Claude-Jean Bertrand, who is a professor at the University of Paris’s French Press Institute and has examined ethics codes from many countries, says that most include these three basic elements:
• Fundamental values, including respect for life and human solidarity;
• Fundamental prohibitions, including not to lie, cause needless harm, or appropriate someone else’s property;
• Journalistic principles, including accuracy, fairness, and independence.
These codes are sometimes voluntary in nature, with no clear consequences for violators. But the expectation is that peers and employers will hold journalists who behave unethically accountable.
In some countries, press councils hear complaints against journalists and can recommend action to correct mistakes.
Journalism review magazines also serve a corrective function by exposing the behavior of unethical journalists.
Some news organizations have a staff person, commonly called an “ombudsman,” who watches out for errors and ethical lapses and serves as the public’s representative inside the newsroom.
In countries where journalists are required to belong to a union or association, ethics codes often include an enforcement provision.
For example, the Australian Journalists Association has judiciary committees that investigate charges of unethical behavior brought against journalists.
A journalist found in violation can be rebuked, fined, or expelled from the group.
Codes of Conduct
In addition to national and regional codes of ethics, many news organizations have their own codes of conduct or standards of practice that they expect their journalists to follow.
These codes may spell out specific actions or activities that are either encouraged or prohibited, or that require the approval of a manager.
Many news organizations limit what journalists can do both on and off the job. ?e main reason for these limitations is to protect the credibility of news organizations.