Responsibilities of a Journalist:
The fundamental objective of journalism is to provide the people with news, views, comments and information on matters of public interest in a fair, accurate, unbiased, sober manner. Towards this end, the Press is expected to conduct itself in keeping with certain norms of professionalism universally acknowledged. The norms enunciated below and other specific guidelines appended thereafter will help the journalist to self-regulate his or her conduct.
Ø Accuracy & Fairness: The Press shall eschew publication of inaccurate, baseless, graceless, misleading or distorted material. All sides of the core issue or subject should be reported. Unjustified rumours and surmises should not be set forth as facts.
Ø Journalists should not publish anything which is manifestly defamatory or libelous against any individual organisation unless after due care and checking, they have sufficient reason to believe that it is true and its publication will be for public good.
Ø Truth is no defense for publishing derogatory, scurrilous and defamatory material against a private citizen where no public interest is involved.
Ø No personal remarks which may be considered or construed to be derogatory in nature against a dead person should be published except in rare cases of public interest, as the dead person cannot possibly contradict or deny those remarks.
Ø The Press shall not rely on objectionable past behaviour of a citizen for basing the scathing comments with reference to fresh action of that person. If public good requires such reference, the Press should make pre-publication inquiries from the authorities concerned about the follow up action, if any, in regard to those adverse actions.
Ø The Press has a duty, discretion and right to serve the public interest by drawing reader’s attention to citizens of doubtful antecedents and of questionable character but as responsible journalists they should observe due restraint and caution in hazarding their own opinion or conclusion in branding these persons as ‘cheats’ or ‘killers’ etc. The cardinal principle being that the guilt of a person should be established by proof of facts alleged and not by proof of the bad character of the accused. In the zest to expose, the Press should not exceed the limits of ethical caution and fair comments.
Ø Journalists should always distinguish between advocacy and news reporting.
Ø Caution against identification: While reporting crime involving rape, abduction or kidnap of women/females or sexual assault on children, or raising doubts and questions touching the chastity, personal character and privacy of women, the names, photographs of the victims or other particulars leading to their identity shall not be published.
Ø Corrections: When any factual error or mistake is detected or confirmed, the journalists should publish (/broadcast) the correction promptly with due prominence and with apology or expression of regrets in a case of serious lapse. .
Ø Freedom of the Press involves the readers’ right to know all sides of an issue of public interest. An editor, therefore, shall not refuse to publish the reply or rejoinder merely on the ground that in his opinion the story published in the newspaper was true. That is an issue to be left to the judgement of the readers. It also does not be-hove for an editor to show contempt towards a reader
Ø Covering communal disputes/clashes: News, views or comments relating to communal or religious disputes/clashes shall be published after proper verification of facts and presented with due caution and restraint in a manner which is conducive to the creation of an atmosphere congenial to communal harmony, amity and peace. Sensational, provocative and alarming headlines are to be avoided. Acts of communal violence or vandalism shall be reported in a manner as may not undermine the people’s confidence in the law and order machinery of the State. Giving community-wise figures of the victims of communal riot, or writing about the incident in a style which is likely to inflame passions, aggravate the tension, or accentuate the strained relations between the communities/religious groups concerned, or which has a potential to exacerbate the trouble, shall be avoided.
Ø Caste, religion or community references: In general, the caste identification of a person or a particular class should be avoided, particularly when in the context it conveys a sense or attributes a conduct or practice derogatory to that caste.
Ø Paramount national interest: Journalists should, as a matter of self-regulation, exercise due restraint and caution in presenting any news, comment or information which is likely to jeopardise, endanger or harm the paramount interests of the State and society, or the rights of individuals with respect to which reasonable restrictions may be imposed by law on the right to freedom of speech and expression under clause (2) of Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
Ø If information is received from a confidential source, the confidence should be respected. The journalist should not reveal such information and he cannot be compelled by the Press Council to disclose such source; but it shall not be regarded as a breach of journalistic ethics if the source is voluntarily disclosed in proceedings before the Council by the journalist who considers it necessary to repel effectively a charge against him/her. This rule requiring a newspaper not to publish matters disclosed to it in confidence, is not applicable where:
- consent of the source is subsequently obtained; or
- the editor clarified by way of an appropriate footnote that since the publication of certain matters were in the public interest, the information in question was being published although it had been made ‘off the record’.
Ø Journalists should, as a matter of caution, avoid unfair and unwarranted criticism which, by innuendo, attributes to a judge extraneous consideration for performing an act in due course of his/her judicial functions, even if such criticism does not strictly amount to criminal Contempt of Court.