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The fundamental objective of a journalist is to write a fair, accurate and an unbiased story on matters of public interest. All sides of the story shall be reported, wherever possible. Comments should be obtained from anyone who is mentioned in an unfavourable context.
Whenever it is recognized that an inaccurate, misleading or distorted story has been published or broadcast, it should be corrected promptly. Corrections should present the correct information and should not restate the error except when clarity demands.
An apology shall be published or broadcast whenever appropriate in such manner as the Council may specify. When stories fall short on accuracy and fairness, they should not be published. Journalists, while free to be partisan, should distinguish clearly in their reports between comment, conjecture and fact.
In general, provocative and alarming headlines should be avoided. Headings should reflect and justify the matter printed under them. Headings containing allegations made in statements should either identify the body or the source making them or at least carry quotation marks.
Journalists should present news fairly and impartially, placing primary value on significance and relevance. Journalists should treat all subjects of news coverage with respect and dignity, showing particular compassion to victims of crime or tragedy.
Journalists should seek to understand the diversity of their community and inform the public without bias or stereotype and present a diversity of expressions, opinions, and ideas in context. Journalists and other media practitioners should present analytical reporting based on professional perspective, not personal bias.
Journalists should defend the independence of all journalists from those seeking influence or control over news content. They should—
- gather and report news without fear or favour, and vigorously resist undue influence from any outside forces, including advertisers, sources, story, subjects, powerful individuals and special interest groups;
- resist those who would buy or politically influence news content or who would seek to intimidate those who gather and disseminate news;
- determine news content solely through editorial judgement and not the result of outside influence.
- resist any self-interest or peer pressure that might erode journalistic duty and service to the public.
- recognize that sponsorship of the news should not be used in any way to determine, restrict or manipulate content.
- refuse to allow the interests of ownership or management to influence news’ judgement and content inappropriately.
As the leading institution in the regulation of media and in the conduct and discipline of journalists in Kenya, one of major functions of the Media Council of Kenya is to promote high professional standards amongst journalists. Besides promoting and protecting freedom and independence of the media, the Council also works to promote ethical standards among journalists and in the media. The Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism as entrenched in the Second Schedule of the Media Act 2007 governs the conduct and practice of all media practitioners in the country.
Journalists should present news with integrity and decency, avoiding real or perceived conflicts of interest, and respect the dignity and intelligence of the audience as well as the subjects of news.
- identify sources whenever possible. Confidential sources should be used only when it is clearly in public interest to gather or convey important information or when a person providing information might be harmed;
- clearly label opinion and commentary;
- use technological tools with skill and thoughtfulness, avoiding techniques that skew facts, distort reality, or sensationalize events;
- use surreptitious news gathering techniques including hidden cameras or microphones, only if there is no other way of obtaining stories of significant public importance, and if the technique is explained to the audience.
Journalists should not—
- pay news sources who have vested interest in a story;
- accept gifts, favours or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage;
- engage in activities that may compromise their integrity or independence.
Journalists and all media practitioners should recognize that they are accountable for their actions to the public, the profession and themselves.
- actively encourage adherence to these standards byall journalists and media practitioners;
- respond to public concerns, investigate complaints and correct errors promptly;
- recognize that they are duty-bound to conduct themselves ethically.
A fair opportunity to reply to inaccuracies should be given to individuals or organizations when reasonably called for. If the request to correct inaccuracies in a story is in the form of a letter, the editor has the discretion to publish it in full or in its abridged and edited version, particularly when it is too long, but the remainder should be an effective reply to the allegations.
Unnamed sources should not be used unless the pursuit of the truth will best be served by not naming the source who should be known by the editor and reporter. When material is used in a report from sources other than the reporter’s, these sources should be indicated in the story.
In general, journalists have a professional obligation to protect confidential sources of information.
Journalists should generally identify themselves and not obtain or seek to obtain information or pictures through misrepresentation or subterfuge. Subterfuge can be justified only in the public interest and only when material cannot be obtained by any other means.
- In general, journalists should avoid publishing obscene, vulgar or offensive material unless such material contains a news value which is necessary in the public interest.
- In the same vein, publication of photographs showing mutilated bodies, bloody incidents and abhorrent scenes should be avoided unless the publication or broadcast of such photographs will serve the public interest.
