In their everyday work, the journalist is mostly guided by self-regulation.
Self-regulation refers to the ethical guidelines of the professional journalistic community. The self-regulation system with its guidelines is independent of the state and legislation, aiming to secure the truthfulness and accuracy of journalism as well as the rights of reporters and interviewees, to name but a few examples.
The self-regulation system of the media is an attempt by editorial office professionals to create, adhere to and oversee voluntary editing guidelines, and to open the learning process relating them to the public. The system makes the press independent: the media carry their responsibility for the quality of public discussion but still maintain perfect editorial independence.
The self-regulation system with its guidelines is independent of the state and legislation.
The principles of self-regulation have been written down in the ethical codes of journalism. An ethical code is a set of guidelines that is often more precise than the law. It defines the reader’s, journalist’s and interviewee’s rights. It also defines the basic principles guiding journalistic work such as truthfulness and objectivity. Ethical codes are also nation-specific because of differences in cultures and legislation.
An individual media corporation can also have its own ethical guidelines. Well-known examples include guides from BBC and Associated Press (AP).
Additionally, different media can have their own codes: for example, separate ones for the press, television and online media. The basic principles remain the same, however, regardless of the country and medium. Some other professional communities also have their own ethical guidelines.
The ethical code of journalists can be compared to the physician’s Hippocratic Oath. The main difference is that new physicians are required to swear to uphold specific ethical standards, whereas following ethics is just a question of conscience for journalists.
It is essential for journalists themselves to have created an ethical code that is not dictated by the owner of the media or the state. If the government interferes in the writing of the guidelines, the whole idea of self-regulation falls apart.
If the government interferes in the writing of the guidelines, the whole idea of self-regulation falls apart.
It is also important for the code to be updated when needed. For example, the quick development of online journalism has necessitated the modification of codes to meet today’s standards.
It is worth remembering that the existence of professional ethics in itself does not guarantee high-quality and independent journalism. The professional community can also abuse the ethical guidelines and reinforce their own position with it.
Even questionable practices can be easily justified by the ethical code, so professional ethics should also remain the object of critical observation by independent parties such as a public council for mass media.
In principle, when a magazine, newspaper or media channel acts in a non-ethical manner, anyone can submit a complaint concerning a breach of professional practice. Unlike legal complaints, such a complaint is handled free of charge.
Why do you need self-regulation when there are laws?; Ethical principles journalism; Journalistics guidelines share similarities globally
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This article was updated on January 9th 2020.