The rights of an interviewer and an interviewee

The relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee is confidential.

One of the principles of good journalism is that the interviewee can have complete faith in the fact that the interviewer will not twist what they are saying by leaving essential parts out, or by putting words into their mouth. The interviewee has the right to know in what context and for which publication they are being interviewed, and whether what they say is meant to be published, or whether it will be used only as the background material for the story.

Interviewees have the right to their quotations and their opinions. According to good journalistic practice, the interviewee is entitled to read the quotations that are attributed to them before publication and possibly suggest corrections to them. All this takes place if the publication schedule permits.

Interviewees have the right to know in advance the context in which their statements will be used. They must also be told if the interview will be used in multiple mediums. The interviewee must always be told whether the conversation is intended for publication or will be used exclusively as background material.

Guidelines for journalists, the Council for Mass Media in Finland


This may sometimes lead to conflicts between the journalist and interviewee. Occasionally a situation might arise where an interviewed politician receives information after an interview according to which the interview they gave might put them in a bad light.

In a situation like this, the interviewee naturally tries to prevent the publication of the article. In principle, they do not have the right to do this unless the situation has significantly changed since the interview.

When handling very sensitive topics, the reporter should record the interviews so that afterwards the interviewee cannot deny what they said, or blame the journalist for misrepresenting something.

It is worthwhile consenting to interviewee’s requests to read their statements prior to publication, if the editorial deadline permits. This right only concerns the personal statements of the interviewee, and the final journalistic decision cannot be surrendered to any party outside the editorial office.

Guidelines for journalists, the Council for Mass Media in Finland

When important politicians or figures of the corporate world are being interviewed, the public relations officer, attorney or another representative of the corporation or politician might also be present, recording how the interview is going. The representative may also interrupt or tell the interviewee not to answer if they are about to say something, which could harm their public image.

Ultimately, however, the power over alterations and publishing remains with the journalist. An interviewee cannot prohibit the publication of a story. It is good to adhere to common sense: if an interviewee later denies what they said, it is worth considering whether the utterance has such societal significance that it is worth publishing.

The interviewee also has the right to comment on the piece of news afterwards, if they see it as erroneous or offensive. If the interviewee or the object of the article feels that an already published article is offensive to them, they are entitled to publish a reply. If the article contains factual mistakes, the paper must publish a correction of the erroneous information.

The interviewee’s refusal to allow the publishing of his/her statement must be complied with only if the circumstances following the interview have changed so significantly that the publication of the interview could be viewed as unjust.

Guidelines for journalists, the Council for Mass Media in Finland


The right to reply does not, however, apply to all news. It does not apply to regular culture criticism, political, financial or societal assessment or other such presentation of opinion. Ultimately, the offensiveness of an article is determined by the editor-in-chief of the publication, who has the power to grant right to replies.


Can you come up with examples of situations where an interviewee might try to prohibit the publication of the story after they have been interviewed?

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This article was updated on January 9th 2020.