When money is paid for information, serious questions can be raised about the credibility of that information and the motives of the buyer and the seller. Therefore, in principle, journalists should not receive any money as an incentive to publish any information.
- News, views or comments on ethnic, religious or sectarian dispute should be published or broadcast after proper verification of facts and presented with due caution and restraint in a manner which is conducive to the creation of an atmosphere congenial to national harmony, amity and peace.
- Provocative and alarming headlines should be avoided.
- News reports or commentaries should not be written or broadcast in a manner likely to inflame the passions, aggravate the tension or accentuate the strained relations between the communities concerned. Equally so, articles or broadcasts with the potential to exacerbate communal trouble should be avoided.
- Except in justifiable cases, journalists should not tape or record anyone without the person’s knowledge. An exception may be made only if the recording is necessary to protect the journalist in a legal action or for some other compelling reason. In this context these standards also apply to electronic media.
- Before recording a telephone conversation for broadcast, or broadcasting a telephone conversation live, a station should inform any party to the call of its intention to broadcast the conversation. This, however, does not apply to conversation whose broadcast can reasonably be presumed, for example, telephone calls to programmes where the station customarily broadcasts calls.
- In cases involving personal grief or shock, inquiries should be made with sensitivity and discretion.
- In hospitals, journalists should identify themselves and obtain permission from a responsible executive before entering non-public areas of hospitals or similar institutions to pursue enquiries.
Women and men should be treated equally as news subjects and news sources.
- Journalists should not use financial information they receive in advance for their own benefit, and should not pass the information to others.
- Journalists should not write or broadcast about shares, securities and other market instruments in whose performance they know they or their close families have a significant financial interest, without disclosing the interest to the editor.
- Journalists should not buy or sell, directly or through nominees or agents, shares or securities and other market instruments about which they intend to write in the near future.
An editor who decides to open a column on a controversial subject is not obliged to publish all the letters received in regard to that subject. The editor may select and publish only some of them either in their entirety or the gist thereof. However, in exercising this right, the editor should make an honest attempt to ensure that what is published is not one-sided but presents a fair balance between the pros and the cons of the principal issue. The editor shall have the discretion to decide at which point to end the debate in the event of a rejoinder upon rejoinder by two or more parties on a controversial subject.
Children should not be identified in cases concerning sexual offences, whether as victims, witnesses or defendants. Except in matters of public interest, for example, cases of child abuse or abandonment, journalists should not normally interview or photograph children on subjects involving their personal welfare in the absence or without the consent, of a parent or other adult who is responsible for the children. Children should not be approached or photographed while at school and other formal institutions without the permission of school authorities. In adhering to this principle, a journalist should always take into account specific cases of children in difficult circumstances.
The media should not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification. Such publications do not serve any legitimate journalistic or public need and may bring social opprobrium to the victims and social embarrassment to their relations, family, friends, community, religious order and to the institutions to which they belong.
As a general rule, the media should apply caution in the use of pictures and names and should avoid publication when there is a possibility of harming the persons concerned. Manipulation of pictures in a manner that distorts reality should be avoided. Pictures of grief, disaster and those that embarrass and promote sexism should be discouraged.
The media should generally avoid identifying relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime unless the reference to them is necessary for the full, fair and accurate reporting of the crime or legal proceedings.
The media should avoid presenting acts of violence, armed robberies, banditry and terrorist activities in a manner that glorifies such antisocial conduct. Also, newspapers should not allow their columns to be used for writings which tend to encourage or glorify social evils, warlike activities, ethnic, racial or religious hostilities.
The editor shall assume the responsibility for all content, including advertisements, published in a newspaper. If responsibility is disclaimed, this shall be explicitly stated before hand.
The editor should not allow any advertisement which is contrary to any aspect of this Code of Conduct. In this regard, and to the extent applicable, the editor should be guided by the Advertiser’s Code of Conduct.
Quoting persons making derogatory remarks based on ethnicity, race, creed, colour and sex shall be avoided. Racist or negative ethnic terms should be avoided. Careful account should be taken of the possible effect upon the ethnic or racial group concerned, and on the population as a whole, and of the changes in public attitudes as to what is and what is not acceptable when using such terms.