Journalism codes of ethics from around the world

Many thanks to the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and The Ethical Journalism Network for putting together Accountable Journalism a database of journalism codes of ethics from around the world. (See note below.)

The group admits it is not yet a full directory of codes and asks for contributions from other journalists and journalism organizations.

This database is very much still a work in process and far from comprehensive! Through our crowd-sourcing initiative we are asking media professionals to send us their respective code of ethics or an update to

And why is it good to know about other codes?

There is a greater need to know and understand ethics in an increasingly global world and the nuances between different cultures. While media policies may differ between news organizations and certain ethical topics are colored in shades of grey, the core concepts of accuracy, independence, impartiality, accountability, and showing humanity are international baselines for journalistic work.

It is important to recognise the value of media codes not just for traditional reporters, but for anyone using the mass social media tools and who are regularly committing acts of journalism.

NOTE: This posting was corrected to note the name of the database is Accountable Journalism and to identify the organizations that put it together.

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Brazil to extradite suspect in journalist’s killing

(Many thanks to Robert Buckman for this update.)

Investigative reporter Pablo Medina

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has notified Paraguay, after eight months, that she has signed the papers to extradite Vilmar “Neneco” Acosta, the alleged intellectual author of the murder of investigative reporter Pablo Medina 13 months ago, according to the Asunción daily ABC Color.

Acosta is to be transferred back to Paraguay on Monday.

Vilmar “Neneco” Acosta

Medina was an investigative reporter for ABC Color. He and his 19-year-old female intern, Antonio Almada, were gunned down in eastern Paraguay on Oct. 16, 2014, by two men on a motorcycle.

Acosta was the mayor of the town of Ypejhú and had been the target of Medina’s investigations into narcotrafficking in the region. Acosta absconded to Brazil after Medina’s murder and was arrested in March. His former chauffeur was arrested in Paraguay and implicated Acosta and the two gunmen.

The two suspected triggermen, one of them Acosta’s brother, remain at large.

See an earlier report on this case: Open season on journalists in Paraguay

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ProPublica report: Terror in Little Saigon

Many thanks to ProPublica for this story that makes it clear there was connections between events in the United States and other countries. (Terror in Little Saigon)

All together, five Vietnamese-American journalists were killed between 1981 and 1990. All worked for small publications serving the refugee population that sought shelter in the U.S. after the fall of Saigon in 1975. At least two other people were murdered as well.

FBI agents came to believe that the journalists’ killings, along with an array of fire-bombings and beatings, were terrorist acts ordered by an organization called the National United Front for the Liberation of Vietnam, a prominent group led by former military commanders from South Vietnam. Agents theorized that the Front was intimidating or executing those who defied it, FBI documents show, and even sometimes those simply sympathetic to the victorious Communists in Vietnam. But the FBI never made a single arrest for the killings or terror crimes, and the case was formally closed two decades ago.

We are all aware that in too many countries journalists are killed for doing journalism. Over and over the phrase “violence against journalists is the ultimate act of censorship.” And yet, so few Americans think this can happen in the States.

ProPublica notes how after the murder of Arizona reporter Don Bolles 1976, a group of 40 or so reporters from around the country continued his reporting on organized crime. The idea was to make a clear statement that freedom of press/expression must be defended. The reporting lead to the conviction of Bolles murder.

The ProPublica report notes the killings of Vietnamese-American journalists in Texas, California and Virginia, arsons stretching from Montreal to Orange County, Calif. and death threats to individuals, families and businesses across the country have yet to be solved. After 30 years the FBI still has not arrested anyone for the violence or terrorism, much less charged and convicted them.

The FBI quietly closed its inquiry in the late 1990s, making it one of the most significant unsolved domestic terror cases in the country.

Forces operate to intimidate journalists around the world. There is no reason to believe the United States is immune from such actions.

Journalists who are part of immigrant communities and who cover those communities especially face dangers US-born journalists may not comprehend. Reporters cannot only be threatened while in the States, but their families in their home country can be threatened. These types of threats are typical of gang operations. Organized crime operations such as MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang have been known to use these tactics against Salvadorans and Hondurans in the United States.

These are stories that are not often told in the United States. Part of the lack of reporting comes from reduced news staffs. But also, part comes from not paying attention to the local immigrant communities.

If local news organizations were more aggressive in reporting about the dynamics within the local immigrant communities, they might see more than quaint festivals from other countries. And along the way, the readers/viewers/listeners to those news organizations would learn more about conditions in other countries and the daily connections to local issues.

