EDITORIAL POLICY & CODE OF PRACTICE
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION THE BIRTHRIGHT OF ALL
It is a fundamental constitutional right to have the freedom of opinion and expression. This includes the right to hold, receive and impart opinions. The press shall, to this end, have the right to report and publish freely and the right to be accorded the fullest possible facilities for access to public information. Freedom of the press shall mean and include that freedom from restraint which is essential to enable proprietors, editors and journalists of Nation publications to advance the public interest by publishing facts and opinions without which any democratic society cannot develop, progress or make responsible judgment.
The basic principle to be upheld is that the freedom of the press is indivisible from and subject to the same rights and duties as that of the individual and rests on the public’s fundamental right to be informed and to freely receive and disseminate opinions.
Nation Publications Limited (NPL) was established to promote and safeguard a democratic culture through objective reporting, free expression of opinion and critical debate and assist in nation building by offering innovative services that meet the needs of all stakeholders in Malawi and beyond by using advanced technology and expertise of dedicated, result-oriented staff
Nation Shareholders, Directors and employees
All Nation shareholders, directors, employees and their spouses and children shall not be investigated except:-
- Where they assume public office or
- Where they are entrusted with public funds
Other media organisations
Nation shall not engage in media wars against other media organisations
Nation shall respect intellectual property law by crediting all sources of news and pictures
Nation shall not carry refutations of stories that appeared in a rival publication except:-
- Where Nation establishes that the story was false. or
- Where the paper that carried the story in question is unwilling to make a correction.
Investigative journalism is an integral part of journalism and the only means of ensuring a corrupt-free society and shall be practised without fear or favour.
CODE OF PRACTICE
Editors are responsible for the use of material submitted by journalists employed by Nation Publications limited. They should also satisfy themselves as far as possible that material contributed by non-staff members was obtained in accordance with this code.
This code demands self-restraint by editors and journalists, and it applies in the spirit as well as in the letter.
- Freedom from obligations except of fidelity to the public interest is vital.
- Nation publications shall stand on the principle that all persons are equal before the law and should not be swayed by any political, economic or other social prejudices.
- Nation publications shall not allow themselves to be used privately for individual interests running counter to public interest as defined under section 8, or for worthless or immoral or illegal purposes.
- The promotion of any private interest contrary to the public interest, for whatever reason, is forbidden as it is not compatible with honest journalism.
2. REPORTING NEWS
- Nation Publications shall be obliged to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly.
- News shall be presented in context and in a balanced manner, without an intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by:-
– Distortion. exaggeration or misrepresentation
– Material omissions: or-
- Only what may reasonably be true having to the source of the news may be represented as facts, and such facts shall be published fairly with due regard to context and importance.
- Nation publications shall usually seek the views of the subject of serious critical reportage in advance of publication, provided that this may not be done where the newspaper has reasonable grounds for believing that by doing so it would be prevented from publishing the report or where evidence might be destroyed or witnesses intimidated.
- Nation publications shall not publish information obtained by dishonest or unfair means, or the publication of which would involve a breach of confidence, unless there is an overriding public interest.
- Nation publications shall not place gratuitous emphasis on the race, nationality, religion, colour, country of origin, gender, sexual preferences, marital status, political views or intellectual or physical disability of either individuals or groups, unless the fact is relevant.
- Nation publicationsshall take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted material.
- Where there is reason to doubt the accuracy of a report and it is practicable to verify the accuracy thereof, it shall be verified. Where it has not been practicable to verify the accuracy of a report, this shall be mentioned in the report.
4. FACT AND OPINION
- Nation publications shall clearly distinguish between fact and opinion. Generally factual material shall be based on some truth and should be capable of justification.
- Opinions should equally have some factual basis and should not be conjured out of thin air.
- Where a report is not based on facts or is founded on opinions, allegation, rumour or supposition, it shall be presented in such manner as to indicate this clearly.
- Nation publications shall endeavour to make clear distinction between reports and expressions of the newspapers. News reports shall be free from the author’s or the newspaper’s opinion or bias of any kind.
- Nation publicationsare justified in strongly advocating their own views on controversial topics provided that they treat their readers fairly by:-
– Making fact and opinion clearly distinguishable.
– Not misrepresenting or suppressing relevant facts
– Not distorting the facts in text or headlines
- Nation publicationsshall be entitled to comment upon or criticise any actions or events of public importance provided such comments or criticisms are fairly and honestly made.
