Europe: Spain

Federation of the Spanish Press Code of Ethics for the Journalistic Profession

Current Status: active

(Adopted by Federation of the Spanish Press in Seville on 28 November 1993.)



In the framework of civil rights, which are established in the Constitution and which form the basis of a wholly democratic society, journalism is an important social tool which realises the free and efficient development of the fundamental right of all citizens to freedom of information and the freedom to express one's opinions.

As a subject and an instrument of the freedom of expression, journalists acknowledge and guarantee that journalism is the basis by which public opinion manifests itself freely in the pluralism of a democratic state governed by law.

However, journalists also take into consideration that when, in their profession, they use their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and the right to information, their conduct is subject to limitations, which prevent the violation of other fundamental rights.

Therefore, when taking on these duties, and as a true guarantee which a journalist offers to Spanish society, which he/she serves, journalists understand that they must maintain, collectively or individually, unimpeachable conduct when it comes to the ethics of information.

In this sense, the journalists who form part of the Federation of The Press Associations of Spain (Federacion de Asociaciones de la Prensa de Espana - FAPE) commit themselves to respect binding ethic principles when exercising their profession. The general assembly of the FAPE declares the following principles and binding norms for the journalistic profession:


  1. A journalist shall always keep in mind the principles of professionalism and ethical rules of this Code. A journalist must express his/her approval of these principles to be able to join the professional register of journalists and the federal associations of the press.

Those, who after joining the register and the corresponding association, act in a way which is not compatible with these principles, shall incur the penalties contemplated in these regulations.

  1. The first obligation of a journalist is to respect the truth.

  2. In agreement with this principle a journalist shall always defend the principle of the freedom to investigate and honestly disseminate information as well as the freedom to comment and to criticise.

  3. Without violating the right of the citizens to be informed, the journalist shall respect the right of individuals to privacy keeping in mind that:

a) Only the defence of the public interest justifies interfering with or investigating the private life of a person without his/her prior consent.

b) When dealing with issues which may cause or imply pain or sorrow to the persons in question, a journalist shall avoid rude interference and unnecessary speculations about their feelings and circumstances.

c) The restrictions concerning privacy must be taken into special consideration when dealing with persons in hospitals or similar institutions.

d) Special attention shall be paid to the treatment of issues which concern children and youth. The right of privacy of minors shall be respected.

  1. A journalist must respect the principle that a person is presumed innocent until proved otherwise and he/she must avoid, as much as possible, causing any harm in the exercise of his/her profession. This is especially important when dealing with issues which are brought to the knowledge of the courts of law.

a) A journalist must avoid mentioning the names of relatives and friends of persons accused of or sentenced for  crime, unless it is absolutely necessary in order to make the information complete and fair.

b) Mentioning the names of the victims of crime, as well as publishing material which may contribute to the identification of the victim, shall be avoided. The journalist shall act with special care in handling issues related to sexual crime.

  1. The criteria indicated in the two former principles shall be applied with extreme severity when the information concerns minors. Particularly, a journalist must refrain from interviewing, photographing or taping minors about issues related to criminal activities or private matters.

  2. A journalist carries to its extremes his/ her professional conscientiousness by respecting the rights of the weakest persons and victims of discrimination. Therefore, discriminating information or opinions or such information or opinions which trigger violence or inhuman or humiliating practices, must be handled with special sensitivity.

a) One must  avoid alluding in a pejorative manner or with prejudice to the race, colour, religion, social class or sex of a person, or to whatever sickness, physical or mental handicap he/she might have.

b) One must also avoid publishing such data, unless it is directly related to the issue being publicised.

c) Finally, one must generally avoid hurtful expressions or statements about the personal condition of individuals or their physical or moral integrity.


  1. To guarantee the necessary independence and fairness in carrying out his/her profession, the journalist must claim for himself and for the people working for him/her:

a) The right to proper working conditions, meaning salary  as well as material and professional circumstances in which he/ she must carry out his/her tasks.

b) The obligation and right to oppose any evident intention to create a monopoly or oligopoly on information, which might hinder political and social pluralism.

c) The obligation and right to participate in matters of journalistic enterprise in order to guarantee his/her freedom of information in a way which is compatible with the rights of the media in which he/she is expressing this freedom.

d) The right to take advantage of the clause of conscience, when the media for which he/she works adopts a moral attitude which harms his/her professional dignity, or which modifies editorial policy substantially.

e) The right and duty to update and complete his/her professional training.

  1. A journalist has the right to be protected by his/ her own institution as well as by the associative or institutional organisations against those who, by some type of pressure, try to divert him/her from the standards of conduct defined in this Code.

  2. The right to professional secrecy is a right of journalists, but it is also an obligation which guarantees the confidentiality of sources of information.

Therefore, a journalist shall guarantee the right of sources to stay anonymous, if they have requested it. However, this professional obligation shall exceptionally not be applied, if it has been proved that the source has consciously falsified information or if revealing the source is the only way to avoid serious and instant damage to people.

  1. A journalist scrupulously sees to it that the public bureaucracy fulfils its duty as to the transparency of information. In particular, he/she shall always defend the free access to information which comes from or is produced by public institutions, and free access to public archives and administrative registers.

  2. A journalist shall respect the rights of any author deriving from creative activity.


  1. The commitment to seek the truth means that a journalist always informs about facts whose origins he/she knows. He/she does not falsify documents nor does he/she leave out essential information He/she does not publish information which is false, misleading or distorted.


a) The foundations of the information to be disseminated must be diligently laid, which means that a journalist must compare sources and he/she must give a person involved an opportunity to tell his/her own version of the facts.

b) When known to have spread information which is false, misleading or distorted, a journalist must correct the error as quickly as possible, using the same typographic and/or audio-visual form as was used to publish it. He/she shall also broadcast apologies through his/her media, when appropriate.

c) Consequently, a journalist must offer physical or legal persons an opportunity to correct inaccuracies in the way indicated in the former paragraph, without them having to sue for it.

  1. In practising his/her profession, a journalist must use appropriate means to obtain information, which excludes illegal procedures.

  2. A journalist acknowledges and respects the right of physical and legal persons not to give out information and not to answer the questions which are asked, without violating the right of the citizens to be informed.

  3. With the same exceptions that apply to professional secrecy, a journalist shall respect the "off the record" rule when it has been explicitly asked or it is thought that such was the will of the informant.

  4. A journalist shall always establish a clear and unmistakable distinction between the facts which he/she tells and what can be opinions, interpretations or surmises, which does not imply that he/she must be neutral in his/her professional activities.

  5. In order not to cause mistakes or confusion among the users of information, a journalist must make a formal and rigorous distinction between information and advertising.

Therefore, it is considered ethically incompatible simultaneously to practice journalism and the advertising business.

Equally, this incompatibility applies to all activities related to social communication which may imply a conflict of interests with the journalistic profession and its principles and norms.

  1. A journalist shall not accept, directly or indirectly, payments or rewards from other persons to promote, direct, affect or to publish information or opinions of any kind.

  2. A journalist shall never take advantage of the information to which he/she is privileged as a consequence of his/her profession. In particular, a journalist who regularly or occasionally deals with financial issues is subject to the following regulations:

a) He/she may not take economic advantage of financial data of which he/she has knowledge of before it has been published, nor can he/she transmit such data to other persons.

b) He/she may not write of such bonds or shares in which he/she or his/her family has significant economic interest.

c) He/she may not buy or sell bonds or shares that he/she intends to write about in the near future.