professional guidelines adopted by m edia
organisations as a m atter of editorial policy. Perhaps
the best exam ple of this is the various guidelines
adopted by the BBC w hich are m eant to govern its
output. The overarching fram ew ork of the BBC
guidelines is a statem ent of values
17
:
W e m ust therefore balance our presum ption
of freedom of expression w ith our responsibilities,
for exam ple to respect privacy, to be fair, to avoid
unjustifiable offence and to provide appropriate
protection for our audiences from harm
There is a conscious balance here betw een
freedom and responsibility, a recognition that the
freedom of the m edia to operate independently
of governm ent control, has to sit alongside som e
responsibilities in the exercise of that freedom . There
are detailed guidelines that cover issues such as
accuracy, fairness, im partiality, privacy, the avoidance
of harm , the responsibilities of the m edia during
elections, conflicts of interest and the coverage of
sensitive issues such as conflict, young people,
religion, crim e and sexuality.
In the private sector the G uardians editorial code
states that its purpose is to protect and foster the
bond of trust betw een the G uardian and its readers.
The code is voluntary and does not form part of the
term s and conditions of the journalists rather it is
m eant to define the culture of journalism at the
paper. The code covers professional practice and
issues such as conflicts of interest. How ever, adherence
to the Press C om plaints C om m ission C ode of Practice
(see below ) is w ritten into the term s of em ploym ent
of journalists at the G uardian.
A nother exam ple of voluntary guidelines is that
draw n up by the N G O A rticle 19 w hich produced a
set of guidelines to govern election broadcasting
particularly aim ed at em erging transitional
dem ocracies
18
.
Implementing standards
There are three interlocking aspects to
professional self regulation w hich reinforce each
other and w hich form a com prehensive approach to
professional self regulation:
Journalistscodes of ethics
Standards that ensure editorial independence
M edia organisations ow n guidelines on the
coverage of events
Inevitably this brings up questions of process
how are these self adopted codes upheld do they
rely solely upon the pow er of m oral exhortation
or can they be given force in som e w ay.
In m any sectors of com m ercial life, self regulation
is entrusted to a body of industry professionals to
adm inister. Inside a m edia organisation the classic
approach is to have a m edia O m budsm an em ployed
by the m edia com pany to receive and investigate
com plaints from new spaper readers or listeners or
view ers of radio and television stations about
accuracy, fairness, balance and good taste in new s
coverage. They can recom m end appropriate rem edies
or responses to correct or clarify new s reports. O ne
of the earliest exam ples of such a position w as the
A sahiShim bun new spaper in Tokyo w hich set up a
com m ittee in 1922 to receive and investigate reader
com plaints. The first new spaper om budsm an in
the U .S. w as appointed by the C ourier-Journal and
The Louisville Tim es in June 1967. N ew s om budsm en
today are found throughout N orth and South
A m erica, Europe, and parts of the M iddle East and
A sia. The O m budsm an of the G uardian new spaper in
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17.http://w w w .bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/page/guidelines-editorial-values-introduction/
18.http://w w w .article19.org/pdfs/tools/electionbroadcastingtrans.pdf
the U K publishes a regular list of corrections and
clarifications that respond to com plaints upon
coverage in the new spaper and also has the pow er
to adjudicate m ore serious com plaints and change
the editorial policy
19
.
C om plaints m echanism can also be set up at the
industry level, com plem enting the process w ithin
the m edia organisation. M any countries have press
or m edia councils representing the m edia industry
and established w ith the aim of both defending their
interests and im proving professional standards. In the
U K, the governm ent threatened to regulate the
m edias conduct after several high profile abuses of
accepted journalist standards. To avoid regulation the
new spaper industry established a Press C om plaints
C om m ission and C ode of Practice
20
to allow
m em bers of the public to bring a com plaint against
a publication that had signed up to the C ode of
C onduct. The C ode covers the usual areas accuracy,
respect for privacy, non harassm ent, reporting of
young people, sexuality, crim e and so on. The
C om m ission has no legal pow ers all new spapers
and m agazines voluntarily contribute to the costs
of, and agree to abide by the findings of the
C om m ission. In recent years about 9 out of 10
com plaints have been resolved to the com plainants
satisfaction; although the M ediaW ise Trust, set up to
cam paign for victim s of m edia abuse, has claim ed
that ordinary journalists voices, and those of the
general public, are insufficiently represented on the
C om m ission and that its rulings tend to favour the
pow erful rather than the poor
21
.
