11th June 2000

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A code of ethics for journalists

The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka has unanimously adopted a Code of Professional Practice - or a Code of Ethics.

The Code will be implemented through a proposed Voluntary Press Complaints Commission (CPC) established on the lines of such voluntary, self-regulatory authorities in many countries, including Britain, South Africa and Hong Kong, the Guild said in a media release.

The PCC will comprise a majority of persons not actively engaged in the Press as well as representatives of the Press.

The Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka and the Free Media Movement together with The Editors Guild will be selecting the commissioners in due course, the Guild said.

The Sunday Times publishes below the code in the interest of the public:

Code Of Professional Practice

All Press institutions/journalists shall adhere to a Code of Professional Practice, which should include:

Accurate reporting

1. The media shall be obliged to report news accurately and objectively without distorting the truth.

1.1 Every journalist is encouraged to engage in investigative journalism in the national interest and for the public good.

1.2 Every journalist shall use all reasonable means within his/her power to ascertain prior to publication the veracity of the contents of any article written by him/her for publication.

1.3 News shall be presented in the correct context and in a balanced manner, without intentional or negligent departure from the facts.

1.4 He/she shall refrain from reporting or causing to be printed or published any matter, which he/she knows or has reason to believe to be false or inaccurate.

1.5 Where a report is not based on fact or is founded on opinion, supposition, or allegations, it shall be presented in such manner as to indicate clearly that such is the case.

1.6 Where there is reason to doubt the correctness of a report and it is practicable to verify the correctness thereof, it shall be verified. When such verification is not practicable, that fact shall be mentioned in the report.


2. Where it subsequently appears that a report was incorrect in a material respect, it shall be rectified forthwith, without reservation or delay. The rectification should be presented with such a degree of prominence and timing as may be adequate and fair so as to readily attract attention.

Right Of Reply

3. Provisions should be made for a right of reply, to protect individuals against factually incorrect statements that endanger respect for their reputation, dignity, honour, feelings and privacy and their office, and to encourage a greater sense of responsibility in the exercise of the freedoms of expression, information and publication. The reply should be confined to the aggrieved person's version of the facts and should not be longer than is necessary to correct the alleged inaccuracy or distortion.

3.1 Newspapers/journalists are entitled to respond to a Right of Reply in so far as to apologise and/or regret the error or stand by the story provided however that the aggrieved party be given any number of opportunities to counter the response of the newspaper/journalist.


4. Every journalist shall use all reasonable means at his command in any report or article he writes or causes to be printed or published to draw a clear distinction between any statement of fact on the one hand and any expression of opinion, conjecture or criticism on the other.

Conflict Of Interests

5. Every journalist, especially those holding senior posts are encouraged to make available for public scrutiny a Declaration of Assets.

5.1 The profit motive should not override media freedom, social responsibility and editorial freedom.


6. Every journalist shall observe secrecy regarding any source of information and has a moral obligation to protect sources unless the person who gave him such information authorises the disclosure of his identity.

General Reporting And Writing

7. The press shall strive to represent social reality in all its diversity, complexity and plurality, and shall strive to recognise the sensitivities of women, children, minorities, the under privileged and differently abled persons.

7.1 The press should not without due care and sensitivity, present facts, opinions, photographs or graphics, which depict or relate to brutality, sadism, salacity, violence, atrocity, drug abuse, sexism and obscenity unless it is justifiable to do so in the public interest.

7.2.1 In reporting or causing to be printed or published accounts of crimes or criminal cases, a journalist shall not -

i. name victims of sex crimes;

ii name any young person accused of a criminal offence who to his knowledge is below the age of eighteen and to his knowledge is a person who has no previous convictions; or

iii. name any person as being a relative of a person accused or convicted of a crime for the sole purpose of informing the reader of the relationship between the person so named, and the person charged, unless the public interest would be served by the publication of the said matter.

7.2.2 In reporting or causing to be printed or published accounts of matrimonial causes or actions, a journalist shall refrain from reporting or publishing any offensive details.

7 .3 A journalist shall not commit plagiarism.

7.4 A journalist shall not report or cause to be printed or published any matter for the purpose of promoting communal or religious discord or violence.

7.5 1. The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to a person' s race, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii. It must avoid publishing details of a person's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability unless these are directly relevant to the story.

7.6 i. Even where the law does not prohibit it, journalists must not use for their own profit financial information they receive in advance of its general publication, nor should they pass such information to others.

ii. They must not write about shares or securities in whose performance they know that they or their close families have a significant financial interest, without disclosing the interest to the publisher, editor or financial editor.

iii. They must not buy or sell, either directly or through nominees or agents, shares or securities about which they have written recently or about which they intend to write in the near future.

7.7 Whilst a journalist is entitled to have his own partisan political opinions and other special interests, he or she must recognise and give due consideration to the political opinions and special interests of others in the community.


8. Insofar as both news and comment are concerned, the press shall exercise exceptional care and consideration in matters involving the private lives and private concerns of individuals, including not obtaining or publishing material obtained by using clandestine listening devices or by intercepting private telephone conversations, postal, fax or e-mail or other private correspondence, bearing in mind that the right to privacy may be overridden by a legitimate public interest.

i. The use of long lens photography to take pictures of people in private places without their consent is unacceptable.

Note - Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

8.1 The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to inquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar institutions, which can only be over-ridden by a justifiable and legitimate public interest.


9. i. Journalists including photo-journalists must neither obtain nor seek to obtain information or pictures through intimidation or harassment.

ii. Editors must ensure that those working for them comply with these requirements and must not publish material from other sources which do not meet these requirements


10. Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

10.1 Where material about the private life of a child is published, there must be justification for publication other than the fame, notoriety or position of his or her parents or guardian.

10.2 The press must not, even where the law does not prohibit it, identify children under the age of 16 who are involved in cases concerning sexual offences, whether as victims or as witnesses.


11. Every journalist shall safeguard the dignity of his profession. He shall not accept any bribe in money, kind or service for any matter connected with or incidental to his profession.

11.1 Every journalist shall respect the views and opinions of other journalists, and in the event that comment, including criticism, of such other journalists' views, opinions and/or conduct is inevitable, such comment, including criticism, shall be done without the use of vituperative language.


The public interest includes;

1.i.Detecting or exposing crime, corruption, maladministration or a serious misdemeanour in the interest of the Nation and her people.

ii. Protecting public health and safety.

iii. Preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of an individual or organisation.

2. In any case where the public interest is invoked, the Press Complaints Commission will be entitled to require a full explanation by the editor and/or journalist demonstrating how the public interest was served.


The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka, shall review the provisions of this Code annually.

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