1. Purpose and Background
Pakistan Coalition for Ethical Journalism (PCEJ) was founded in 2012 by a group of distinguished and veteran journalists of Pakistan in partnership with national civil society organizations (List attached at Annex 1) striving to promote ethical journalism. In 2015 PCEJ took the initiative of developing a single, unifying Code of Ethics (CoE) for Pakistani media. A core committee of senior and full time journalists was formed which formulated the following methodology to proceed with the development of a code of ethics for Pakistani media. (See Annex 2 for the core committee membership).
- Position Paper and Desk Review of initiatives on developing codes of conduct and ethics previously undertaken in Pakistan;
- Consultations with media stakeholders at district level;
- Consultations with media stakeholders at provincial level;
- Consultations with media stakeholders at national level;
- Advocacy for the unanimously approved code of ethics
Rozan as secretariat of PCEJ held rigorous consultation with media stakeholders including journalists (both news room/desk staff and field reporters), academia, representatives of regulatory bodies, parliamentarians and media consumers at district, provincial and national levels respectively. Rozan/PCEJ hosted 1477 media stakeholders resenting 100 districts of Pakistan during consultative dialogues. Following table depicts the statistics of representation of journalists at each level.
* Media Stakeholders represented 100 districts of Pakistan
The recommendations gathered at each step were refined at the next level till the process touched the National Consultation on Code of Ethics for Pakistani Media. Suggestions gathered from participants of National Consultation were given a final fine tuning by experts in media and development sector in a two-day workshop held in Karachi on 15th -16th December 2016.
This document consolidates the core set of recommendations flowing from the experts’ discussions during above mentioned two day workshop. The recommendations have been framed within mutually agreed principles of ethical journalism.
2. Recommended Code of Ethics for Pakistani Media
The following Core Principles of ethical journalism were agreed as constituents of a recommended Code of Ethics for Pakistani Media with accompanying recommendations for their incorporation in the work of journalists:
1. Truth and Accuracy
All journalists should seek the truth through accurate and fact-based communications.
- Journalists should be given sufficient time to cover the news in a comprehensive and holistic manner to maintain the sanctity of the news. They should not be coerced to file unsubstantiated or unverified information.
- Training around the core principles for ethical journalism and good governance of media must be carried out on a periodic basis by the media organizations.
- Monitoring on ethics should be ensured by devising a comprehensive system for media.
Journalists and media shall strive to tell all sides of a story and where possible give voice to different and opposing opinions including from minority groups.
- Equal coverage must be given to the different fractions of the society, encouraging inclusion of different religions, caste, sects, nationality, ethnicity, gender, disability and other minority groups and communities.
- Equal coverage of the communities on the basis of geographic divide like rural and urban should also be given importance.
- To ensure inclusivity of different groups and communities, the appointment of minority representatives within regulatory bodies should be encouraged.
- Media organizations should also seek to ensure diversity in the make-up of their newsroom reporting and editing staff.
3. Independence, Fairness and Impartiality
Journalists shall be professional and maintain editorial independence in the exercise of their work, avoiding all conflicts of interest and undue bias.
- The full authority to cover uninfluenced and unbiased news and to act ethically, fairly and impartially must be given to the journalists/reporters.
- The media houses should not use their journalists for generating business or for fulfilling the commercial interests as their prime job is reporting not business generation.
4. Confidentiality and Privacy
Journalists should respect the privacy and ensure confidentiality of survivors/victims and shall refrain from intruding into their private spaces.
- Journalists should be made aware of the need for sensitive reporting and of the potential to increase the trauma of people who are the victims of violence or humanitarian crisis.
- Journalists should be reminded that deception or subterfuge can only ever be justified in cases where all other legitimate means to obtain information have failed and there is a serious and intense public interest in the subject under investigation.
- The definition of private and public space should be clearly outlined in order to ensure the confidentiality and privacy.
5. Accountability and Good Governance
Media and the journalists who work for them shall engage with the audience and shall correct errors of fact and provide remedies and apology where appropriate. They shall be transparent in their work and apply principles of good governance in their activities.
- Media should create systems of good governance in their internal management which should include: space for self-reflection and critical analysis among journalists and media management; transparency regarding the management and funding of the media houses; and the creation of internal structures for dealing with complaints.