The Global Reporting Initiative
In recent years a m ore com prehensive approach
is being developed through the G lobal Reporting
Initiative. The G RI is probably the w orlds m ost
com m on standard that ensures com panies publicly
report on all aspects of their econom ic, environm ental,
and social perform ance. The G RI seeks to m ake this
sustainabilitya routine part of the com pany activity
m uch like their financial reporting. A ccording to
the G RI
22
Sustainability reports based on the G RI Fram ew ork
can be used to dem onstrate organizational
com m itm ent to sustainable developm ent, to
com pare organizational perform ance over tim e,
and to m easure organizational perform ance
w ith respect to law s, norm s, standards and
voluntary initiatives.
The assum ption behind the G RI is that greater
transparency w ill act as an incentive to im prove
standards across the fields of environm ental
sustainability and corporate social responsibility.
The m ost recent figures published by the G RI show
that over 1000 organisations used G RI guidelines in
their reporting in 2008
23
.
G RI is currently developing sustainability reporting
guidelines for the m edia sector in partnership w ith
Ibero-A m erican N ew Journalism Foundation, the
A vina Foundation and the Program for Journalism
Studies of Javeriana U niversity in C olum bia. The
guidelines are being draw n up by a range of m edia
organisations and global stakeholders. A m ong the
partners involved in the production of the guidelines
are the A ustralian Broadcasting C orporation, the
BBC , Bertelsm ann, G estevision Telecinco from
Spain, an N G O alliance the G lobal Forum for M edia
D evelopm ent, G rupo C larin from A rgentina, the
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), The
G uardian new spaper from the U nited Kingdom , TN T
Broadcasting N etw ork from the Russian Federation,
Transparency International, Vivendi in France and
W arner Bros. Entertainm ent Inc. from the U SA
24
.
U sing the U N ESC O m edia fram ew ork indicators,
the draft indicators w ill spell out the responsibilities
of m edia organisations to support freedom of
expression, ensure transparency of ow nership and
provide access to com m unications. Scheduled for
public launch in late 2011 they could provide a
useful supplem ent to other form s of self regulation
by spelling out the obligations of m edia com panies
them selves, as distinct from their journalist or
editors.
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19.See http://w w w .guardian.co.uk/new s/2006/m ay/25/leadersandreply.m ainsection?IN TC M P=SRC H for an exam ple
20.http://w w w .pcc.org.uk/cop/practice.htm l
21.http://w w w .m ediaw ise.org.uk/
22.http://w w w .globalreporting.org/A boutG RI/W hatIsG RI/
23.http://w w w .globalreporting.org/N R/rdonlyres/E8B6ED 9E-1A 29-4154-A 6D A -F14E6F71A 2C 9/3830/G RI_Year_In_Review _241209.pdf
24.http://w w w .globalreporting.org/ReportingFram ew ork/SectorSupplem ents/M edia/#M SS3
16
Role of internet as digital platform
and implications for self regulation
The com m unications environm ent has been
transform ed by the ability to turn different kinds of
inform ation, w hether voice, sound, im age or text
into digital code, accessible by a range of devices
from the personal com puter to the m obile phone.
The em ergence of the internet has transform ed
com m unication capacity from som ething essentially
local (be it a locality or a country) into a m edium that
is truly global.
In their first incarnation, the internet and w eb
w ere hailed as offering a new global, boundless space
able to evade traditional censorship. John G ilm ore,
a libertarian activist and founder of the Electronic
Frontier Foundation (w hose nam e suggests its
perspective), w as quoted in Tim e m agazine as saying
The N et interprets censorship as dam age and routes
around it.
25
Today, of course, the net has becom e a
m ore contested, enclosed and nationalized space, but
both the libertarian possibilities and the new form s of
dom ination and control have recast the challenge to
freedom of expression in the m odern era.
W hat are the characteristics of this space that
im pact upon free expression rights? A s a netw ork of
netw orks, the internet is an international platform
w hich has no overarching jurisdiction. N o single entity
governs the totality of the internet: governance is
provided by different com ponents and institutions
operating in very different jurisdictions. A program
can be m ade in the U kraine, uploaded onto a U .S.
server, and dow nloaded in G hana.
