Middle East: Turkey

Turkish Journalists' Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities

Current Status: unknown

(Written and adopted by the Association of Turkish Journalists in Istanbul in 1998).


Every journalist and media organization should defend the rights of journal¬ists observe professional principles and ensure that the principles defined below are followed.

Those who are not journalists but par¬ticipate at journalistic activities in media organizations under different forms, and those who target audiences in Turkey from abroad or audiences abroad from Turkey also came under the respon¬si¬bi¬li¬ties defined here.

The executive directors of media or¬ganizations, chief editors, managing edi¬tors, responsible editors and others, are respon¬sible for the compliance with professional principles by the journalists they employ and the media product they produce with professional principles.

Journalists' rights constitute the basis of the public's right to be informed and its freedom of expression. Professional principles, on the other hand, are the foundations of a reliable and accu¬rate communication of information.

Professional principles presuppose the self-control of journal¬ists and media organizations. Their primary basis for judgment is their own conscience.

A. Human and Citizen Rights

Every individual bas the right to be informed, have access to news, freedom of thought, expression and the right to criticize freely.

Freedom of press and publication, which is the main tool of freedom of thought and expression, is one of the ba¬sic human rights.

It is a general rule that these rights should be guaranteed by the constitution in a democratic state.

B. Definition of a Journalist

Any individual whose job is to gather, process, communicate news or express ideas and views regularly at a daily or periodical printed, video, audio, electron¬ic or digital medium employed on a full ¬time, contractual or copyright basis and whose main employment and means of livelihood consist of this job, and who is defined as such by the legislation that covers the functioning of the organiza¬tion at which he or she is employed is a journalist.

All enterprises functioning in the field of press and publication are obliged to recognize the rights granted to journalists  by law.

C. Responsibilities of Journalists

The journalist uses press freedom con¬scientiously and honestly to further the public's right to be informed and have access to accurate news. For this purpose, the journalist should fight all kinds of censorship and self-censorship and in¬form the public concerning this question.

The responsibility of the journalist to the public supersedes aIl other responsi¬bilities, including to employer and public authorities.

Information, news and free thought are of a social nature that separates them from al! other commercial commodities and services. The journalist carries all re¬sponsibility for the news and information he or she makes public.

The limits and contents of journalists' freedom are primarily de¬ter¬mined by their responsibility and professional prin¬ciples.

D. Journalists' Rights

1.- Journalists have the right of free access to all sources of information and the right to observe and research all phenomena that affect public life or are of interest to the public.

Obstacles, such as secrecy or classifi¬cation, brought against journalists should be based on law in matters concerning public affairs and convinc¬ing reasons in private matters.

2.- Journalists must take into account the basic policy line of the media organi¬zation that should be included among the terms of their employment contract.

    • Journalists have the right to reject all sorts of suggestions, proposals, re¬quests and instructions that remain outside or conflict with or are not openly described in that basic policy.

3.- Journalists cannot be compelled to de¬fend an opinion that they do not share or perform any assignment that violates professional principles.

4.- Journalists, especially those who are employed at an editorial and manage¬rial level, should be informed about important decisions that affect and determine the functioning of the me¬dia organization; wherever it is necessary they should take part in making these decisions.

5.- Relevant to their function and respon¬sibilities, journalists have the right to organize. They also have the right to sign contracts individually to safe¬guard their moral and material inter¬ests. The journalists should be paid a salary commen¬surate with their social role, their skill and the amount of work required. Their salaries also should also guarantee their economic independence.

6.- According to the principle of protection of sources, the journalist cannot be compelled to reveal his or her sources or testify about them. This principle may be waived with the source's consent. The journalist may reveal the identity of his or her source in cases where he or she has been clearly misIed by the source.

E. The Basic Duties and Principles

of the Journalist

1.- According to public's right to information, the journalists has to respect facts and accurate information whatever the consequences from his personal point of view.

2.- The journalist defends, at whatever cost, the freedoms of obtaining infor¬mation and news, and making com¬ments and criticism.

3.- The journalist defends the universal values of humanity, chiefly peace, de¬mocracy and human rights, pluralism and respect of differences. Without any discrimination against nations, races, ethnicities, classes, sexes, lan¬guages, religious and philosophical beliefs, the journalist recognizes the rights and respectability of al! nations, peoples and individuals. The journal¬ist refrains from publishing material that incites enmity and hate among in¬dividuals, nations and human socie¬ties.