- Newsrooms should function in close coordination with journalists in the field and be aware of the physical risks they face. The integrity of the work of journalists in the field should be respected and its accuracy maintained.
- There should be proper criteria for selection of journalists in media. The newly recruited staff must be hired at probation period of 3-6 months. As a result professional people can be hired in order to minimize the biases. Furthermore, gender balanced hiring should be carried out.
- The regional correspondents must be full time employee of the media organization instead of part time/volunteer journalist. Being employed in multiple sectors may hinder him/her to report about his/her institution/organization/department thus affecting fairness and impartiality.
- Press clubs and journalists’ unions should play their role in accountability journalists and reporters.
The role of ombudsmen should be introduced to ensure an effective complaint mechanism. All media organizations should appoint neutral, non-staff member as an Ombudsman / People’s Editor to entertain and redress complaints from media consumers on ethical concerns.
6. Do No Harm
Journalists shall be aware of the dangers of publishing explicit, violent images and dead bodies and shall avoid spreading editorial material that inspires intense hatred or incitement to violence.
- Media should encourage internal debates and training on the need for careful and conflict sensitive reporting and the threats posed by publication of gory images of victims of terrorism and the dead bodies.
- Reporters should avoid insensitive treatment of family members of victims of terrorism.
- Journalists should be careful and sensitive in their use of language and remain vigilant at all times regarding explicit material and unethical language. This is particularly important during live coverage of events especially those related to the terrorism and other crimes.
Additional recommendations for the creation of a conducive environment for practice of ethical journalism include:
- Ethics Committees: All Newsrooms should create ethics committees to monitor reporting and media content for ethics, promote best practices on ethical reporting for staff.
- Ombudspersons/People’s Editor: All media houses should appoint a neutral, non-staff member as an Ombudsman / People’s Editor to entertain and redress complaints from media consumers on ethical concerns.
- Regulation of Press Clubs: To regulate the press clubs and solve their issues, there should be high level regulatory authority just like Punjab Bar Council or Pakistan Bar council.
- Health and Safety: Basic equipment and facilities like satellite phones, medical kits, vehicle, camera, body armors and security escorts necessary for efficacious news coverage should be made available to the journalists
- In-house/external trainings around first aid, medical health, safety and security, trauma handling should be provided to the journalists on periodic basis by media organization.
- Safety advisors in conflict zones should be appointed to give final go-ahead regarding safe working practices in the conflict zones on individual assignment basis.
- The government should compensate families of journalists/reporters/ correspondents who lose their lives while covering news.
- Employment conditions: Aptitude and ability tests should be conducted with journalists before their appointment as journalists and reporters
- Media organizations should give appointment letters/contracts to journalists at the time of hiring mentioning all the roles and responsibilities of both parties.
- Media organizations should be obliged to pay annual increments to employees. Relevant regulatory authorities should play their roles in this regard.
- Media organizations should provide transport facility to the female staff.
- A proper mechanism should be followed by media organizations for hiring and firing of journalist to ensure job security
- Harassment and grievance committees should be established to tackle matters pertaining to harassment, threats and blackmailing.
List of members of Technical Advisory Committee
Pakistan Coalition for Ethical Journalism (PCEJ)
Mr. M. Zia ud Din (Founder Member of PCEJ)
Mr. Adnan Rehmat
Mr. Fahad Hussain
Ms. Farah Zia
Mr. Ghazi Salahuddin
Mr. Kamal Siddiqi
Mr. Mazhar Abbas
Mr. Murtaza Solangi
Ms. Nargis Baloch
Ms. Rameeza Nizami
Mr. Salman Danish
List of members of Core Committee Members
On developing Code of Ethics for Pakistani Media
Pakistan Coalition for Ethical Journalism (PCEJ)
Mr. Jamshed Rizwani Bureau Chief Channel 24
Mr. Adnan Malik Senior Journalist Geo TV
Mr. Junaid Khanzada Bureau Chief Express Group
Mr. Pervaiz Khan, Reporter Express Group
Mr. Qazi Asif, Freelance Reporter
Syed Safi Gul Bureau Chief Dunya TV
Mrs. Farzana Ali Bureau Chief Aaj TV
Mr. Shahzada Zulfiqar, President Press Club Quetta
Ms. Myra Imran. Reporter Daily The News