The international jurisdictional bodies such as
the Internet C orporation for A ssigned N am es and
N um bers (ICANN),
26
the International Telecom m unication
U nion (ITU ), and the W orld W ide W eb C onsortium
(W 3C ),
27
like the national bodies w hich adm inister the
national dom ains, are concerned w ith the efficient
w orking of the system , its functionality, rather than
governing the environm ent in the w ay that regulators
govern broadcast m edia. C onsequently, there is a
jurisdictional vacuum over content on the w eb. If
there is a need for any state intervention it is not clear
how such authority should be appropriately applied
given that there is no m eans of regulating content
internationally, nor any consensus on the norm s that
need to be applied. A s a consequence a great deal of
em phasis has been placed upon the im portance of
self regulation on line.
H ow ever there are dangers in this approach. There
are no accepted self regulatory standards that have
been developed for the internet environm ent.
C onsequently self regulation principally by
com panies, takes place in a vacuum w here it is
shaped by com m ercial interties or private pressure
from governm ents. For exam ple Internet Service
Providers (ISPs), w hich traditionally expected to be
m ere conduits for the services they carry are being
asked to collect data on their users (for exam ple by
the EU D ata Retention D irective 2006/24/EC ) and
even m onitor brow sing histories through voluntary
agreem ents w ith governm ents that have no legal
scrutiny
28
. The lack of overt legal guidance and
understandable w ariness about carrying controversial
m aterial leads to overzealous actions by ISPs
them selves and a w illingness to take dow n
controversial m aterial sim ply if som eone com plains
29
.
This results in w hat is, in effect, a broad regim e
of censorship that contrasts w ith the narrow
interpretations of the law and careful application
of standards expected in the offline w orld. This
underlines the im portance of any system of self
regulation being undertaken in accordance w ith
transparent and clear norm s.
Conclusion
In sum m ary it is im portant to recognise the dual
character of the m edia and its im plications. Firstly it
is a site w hich perm its the free exchange of ideas
and opinion necessary in a dem ocracy and w hich is
therefore deserving of the highest protection and
freedom from state interference. Secondly it is a social
actor in its ow n rights, w hos choices about w hether
or how to cover events and w hose editorial position
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25.First quoted by Philip Elm er-D eW it, "First N ation in C yberspace", Tim e M agazine, 6 D ecem ber 1993.
26.http://w w w .icann.org/ IC A N N w as founded in 1998.
27.http://w w w .w 3.org/ Founded in 1994, W 3C is adm inistered by a consortium of research institutions and universities.
28.The Slide from self regulation to corporate censorship, European D igital Rights, Joe M acN am ee, 2010.
29.ibid
can also shape events and in that w ay is required
to act in a socially responsible fashion. It is this dual
character that m akes an effective form of self
regulation so essential.
Self regulation is not a sim ple m atter how ever; it
places requirem ents upon every level of the m edia
organisation, on the journalist them selves, on their
editors and m anagers, on the approach of the m edia
organisation to the production of content and the
overall behaviour of the m edia com pany. The fast
evolving nature of online m edia, and the com plex
jurisdictional questions throw n up by a globalised
environm ent, place self regulation at the heart of the
evolving m edia landscape.
There are tw o overarching principles if w e accept
that self regulation is the necessary alternative to state
control of the m edia. Firstly all m edia actors,
professional or business have obligations to uphold in
exchange for the freedom of state interference that
they rightly claim . These obligations should be
centred on the need to protect and prom ote freedom
of expression. Secondly, all such obligations should be
m ade explicit and transparent and be the subject of
regular reporting in the public sphere. Both conditions
are essential if self-regulation is to protect freedom of
expression and not just the interests of com panies
them selves.
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18 A ndrew Puddephatt is D irector of G lobal Partners
and A ssociates, an organization that prom otes good
governance, dem ocracy and hum an. H e is chair of
C A A D A an organisation that challenges dom estic
violence in the U K, organisation and also C hair of the
D anish based International M edia Support. H e is on
the board of a new pan-European organization the
European C ouncil on Foreign Relations and w as
form erly D irector of the international free expression
organisation A rticle 19.
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A B O U T T H E A U T H O R
IFJ Code of Ethics
1. General Principles:
1.1 The International Federation of Journalists
representing m ore than 450,000 journalists in over
100 countries, believes that professional journalists,
organised in free and independent trade unions, play
a key role in the creation and m aintenance of a
dem ocratic m edia culture.