The journalist should not make the target of direct attack the cultural values or beliefs (or lack of beliefs) of any human society or of an individual.

The journalist should not publish or broadcast material that justifies or in¬cites violence of any kind.

4.- The journalist should refrain from publishing or broadcasting news and information the source of which is un¬known to him or her. In cases where the source is not known, he or she is obliged to warn the public.

S.- The journalist cannot destroy or ignore relevant information, alter or fal¬sify texts and documents. He or she must refrain from publishing material that  is incorrect, falsified or mislead¬ing.

6.- The journalist cannot resort to mis¬leading methods in order to obtain in¬formation, news, visual images, audio material or documents.

7.- Even if the person in question is a public figure, unless journalists obtain permission, they cannot violate priva¬cy for purposes that are not directly related to the public's right to infor¬mation.

8.- Journalists are committed to the rule that any inaccurate information pub¬lished should be corrected in the shortest possible time.

Every journalist respects the right to respond on condition that it is not misused or abused.

9.- According to the rule of professional secrecy, journalists under no circumstances can reveal the sources of information and documents entrust¬ed to them unless allowed by their sources.

10.- Journalists should refrain from pur¬loin, slander, insult, distortion, ma¬nipulation, rumour, gossip and groundless accu¬sa¬tion.

11.- Journalists cannot seek material or moral advantages from the publica¬tion or withholding of a piece of in¬formation or news. Professional prin¬ciples are the main guide of the journalists in conducting their relations with people or institutions constitut¬ing sources of information, from the head of state to the members of par¬liament or from businessmen to bu¬reaucrats.

12.- Journalists should not mix their pro¬fession with advertising, public rela¬tions activities or propagandism.

Journalists cannot accept sugges¬tions, advice or material benefits from sources of advertisement.

13.- Whatever the subject matter is, jour¬nalists cannot use information for personal interest before it is fully made public. They cannot use their profession to obtain any form of personal privilege (outside the rights given by laws and regulations).

14.- Journalists cannot resort to blackmail or threat to obtain information. Jour¬nalists should resist all pressure to obtain information by such means.

15.- Journalists must reject all kinds of pressure and should not accept in¬structions regarding their job from anyone except the executives of the media organization employing them.

16.- Anyone who is entitled to be called a journalist is committed to abide by professional principles fully. While observing due respect to the laws of the country, journalists should rebuff all interference from the government and similar official institutions. Pro¬fessionally, journalists take into ac¬count only the judgment of the pub¬lic or other colleagues and verdicts of independent jurisdiction.

17.- Journalists function according to public's right to infor¬ma¬tion, not to prejudices regarding domestic and international policy issues shaped by the people in the administration of a country. The journalist is guided on¬ly by basic professional principles and concerns for a free democracy.  



The distinction between news and commentary or editorials should be made clear to enable the readers or the audience to discern easily the difference between them.

Photography- Visual Images

Any photography or visual image used should be clearly marked to show whether it is actual or an enactment or simulation. The audience should be al¬lowed to discern easily whether the im¬age is actual or a representation.


The texts and visual elements of news and editorials should be clearly separat¬ed from the texts and visual elements of advertisements and commercial an¬nouncement to leave no room for confusion.

Judicial Reporting

During the preparatory investigation of a legal case, news and commentaries that might influence and weaken the legal process should not be disseminated. News during the trial should be supplied free of any prejudice or inaccuracy. The journalist should not become a party in any legal process about which he or she is reporting.

No defendant should be represented as guilty before the legal verdict is final¬ized. No defendant should be implied as guilty in news and commentaries unless found guilty at the end of the legal process.


Full identities and visual images of minors as defendants, witnesses or vic¬tims in criminal or sexual assault cases should not be printed or made public.

In cases where the personality and be¬haviour of minors could  be affected, jour¬nalists should not interview or take the visual image of a minor unless they ob¬tain prior permission from the family or an adult responsible for the minor in question.

Sexual Assault

The visual images and identities of the victims of sexual assault cases should not  be printed or made public except for in¬stances where there is a clear public in¬terest in such publication.

Identity and Special Cases

An action or an offence committed by an individual should not be attributed to his or her race, nationality, religion, sex or sexual choice, any disease or physical or mental disorder unless there is rele¬vance or evident public interest. These special character traits should never be the subject of ridicule, insult or prejudice.


