Codes of Ethics
The Accountable Journalism database compiles international codes of media ethics from around the world and is the largest resource of its kind. This database can be sorted by keywords or by using the advanced search. Codes can be selected by type of organization, topic, region, year created or updated and country. This database is very much still a work in process and far from comprehensive! Through our crowdsourcing initiative we are asking media professionals to send us their respective code of ethics or an update to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on a continent on the map below for a list of ethics codes in that region.
Most of the 400+ codes listed here were drafted and adopted by an individual outlet (e.g. a newspaper), a sector of the media industry (e.g. broadcasting), a union/ association of journalists, a press council or a press club. The exceptions consist of synthetic codes, codes imposed by a government or codes recommended by international bodies or activists. Some codes are specialized. Most are general. They differ in length from half a page to more than 50 pages — but they rarely differ on basic principles.
Why Ethical Codes Matter
The relevance of media codes has never been more pertinent than they are in today’s communications landscape. With the number of voices and the rapid exchanges on the Internet increasing, ethical journalism is needed more than ever to protect the integrity of free expression. Unethical communications, including hate speech, political propaganda and wilful misinformation, suppress freedom of expression and deny a voice to marginalized and vulnerable groups.
Journalistic expression is not a free for all, but rather speech which is constrained by ethical values.
However, press freedom and ethics are tied together and not antagonistic concepts. Media codes should never be used as a way to censor legitimate forms of expression, but rather ethics should act as a powerful lever in increasing press freedom.
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.
This searchable database, which shows how the media industry has grappled with the idea of ethics and accountability for nearly a century, aims to help journalists, educators, and anyone in the business of communications make ethical decisions which are widely accepted by international media professionals.