1.2 The IFJ believes that dem ocracy depends upon
the extension of freedom of expression and social
justice w orldw ide. The IFJ insists that dem ocracy
depends upon an understanding of the special and
particular role of the m edia in dem ocratic society.
1.3 The IFJ believes that m edia m ust respect the
professional and ethical principles of press freedom
upon w hich the freedom of expression and opinion
relies.
The IFJ defines press freedom as:
that freedom from restraint w hich is essential
to enable journalists, editors, publishers and
broadcasters to advance the public interest by
publishing, broadcasting or circulating facts and
opinions w ithout w hich a dem ocratic electorate
cannot m ake responsible judgm ents.
The IFJ believes this freedom can only be
expressed w hen there exists:
a) A free, independent and m edia reflecting diversity
of opinion;
b) A free flow of inform ation enabling full dem ocratic
exchange in all com m unities, w hether they be
based on geography, ethnic origins, shared values
or com m on language;
c) Statutory defence and protection of citizensrights
to freedom of inform ation and the right to know ;
d) Respect for the professional status and
independent role of journalists.
1.4 The IFJ considers that the treatm ent of new s
and inform ation as a com m odity m ust not override
or interfere w ith the duty of journalists to inform their
audience and that m edia m ust be adm inistered
according to the highest standards of transparency
and openness.
1.5 The IFJ believes in the coexistence of public
service and private broadcasting in order to protect
independence, pluralism and variety in program m ing
to the enrichm ent of all sections of society.
1.6 The IFJ affirm s that responsibility for ethical
conduct and m aintenance of the highest standards in
journalism rests w ith m edia professionals.
1.7 The IFJ strongly believes that the law should
not interfere in m atters w hich are the proper
responsibility of w orking journalists: nam ely, the
preparation, selection and transm ission of inform ation.
2. Access to the profession
2.1 A ccess to the profession should be free. The
professional level of future journalists should be as
high as possible.
2.2 Trainee journalists m ust undergo proper
training under conditions agreed by publishers and
journalistsunions.
2.3 A ppointm ents are restricted to qualified
journalists, that is, persons w ho have m inim um
professional qualifications agreed by journalists
unions and m edia organisations. Such qualified
journalists should be recognised as such in collective
agreem ents. Em ployers accept that is the duty of the
m edia in general and the em ployer in particular to
reflect the society it serves.
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A P P E N D IX
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3. Clause of conscience
3.1 Journalists m ust have the right to act
according to their conscience in the exercise of
journalism . In case of fundam ental change in the
political, philosophical or religious line of the
em ployer, a journalist m ay put an end to his or her
contract, w ithout notice, and be paid com pensation
equivalent to w hat he or she w ould have received
in case of term ination of his or her contract by the
em ployer.
3.2 N o journalist should be directed by an
em ployer or any person acting on behalf of the
em ployer to com m it any act or thing that the
journalist believes w ould breach his or her
professional ethics, w hether defined by a code of
ethics adopted by journalists collected at national
level or that w ould infringe the international C ode of
Principles for the C onduct of Journalism as adopted
by the IFJ. N o journalist can be disciplined in any w ay
for asserting his or her rights to act according their
conscience.
4. Editorial independence
4.1 C om m on m inim um standards of editorial
independence should apply in all m edia.
4.2 These m inim um standards m ust include:
the Editorial staff represents the m oral and
intellectual capital of publishing houses and
broadcasting station;
the right of the editorial council to be consulted
on decisions w hich affect:
appointm ent and dism issal of the editor-in-chief;
definition of editorial policy and content of the
paper/broadcasting station;
personnel policies;
transfer/change of tasks of the journalists in the
editorial departm ent;
the right of the editorial council to be heard on
m atters of grievances concerning editorial policy;
the right of the journalist to refuse an assignm ent
if the assignm ent proves to breach journalists
professional ethics as laid dow n in the unions
code of conduct;
the right of the editorial staff to prevent
interference of m anagem ent of third parties on
the editorial content;
the right of journalists in Europe to equal pay and
equality in career developm ent.
In case of grievances the editorial council, the
editor in-chief and m anagem ent hold bona fide
negotiations. Representatives of the journalists
associations and unions can be involved in the
negotiations in line w ith existing labour/press
legislation.