Terror in Little Saigon aired on Frontline on PBS Nov. 3

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Transparency and military sales

Transparency International just issued a report on military sales into the Middle East. (Transparency International: Mideast and North African Military Corruption “Critical”)

The report notes the massive sales by Western countries is worsening many of the region’s conflicts.

Many of the 17 countries listed in the report are already notoriously corrupt, and increasing military spending without adequate oversight, the report states, means defense budgets are not being spent to meet countries’ strategic needs, weapons are increasingly trafficked over porous borders and the governments’ domestic legitimacy — already battered by 2011’s revolts — are further undermined.

Remember that TI looks at how transparent government operations are. Only two of the 17 countries covered in the 2-year report — Jordan and Tunisia — publish their defense numbers. The rest keep the numbers as secret as possible.

Another thing to look at in this situation is not only the corruption index of these countries — all “High” to “Critical” — but also at how these governments look at press freedom.

None of these countries, with the exception of Kuwait, breaks into the “Partly Free” category of press freedom by Freedom House.

Previous reports from Freedom House show a steady decline in press freedom in the area.

There is a real connection between freedom of the press and reduced corruption. Just look at the bottom 20 of press freedom and the worst 20 on the TI corruption scale. (More political freedom=More press freedom=Less corruption)

Or look at how just the general issue of transparency and free press interact: Transparency and Free Press.

Free and independent media are vital to democratic and transparent government. And remember that this is not exclusively an international issue. This idea filters all the way down to the most local of local governments. The freedom of information laws we have at all levels of government are there for a reason.

And if anyone is wondering, there is a major effort on the international level to expand FOI laws in countries where they exist and to introduce such laws where they don’t. The problem is the real need for FOI laws is also in those countries that don’t recognize press freedom.

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Visas used to harass journalists

Visas are basically applications to enter a country.

The most common visa is for tourism. Brazilians coming to Florida to visit Disney World. Americans going to Xian to see the Terra Cotta Soldiers. And so on…

And then there are specialty visas.

If a person is coming to the States for just a few days for business — to attend a conference, attend company meetings, participate in corporate training — the visa is straight forward and is included in the same category as a tourism visa.

Different visas are needed if a person is going to live and work in the US. And within that group there are different categories.

Most countries have a special category for journalists.

The United States has the I visa for journalists visiting the US for a short period. (Living and working in the US as a journalists — as in other countries — is a whole other issue and category.)

While deportations of journalists arriving on a tourism visa and then doing journalism in the States are rare (and often involve issues other than journalism), other less open countries use the journalism visa to limit access to the world’s media or to punish news organizations for what they perceive as unfriendly coverage.

China has long been known as a real stickler for enforcing its various journalism visas.

The Chinese government has withheld visas from New York Times staffers assigned to its Beijing bureau to punish the paper for printing stories about corruption and favoritism in the government and ruling party. (New York Times journalist forced to leave China after visa row)

And for journalists wanting to go to China, the process is long, tedious and often ends in frustration.

For example, I applied for a journalism visa to cover a conference in Beijing. I was living in Brasilia at the time. The embassy held onto my passport for more than a month. Calls to the embassy about the status of my visa went unanswered, other than “It is in process.”

In the end, I got the visa, but on the day the conference started. Given that it takes more than 30 hours to get from Brasilia to Beijing, that meant I would not be going to cover the conference. (This was something I realized a few weeks earlier. I had to inform my publisher I most likely would not be going to Beijing.)

When I lived in Hong Kong, I often got e-mails from friends in the business asking if they should lie about their profession to avoid any drama with the Chinese government. I always advised people to tell the full truth. Beijing is notorious for using any discrepancy in a visa application to either deny a person a visa or to deport the person for “activity not in compliance with visa status” if the discrepancy is discovered later.

Unfortunately for journalists the “activity not in compliance” excuse is what is most often used to expel alleged spies. (Then again, the thinking in Beijing is that journalists are nothing but spies anyway.)

No one really expects anything less from the control freaks in Beijing.

And then there are governments such as the one in Indonesia that are officially open and democratic but that also freak out if journalists start asking too many questions.

