Europe: United Kingdom

British National Union of Journalists: British national union of journalists code of conduct

Current Status: unknown

British National Union of Journalists Code of Conduct as of June 1994


Code of Conduct

The Press Complaints Commission is charged with enforcing the following Code of Practice which was framed by the newspaper and periodical industry and ratified by the Press Complaints Commission in April 1994.


All members of the press have a duty to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards. In doing so, they should have regard to the provisions of this Code of Practice and to safeguarding the public's right to know.

Editors are responsible for the actions of journalists employed by their publications. They should also satisfy themselves as far as possible that material accepted from non-staff members was obtained in accordance with this Code.

While recognizing that this involves a substantial element of self-restraint by editors and journalists, it is designed to be acceptable in the context of a system of self-regulation. The Code applies in the spirit as well as in the letter.

It is the responsibility of editors to co-operate as swiftly as possible in PCC enquiries.

Any publication which is criticised by the PCC under one of the following clauses is duty to print the adjudication which flows in full and with due prominence.


1. Accuracy

i) Newspapers and periodicals should take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted material.

ii) Whenever it is recognized that a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report has been published, it should be corrected promptly and with due prominence.

iii) An apology should be published whenever appropriate.

iv) A newspaper or periodical should always report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party.


2. Opportunity to reply

A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies should be given to individuals or organizations when reasonably called for.


3. Comment, conjecture and fact

Newspapers, whilst free to be partisan, should distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.


4. Privacy

Intrusions and enquires into and individual's private life without his or her consent including the use of long-lens photography to take pictures of people on private property without their consent are not generally acceptable and publication can only be justified when in the public interest.

Note: Private property is defined as any private residence, together with its garden and outbuildings, but excluding any adjacent fields of parkland. In addition, hotel bedrooms (but not other areas in a hotel) and those parts of a hospital or nursing home where patients are treated or accommodated.


5. Listening devices

Unless justified by public interest, journalists should not obtain or publish material obtained by using clandestine listening devices or by intercepting private telephone conversations.


6. Hospitals

i) Journalists or photographers making enquires at hospitals or similar institutions should identify themselves to a responsible executive and obtain permission before entering non-public areas.

ii) The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquires about individuals in hospitals or

similar institutions.


7. Misrepresentation

i) Journalists should not generally obtain or seek to obtain information of pictures through misrepresentation or subterfuge.

ii) Unless in the public interest, documents and photographs should be removed only with the express consent of the owner.

iii) Subterfuge can be justified only in the public interest and only when material cannot be obtained by any other means.


8. Harassment

i) Journalists should neither obtain nor seek to obtain information or pictures through intimidation or harassment.

ii) Unless their enquires are in the public interest, journalists should not photograph individuals on private property (as defined in the note to Clause 4) without their consent; should not persist in telephoning or questioning individuals after having been asked to desist; should not remain on their property after having been asked to leave and should not follow them.

iii) It is the responsibility if editors to ensure that these requirements are carried out.


9. Payment for articles

Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures of information, should not be made directly or through agents to witnesses or potential witnesses in current criminal proceedings or to people engaged in crimes or to their associates - which includes family, friends, neighbors and colleagues - except where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and the payment is necessary for this to be done.


10. Intrusion into grief or shock

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquires should be carried out and approaches made with sympathy and discretion.


11. Innocent relatives and friends

Unless it is contrary to the public's right to know, the press should generally avoid identifying relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime.


12. Interviewing or photographing children

i) Journalists should not normally interview or photograph children under the age of 16 on subjects involving the personal welfare of the child, in the absence or without the consent of a parent or other adult who is responsible for the children.

ii) Children should not be approached or photographed while at school without the permission of the school authorities.


13. Children in sex cases

1)The press should 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 or defendants.

2) In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child

i) the adult should be identified

ii) the term "incest" where applicable should not be used

iii) the offence should be described as "serious offences against young children" or similar appropriate wording

iv) the child should not be identified

v) care should be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child


14. Victims of crime

The press should not identify victims of sexual assaults or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless, by law, they are free to do so.


15. Discrimination

i) The press should avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to a person's race, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or handicap.

ii) It should avoid publishing details of a person's race, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation, unless these are directly relevant to the story.


16. Financial journalism

i) Even where the law does not prohibit it, journalists should 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 should 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 editor of financial editor.

iii) The should 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.


17. Confidential sources

Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.


18. The public interest

Clauses 4,5,7,8 and 9 create exceptions which may be covered by invoking the public interest, such as

i) detecting or exposing crime or a serious misdemeanour

ii) protecting public health and safety

iii) preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of an individual or organization.

In any cases raising issues beyond these three definitions the Press Complaints Commission will require a full explanation by the editor of the publication involved, seeking to demonstrate how the public interest was served.