Code of Ethics for Press, Radio and Television in Sweden
Issued by Pressens Samarbetsnämnd, 2001
Pressens Samarbetsnämnd is a Joint Committee founded by the leading media organisations in Sweden: The Media Publishers’ Association, The Magazine Publishers’ Association, The Union of Journalists and The National Press Club.
These four organisations are responsible for the Charter of the Press Council and the Standing Instructions for the Press Ombudsman. They all contribute to the financing of the Press Council and the Office of the Press Ombudsman.
The concept of self-regulation means that the parties define the ethical and professional guidelines and see to it that these guidelines are respected.
CODE OF ETHICS FOR PRESS, RADIO AND TELEVISION
The press, radio and television shall have the greatest possible degree of freedom, within the framework of the Freedom of the Press Act and the constitutional right of freedom of speech, in order to be able to serve as disseminators of news and as scrutinizers of public affairs. In this connection, however, it is important that the individual is protected from unwarranted suffering as a result of publicity.
Ethics does not consist primarily of the application of a formal set of rules but in the maintenance of a responsible attitude in the exercise of journalistic duties. The code of ethics for press, radio and television is intended to provide support for this attitude.
I. RULES ON PUBLICITY
Provide accurate news
1. The role played by the mass media in society and the confidence of the general public in these media call for accurate and objective news reports.
2. Be critical of news sources. Check facts as carefully as possible in the light of the circumstances even if they have been published earlier. Allow the reader/listener/viewer the possibility of distinguishing between statements of fact and a comments.
3. Newsbills, headlines and introductory sections must be supported by the text.
4. Check the authenticity of pictures. See to it that pictures and graphical illustrations are correct and are not used in a misleading way.
Treat rebuttals generously
5. Factual errors should be corrected when called for. Anyone wishing to rebut a statement shall, if this is legitimate, be given the opportunity to do so. Corrections and rebuttals shall be published promptly in appropriate form, in such a way that they will come to the attention of those who received the original information. It should be noted that a rebuttal does not always call for an editorial comment.
6. Publish without delay critical rulings issued by the Swedish Press Council in cases concerning your own newspaper.
Respect individual privacy
7. Consider carefully any publicity which could violate the privacy of individuals. Refrain from such publicity unless the public interest obviously demands public scrutiny.
8. Exercise great caution in publishing information about suicide and attempted suicide, particularly with regard to the feelings of relatives and in view of what has been said above concerning the privacy of individuals.
9. Always show the greatest possible consideration for victims of crime and accidents. Consider carefully the question whether to publish names and pictures with regard to the victims and their relatives.
10. Do not emphasize ethnic origin, sex, nationality, occupation, political affiliation, religious persuasion or sexual disposition in the case of the persons concerned if such particulars are not important in the specific context and demeaning.
Exercise care in the use of pictures
11. Whenever appropriate, these rules also apply to pictures.
12. Montage, electronic retouch and captions should be handled in such a way as not to mislead or deceive the reader. Whenever a picture has been altered through montage or retouch this should be stated. This also applies to such material when it is filed in picture libraries.
Listen to each side
13. Offer persons, who are criticized in a factual report, the opportunity to reply instantly to the criticism. Aim at presenting the views of all parties involved. Bear in mind that the sole objective of filing complaints of various kinds with various bodies may be to cause harm to an individual.
14. Remember that, in the eyes of the law, a person suspected of an offence is always presumed innocent until proven guilty. The final outcome of a legal case should be published if it has been previously reported on.
Be cautious in publishing names
15. Give careful consideration to the harmful consequences that might ensue for persons if their names are published. Refrain from publishing names if it might cause harm unless it is obviously in the public interest.
16. In case a person´s name is not published, also refrain from publishing a picture of that person or particulars of occupation, title, age, nationality, sex, etc, which would enable identification.
17. Bear in mind that the entire responsibility for publishing names and pictures rests with the publisher.
COMMENTS ON PART I
The Swedish Press Council is primarily responsible for interpreting the concept “good journalistic practice” as far as the press is concerned; in matters not referred to the Press Council, the Press Ombudsman has this responsibility. It should be noted that the Press Council and the Press Ombudsman do not deal with possible deviations from the rules in radio or television programmes. The Swedish Broadcasting Commission, appointed by the government, is responsible for monitoring such programmes.
The criticized newspaper will publish the Press Council´s ruling. In addition brief reports will also be published in Pressens Tidning (The Press Journal) and in Journalisten (The Journalist). Subscriptions to the Press Council´s decisions are handled by the Swedish Media Publishers’ Association (Tidningsutgivarna).
Rulings by the Broadcasting Commission may be ordered from the Commission Secretariat.