The latest example is of a British journalist being held in Indonesia for filming while doing a documentary on piracy. Usually journalists are just expelled from the country for visa violations, this time, however, the journalists face five months in prison and a $3,700 fine. (Jail British journalists for five months, says Indonesian prosecutor)

There are examples of people who get away with coming in on a tourist visa, doing some journalism and getting out. However, once discovered, these same journalists can kiss goodbye the chance to get another visa. (India: Let us in!)

This item was first posted at Journalism, Journalists and the World.

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Human Trafficking: It’s Not Just An Overseas Thing

Local reporters looking for a story that links the rest of the world with Main Street should pay attention to the growing atrocity of human trafficking.

“You say human trafficking, and people think…international cabal, organized crime, kids coming from Southeast Asia in cages. That’s not what it is,” says Montgomery County (MD) Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Mays, who has prosecuted numerous sex trafficking cases in recent years. “Most of it is homegrown guys who are exploiting vulnerable women and children in their own communities, or traveling them around, up and down the East Coast.” — Human Trafficking in Montgomery County, Bethesda Magazine

According to the Polaris Project, a group that helps victims of trafficking, sex trafficking accounts for 71 percent of the calls to their hotline. Labor trafficking takes up another 16 percent. of the 5,000 cases opened during 2014. The cases are active investigations that came from more than 24,000 calls to the Polaris hotline, seeking help.

The International Labor Organization estimates 14.2 million people are in forced labor circumstances.

The Bethesda Magazine article says more reports come in each day as more people become aware that human trafficking is not something far away, but rather something much closer.

 “The numbers seem low, and I think what in reality is happening is we’re seeing human trafficking kind of emerge like domestic violence did 30 years ago,” says Amanda Rodriguez, who until recently oversaw human trafficking policy at the [Maryland’s] Office of Crime Control and Prevention. “The more people are becoming aware, the more these numbers are going to go up, because it is absolutely happening next door and in the community.”

The issue involves Americans and foreign nationals caught up in one of the most dangerous and demeaning  crimes in the world. And it does not just involve — as the primary case in the Bethesda Magazine article — household employees of diplomats.

“Common types of labor trafficking in the United States include people forced to work in homes as domestic servants, farm workers coerced through violence as they harvest crops, or factory workers held in inhumane conditions,” says the Polaris Project. “Labor trafficking has also been reported in door-to-door sales crews, carnivals, and health and beauty services.”

Just about every news outlet in the United States has an audience that includes the people mentioned above. Therefore, there is no reason to not look into local labor and working conditions.

This is perhaps one of the darkest and most gruesome links between Main Street and the rest of the world. And, unfortunately, it is not limited to international trafficking.

Increasingly sex trafficking…sex trafficking is taking place in well-appointed hotels that do not fit into the red-light district stereotype of eras past. In August, Armand Theinkue Donfack, a Germantown (MD) soccer coach, was charged with prostitution and human trafficking after an undercover sting at a hotel off I-270.


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Honduran Money Laundering Arrests Affect Major News Outlets

The US government arrested Honduran Yanki Rosenthal when he landed in Miami October 6 on charges of money laundering. The next day indictments were handed down for other members of his family.

While many in the world media are focusing on Yanki’s ownership of a major Honduran soccer team and the family’s ownership of the bank Grupo Continental, the reach of the Rosenthal family is much more extensive.

For journalists, the indictments hit close to home.

The Rosenthals own one of the major newspapers — El Tiempo — and a national TV outlet — Canal 11.

How the Honduran press handled the arrest and indictments clearly showed the biases

El Tiempo lead with:

The Continental Group issued a statement rejecting the accusations made Wednesday the Treasury Department of the United States, where several companies linked to the group of the crime of money laundering. Facing accusations Continental Group denies allegations of money laundering involving companies in the Continental Group.

Competitor El Heraldo, however, went with:

The US attorney in Manhattan announced charges Wednesday against four Hondurans by “laundering of proceeds of drug trafficking and bribery crimes through accounts in the United States.

Rolando Jaime Rosenthal Oliva, Yani Benjamin Rosenthal Hidalgo, Yankel Rosenthal and Andrew Acosta Garcia Coello “were charged in connection with a conspiracy carried out over several years to launder profits from drug crimes,” said the office of the Southern District of New York.

The newspapers — and television news outlets — have never been shy about showing off the political leanings of the owners. It will now be interesting to see how the news media handle the trials of one of the five big families of Honduras.

What will be important for foreign journalists to pay attention to will not be the cat fight that is sure to be played out in the front pages, but rather if (when) the number of life-threatening threats against journalists covering this case increases.

