Code that lays down the law for newspapers

The Press Complaints Commission sets out guidelines to which journalist s should adhere. This is the list of rules
Click to follow
The Independent Online
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, whilst free to be partisan, should distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

4. Privacy

i) Intrusions and inquiries into an individual's private life without his or her consent, including the use of long-lens photography to take pictures of people on private property without their consent, are only acceptable when it can be shown that these are, or are reasonably believed to be, in the public interest.

ii) Publication of material obtained under i) above is only justified when the facts show that the public interest is served.

Note - Private property is defined as i) any private residence, together with its garden and outbuildings, but excluding any adjacent fields or parkland and the surrounding parts of the property within the unaided view of passers-by. ii) hotel bedrooms (but not other areas in a hotel) and iii) those parts of a hospital and nursing home where patients are treated or accommodated.

5. Listening devices

Unless justified by public interest, journalists should not obtain or publish material obtained by using clandestine listening devices or by intercepting private telephone conversations.

6. Hospitals

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

ii) The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to inquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar institutions.

7. Misrepresentation

i) Journalists should not generally obtain or 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.

8. Harassment

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

ii) Unless their inquiries are in the public interest, journalists should not photograph individuals on private property (as defined in the note to Clause 4) 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.

iii) It is the responsibility of editors to ensure that these requirements are carried out.

9. Payment for articles

i) Payment or offers of payment for stories or information should not be made directly or through agents to witnesses or potential witnesses in current criminal proceedings except where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and there is an overriding need to make or promise to make a payment for this to be done. Journalists must take every possible step to ensure that no financial dealings have influence on the evidence that those witnesses may give.

(An editor authorising such a payment must be prepared to demonstrate that there is a legitimate public interest at stake involving matters that the public has a right to know. The payment or, where accepted, the offer of payment to any witness who is actually cited to give evidence should be disclosed to the prosecution and the defence and the witness should be advised of this.)

ii) Payment, or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, should not be made directly or through agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates - who may include family, friends and colleagues - except where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and the payment is necessary for this to be done.

10. Intrusion into grief or shock

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

11. Innocent relatives and friends

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

12. 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 or any other 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.

13. Children in sex cases

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

2. In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child -

i) The adult should be identified.

ii) The word incest should be avoided where a child victim might be identified.

iii) The offence should be described as "serious offences against young children" or similar appropriate wording.

iv) The child should not be identified.

v) Care should be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.

14. Victims of sexual assault

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

15. 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 disability.

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.

16. 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 to others.

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

17. Confidential sources

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

18. The public interest

Clauses 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 create exceptions which may be covered by invoking the public interest. For the purpose of this Code that is most easily defined as:

i) Detecting or exposing crime or a serious misdemeanour.

ii) Protecting public health and safety.

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

Comments