Sensationalism in health issues should be avoided. Dissemination of information that would incite desperation or create false hope should be prevented. Rudi¬mentary findings of medical research should not be presented as final and de¬finitive. Before suggesting the use of a particular drug, an expert scientist should be consulted.

Any journalist who is conducting research work at hospitals should openly declare his or her identity and enter prohibited areas only with the permission of hospital authorities.

Journalists should not take visual images or audio recordings at hospitals without the permission of hospital au¬thorities, the patient or relatives in charge.


Journalists should reject personal gifts and material benefits that would create doubt or prejudice in the public over the contents of a particular news item or in¬formation and the decision to make it public.

Company Interests

The rights, responsibilities and duties of journalists described in "The Declara¬tion of Rights and Responsibilities" deter¬mine how they function within a media organization. Within this professional framework, the journalist should not take part in activities not relevant to the poli¬cies of the media organization, either vol¬untarily or by compulsion, even though such activity maybe in the company's in¬terest.


Journalists and media organizations should correct their mistakes and engage in self-criticism beyond their legal obliga¬tion to respect the right to response and denial.

Being a Party

Journalists and media organizations should clearly announce their positions in cases where they are parties in a dis¬pute or a contract.

Any media organization or commen¬tator can disseminate comments along the lines of their political economic and social affiliations. In such cases, the na¬ture of the affiliation should be clearly stated and clear distinction between com¬mentary and news should be made.


 The basic principle is the protection of public interest. Situations under which the privacy principle does not apply in¬clude:

a) Research and publication on major crime or corruption cases;

 b) Research and publication on conducts that would have negative effects on the public;

c) Cases where public's security or health is at stake;

d) To prevent the public being misled or deceived or from committing mistakes because of the actions or state¬ments of the person in question.

Even in these situations, the private information made public should be di¬rectly related to the subject.  It should be considered to what extent the private life of the person in  question affects his or her public activity.


Journalists should not take docu¬ments, photography, audio recording or visual .images without the consent of the person in possession of these except in cases where public interest is at stake.

This principle can only be waived in cases where there is clear public interest and the journalist has firm conviction that the material cannot be obtained oth¬erwise.

Payment in Exchange for Information

The journalist should not offer or give money in exchange for information, doc¬uments or visual images, to defendants of a criminal case or to witnesses or to their associates.

In Cases of Shock and Confusion

When there are people in distress, sor¬row, danger, disaster, destruction and shock, the journalist's approach in re¬search should be humane and respectful of privacy. He or she must refrain from exploiting feelings.

Relatives and Associates of Defendants

Journalists should not expose the rela¬tives and associates of defendants or con¬victed persons unless they are directly re¬lated to or essential for a correct percep¬tion of the events that transpired.

Suicide Cases

In cases of suicide, publishing or broadcasting information in an exagger¬ated way that goes beyond normal di¬mensions of reporting with the purpose of influencing readers or spectators should not occur. Photography, pictures, visual images or film depicting such cas¬es should not be made public.

Economic and Financial Information (Inside Information)

Even if the law does not ban it, the journalist should not use economic and financial information he or she obtains for personal interests before making it fully public.

Journalists should not disseminate in¬formation about securities, stocks, shares and other valuable papers they or their relatives or associates hold, without accu¬rately informing their superiors at the media organization about such owner¬ship.

Journalists should not indulge in the dealership either directly or indirectly of real estate and other valuables that they choose as the subject matter of their news and commentaries.


Journalists should comply with the publication date set by the source of a piece of information or a document un¬less they have obtained such information independently.

Journalists have no commitment to let anyone, including the source, preview the drafts of news stories, interviews, commentaries or visual images of materi¬al they are preparing to publish or broad¬cast, except responsible persons at the media organizations employing them.

Journalists should not publish or broadcast off-the-record information or statements.


Journalists must refrain from deliber¬ately causing professional harm to their colleagues even for reasons of competi¬tion. They should refrain from acts that would prevent their colleagues' material from reaching the public.


Journalists should give credit to the sources of information, including from agencies, other colleagues or other publica¬tions.


The actual titles and professions of those who perform journalistic activities media organizations periodically or occa¬sionally should be clearly announced so as to inform the public.

Question of Identity

Whatever the speciality of a journalist, his or her main job is journalism. Police reporters should not act or disseminate information as policemen or police spokespersons. Likewise sports reporters are not spokespersons for sports clubs, nor are reporters assigned to political party members or spokespersons for that party.

[Translation by the Association of Turkish Journalists]