Journalists in Honduras have faced numerous threats — not so much from the government as from the narcos. Threats will most likely come against anyone digging deeply into this story.

THIS IS BIG! In the past, the US and Honduran governments have acted against drug kingpins and their holdings. This is the first time there is a major move against such a prominent family and such large corporate holdings in the country. Among those indicted are a former president of the country and a presidential candidate for the Liberal Party, the mainstream opposition party to the ruling National Party.

Grupo Continental is one of the largest banks in Honduras. Its holding extend deeply into Honduran society, including — as noted — the news media.

Under Honduran law, the property and goods of indicted individuals is put under the control of the Administrative Office of Seized Goods (OABI). When a major narco was arrested, OABI took over control of his private zoo, which was occasionally opened to the public. OABI brought in animal experts to evaluate and run the zoo and kept it open to the public. (The narco zoo was much larger than the Tegucigalpa Zoo, but the animals were in much worse shape.)

Seized gym equipment was donated to outreach centers to help keep young people active in safe (non-gang related) activities. Likewise, OABI arranged for a boat, including fuel and maintenance for the boat, so a school in Cayos Cochinos could make sure the kids got an education. (The islands are inhabited by some of the poorest people in Honduras.)

The director of OABI fought corrupt bosses and politicians before he rose to the top job. Once he took command of the organization, he made sure everything was handled by the book. (In other words, no more seized cars for a political leader, just because he wants one.)

The director understands and operates OABI under a transparent and open system. He also understands that fighting back against intimidation is important part of beating corruption. His heart and mind are in the right place to allow El Tiempo and Channel 11 operate as fair and independent news outlets, if they are seized under the law.

He might even appoint a director of the newspaper and TV channel who will encourage the journalists in those groups to step out from the partisan restrictions of the current owners. And maybe even help arrange for some additional training.

And if anyone is looking for a success story about the fight against corruption, a profile of OABI and its director is a good place to start.

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Can female students change Britain’s media industry?


The author wrote on the trends from the view of Kettle Magazine editors. (Photo: Red Chilli Publishing Ltd.)

One trend that has been present as of late in the US is the rise of women studying journalism. However, this trend does not apply just here, but also in the UK, where recent research from the university application charity UCAS showed more women were studying journalism compared to men. This trend also comes in Britain as more women are taking places at university courses.

Despite that, there is a similarity between the two countries – more men are getting jobs, an issue cited in research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University. What does this research mean when it comes to the transition from degree to employment?

Recently, Kettle Magazine, the publication to which I work for, did a Women’s season, devoting 4 weeks to women’s issues and portrayals. I wrote a piece on how the issue plays out among Kettle’s 28 editors, 23 of whom are women, indicative of current educational trends and against the culture of the industry.

Indeed, research cited by the Epigram student newspaper of the University of Bristol in England showed that 64 percent of student publications in the UK have a female editor or co-editors where one is female.

In addition, the chairs of the Student Publication Association in this and the previous academic year are women – Jem Collins for 2015-16, and Sophie Davis for 2014-15. For the record, Kettle is a member publication of the SPA, and I hold a personal membership. Collins did not respond to requests for an interview for this blog post.

Yet, What I found among my colleagues was while the concern of sexism was present, the main focus was on the journalism. However, women can play a role in changing the norm, as my colleague Kealie Mardell said in the piece.

However, my colleague Rebecca Parker says it’s quite the opposite when it comes to women entering the industry in the UK. Parker was able to find a job almost immediately after finishing her degree at Canterbury Christ Church University, and says it’s all down to being proactive.

“It’s just in a state of flux at current,” Parker said in an email interview with SPJ. “The issue of the decline in print meant that there were a lack of job prospects, however as the media moves in sync with the digital age, more job opportunities are becoming available.”

Parker notes however there are still some issues, but they can be solved.

“It is merely an individual’s motivation and drive that will allow them to succeed, regardless of gender. I do acknowledge that women are not equal in terms of pay and this needs to be addressed accordingly in the form of campaigns, however women can only achieve this by what they’re already doing – working hard and being proactive.”

It is unclear in light of these trends what the response will be as far as the media industry is concerned in London and across the UK. However, these trends raise the question of should there be change in Britain, would other countries, like the US, follow?

For the moment, the ball is in the industry’s court.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to the SPJ blog network on British media issues and social media’s role in the future of journalism.