5. Self-regulation and ethics of journalism:
5.1 The IFJ believes that codes of ethics or codes
of conduct m ust be draw n up by the professionals
them selves.
5.2 The IFJ C ode of C onduct, first adopted in
1954, provides a code of ethics adopted by all
national representative journalists organisations in
Europe. Therefore, the IFJ C ode of C onduct provides
the basis for a com m on understanding on ethical
issues through voluntary adoption of journalists
and publishers. In this area IFJ sees no active role
for national governm ents.
IFJ D eclaration of Principles on the C onduct of
Journalists
This international D eclaration is proclaim ed as a
standard of professional conduct for journalists
engaged in gathering, transm itting, dissem inating
and com m enting on new s and inform ation in
describing events.
1. Respect for truth and for the right of the public
to truth is the first duty of the journalist.
2. In pursuance of this duty, the journalist shall
at all tim es defend the principles of freedom in the
honest collection and publication of new s, and of the
right of fair com m ent and criticism .
3. The journalist shall report only in accordance
w ith facts of w hich he/she know s the origin. The
journalist shall not suppress essential inform ation or
falsify docum ents.
4. The journalist shall use only fair m ethods to
obtain new s, photographs and docum ents.
5. The journalist shall do the utm ost to rectify any
published inform ation w hich is found to be harm fully
inaccurate.
6. The journalist shall observe professional secrecy
regarding the source of inform ation obtained in
confidence.
7. The journalist shall be aw are of the danger of
discrim ination being furthered by the m edia, and shall
do the utm ost to avoid facilitating such discrim ination
based on, am ong other things, race, sex, sexual
orientation, language, religion, political or other
opinions, and national or social origins.
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8. The journalist shall regard as grave professional
offences the follow ing:
plagiarism ;
m alicious m isrepresentation;
calum ny, slander, libel, unfounded accusations;
acceptance of a bribe in any form in consideration
of either publication or
suppression.
9. Journalists w orthy of the nam e shall deem it
their duty to observe faithfully the principles stated
above. W ithin the general law of each country the
journalist shall recognise in professional m atters the
jurisdiction of colleagues only, to the exclusion of
every kind of interference by governm ents or others.
(A dopted by 1954 W orld C ongress of the IFJ.
A m ended by the 1986 W orld C ongress.)
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SERIES CI Debat es
See the previous numbers of the series:
Series CI Debates, n. 1, 2009The Police blogosphere in Brazil: from shooting to tw itter
Silvia Ram os and A nabela Paiva (C oords.)
Available at: <http://unesdoc.unesco.org/im ages/0018/001852/185252e.pdf>.
Series CI Debates, n. 2, 2010Levantam ento inicial de necessidades e oportunidades de qualificao e capacitao
profissional na Fundao Padre A nchieta e na Em presa Brasil de C om unicao Joo M arcelo Borges
Available at: <http://unesdoc.unesco.org/im ages/0018/001895/189599por.pdf>.
Series CI Debates, n. 3, 2010 Indicadores da qualidade no jornalism o: polticas, padres e preocupaes de jornais e
revistas brasileiros Rogrio C hristofoletti
Available at: <http://unesdoc.unesco.org/im ages/0018/001899/189915por.pdf>.
Series CI Debates, n. 4, 2010 Jornalistas e suas vises sobre qualidade: teoria e pesquisa no contexto dos indicadores
de desenvolvim ento da m dia da U N ESC O D anilo Rothberg
Available at: <http://unesdoc.unesco.org/im ages/0018/001899/189916por.pdf>.
Series CI Debates, n. 5, 2010 Sistem a de gesto da qualidade aplicado ao jornalism o: um a abordagem inicial
Josenildo Luiz G uerra
Available at: <http://unesdoc.unesco.org/im ages/0018/001899/189917por.pdf>.
Series CI Debates, n. 6, 2010Q ualidade jornalstica: ensaio para um a m atriz de indicadores.
Luiz A ugusto Egypto de C erqueira
Available at: <http://unesdoc.unesco.org/im ages/0018/001899/189918por.pdf>.
Series CI Debates, n. 7, 2011 O A m biente regulatrio para a radiodifuso: um a pesquisa de m elhores prticas para os
atores-chave brasileiros.
Toby M endel and Eve Salom on
Series CI Debates, n. 8, 2011 Liberdade de expresso e regulao da radiodifuso
Toby M endel and Eve Salom on
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