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Co-Student Life Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ International Journalism Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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The UN General Assembly Is Meeting: Put Press Freedom on the Agenda?

Joel Simon from the Committee to Protect Journalists has a featured piece in Columbia Journalism Review on how the United Nations should — but really can’t — do something about press freedom.

What can the UN do for press freedom?

Bottom line: Not much, but it can make some nice statements.

Responding to an upsurge in media killings, particularly of journalists working in conflict zones, the UN has prioritized the issue of journalists’ safety in recent years. In 2012, UNESCO, the UN agency charged with defending press freedom, launched a Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The following year, the General Assembly passed a resolution to create an International Day to End Impunity for crimes against journalists, marked each year on November 2.

In July 2013, Kathleen Carroll, executive editor of the Associated Press, become the first ever journalist to address the Security Council. She noted, “Most journalists who die today are not caught in some wartime crossfire, they are murdered just because of what they do. And those murders are rarely ever solved; the killers rarely ever punished.” Last May, the Security Council passed a historic resolution reaffirming the international legal protections for journalists covering armed conflict. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon regularly condemns the killing of journalists, and calls on member states to take action.

All of these measures are important, and have tremendous symbolic value. But it is difficult to point to concrete advances in response to UN action. In fact, the level of violence against journalists has increased in recent years, and imprisonment of journalists around the world has reached record levels. Recent high-profile cases—including the conviction of three Al Jazeera reporters in Egypt; the ongoing imprisonment of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian in Iran; and the seven-and-a-half-year sentence handed down to renowned investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova in Azerbaijan—demonstrate that when it comes to imprisoning journalists, repressive governments are increasingly unresponsive to international pressure.

Simon argues journalists, diplomats and other human rights defenders need to use the occasion of the annual opening of the UN General Assembly, when leaders from around the world come to New York to argue for more action to protect journalists in their home countries.

Over the years, the Committee to Protect Journalists, which I head, has used the General Assembly to secure commitments from a number of heads of state, including former President Vicente Fox of Mexico, who agreed to appoint a special prosecutor for crimes against journalists, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who committed during a meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations to receive a CPJ delegation in Ankara.

Simon says this one-on-one approach should not let the United Nations, itself, off the hook, but it appears to the only way — for now — to get things done.

He argues journalists should demand accountability from the leaders who speak a the UNGA for their violations of press freedom. By just reporting the speeches and not looking at the records of the speakers, journalists become accomplices in efforts to whitewash media repression.


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Thailand: Where Exporting Free Press Is An Issue

The Thai printer of the International New York Times refused to publish the Tuesday, September 22, edition because of a front page story about the health of the Thai king. Seems the printer thought the story insulted the king, and such insults are forbidden by law.

Thai printers refuse to publish New York Times edition over article about king

Roy Greenslade at The Guardian has a wonderful piece on how this episode shows the difficulties in promoting press freedom around the world.

Thai ban on New York Times shows difficulty of exporting press freedom

Strict lèse-majesté laws in Thailand crimimalise those who are adjudged to have defamed or insulted members of the royal family.

So a factual front-page NY Times article reporting that 87-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej is in declining health and that the succession is in doubt was deemed too sensitive to allow to appear in print.

Thailand’s ministry of information has form in terms of censorship. It has blocked blogs and news websites, including Mail Online, for articles that refer to the colourful private life of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who has been divorced and/or separated (no-one is sure which) from three wives.

Over the past year, there has been a significant increase in lèse-majesté convictions. But they are hardly new. In 2002, a local distributor of the The Economist withheld its publication because it made an “inappropriate” reference to the monarchy.

The  Times made it clear the decision not to publish came from the local printer and was not endorsed by the Times.

Basic information about the leadership of a country is considered standard fare in countries with free press, but not so much in other places.

We already know how news about the health of Chinese government leaders is treated like a state secret. (The Soviet Union was the same way, in the bad old days of the Cold War.)

Now a printer in Thailand is taking its reverence for its king to an extreme illogical point by not publishing a newspaper that has factual information about the health of the monarch. And, let us not even go into the whole restrictions on free speech that lèse-majesté imposes on the Thai people and visitors to Thailand.


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Newest Posts

Protected: A timely mistake November 24, 2015, 2:08 am
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Membership planning proposal approved (I voted no) November 19, 2015, 2:29 pm
Journalism codes of ethics from around the world November 18, 2015, 2:43 am
Bad news November 16, 2015, 3:21 pm

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