- Comment by Nation publications shall be presented in such manner that it appears clearly that it is comment, and shall be made on facts truly stated or fairly indicated and referred to.
- Comment by Nation publications shall be an honest expression of opinion, without malice or dishonest motives, and shall take fair account of all available facts to the matter commented upon.
7. AFTER PUBLICATION
- Nation publicationsshould make amends for publishing information or comment that is found to be harmfully inaccurate by printing, promptly and with appropriate prominence, a retraction, correction or explanation.
- An apology shall be published wherever deemed appropriate by the Editor.
- A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies shall be given to individuals or organisations as appropriate at the Editor’s discretion.
- Nation publications, in both news and comment, shall exercise exceptional care and consideration in matters involving the private lives and concerns of individuals, bearing in mind that any right to privacy or breach of confidence may be overridden by a legitimate public interest.
- Publication is in the public interest if it helps in:-
– Detecting or exposing crime, misdemeanour or corrupt practices
– Detecting or exposing anti-social conduct
– Protecting public health and safety
– Preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of an individual or organisation
- Except where it is in the public interest, reporters making enquiries at hospitals or similar health institutions shall clearly identify themselves to a responsible officer and obtain permission before entering non-public areas
- The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar health institutions.
- Journalists shall not generally obtain or seek to obtain information or pictures through misrepresentation or subterfuge except in the public interest.
- Unless it is in the public interest, documents or photographs shall be removed only with the express consent of the owner.
- Subterfuge shall be justified only in the public interest, and only when material cannot be obtained by any other means.
11. HEADLINES, POSTERS, PICTURES AND CAPTIONS
- Headlines and captions to pictures shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the report or picture in question.
- Posters shall not mislead the public and shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the reports in question.
- Pictures shall not misrepresent or mislead or be manipulated to do so.
12. GATHERING INFORMATION
- Nation journalists shall neither obtain nor seek to obtain information or pictures through intimidation or coercion, unless it is in the public interest.
- Unless their queries are in the public interest, Nation journalists shall not photograph individuals on private property without their consent and shall not persist in telephoning or questioning individuals after having been asked to desist and shall not remain on their property after having been asked to leave and shall not follow them.
13. PAYMENT FOR ARTICLES
No payment or offers of payment shall be made for feature articles or information to witnesses or potential witnesses in current criminal proceedings or to people engaged in crime or to their associates, including family, friends, neighbours 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.
- Nation journalists shall not accept bribes from news sources or newsmakers or individuals or organisations.
- Any gift received in the course of duty must be declared to the Editor and other editorial staff.
- Nation journalists shall not demand or receive any payment for news coverage from news sources.
15. CHEQUE BOOK JOURNALISM
The right of Nation publications to attract and hold readers is restricted by nothing but consideration of public welfare. The sense of responsibility of Nation publications derives from their readership and the attention they command. Consequently, Nation journalists should be responsible and live up to the highest honour and trust bestowed on them by not being influenced by monetary or profit considerations.
16. SOCIETAL MORALS
- Reports, photographs or sketches relative to matters involving deaths, suicide, indecency or obscenity shall be presented with due sensitivity towards the prevailing moral climate.
- In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries shall be carried out and any approach made with sympathy.
17. INNOCENT RELATIVES AND FRIENDS
Unless it is in the public interest, reporters shall generally avoid identifying relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime.
- Reporters shall not normally interview or photograph children under the age of 18 on subjects involving the personal welfare of the child, in the absence of or without the consent of a parent or guardian.
- Children shall not be interviewed or photographed while at school without the permission of the school authorities, unless in the public interest.
- Nation journalists shall not reveal the name, address, school or any particulars that would lead to the identification of any person under the age of 18 who is involved in cases concerning sexual offences, whether as victims, or as witnesses or as accused persons unless the Court or the Minister rules otherwise.
Due care and responsibility shall be exercised by reporters with regard to the presentation of brutality, violence and atrocities. “-
20. VICTIMS OF RAPE OR INDECENT ASSAULT OR SEXUAL HARRASSMENT
- The identity of rape victims and other victims of sexual violence shall not be published by Nation publications without their consent.
- The identity of perpetrators of sexual violence and their residence after serving prison terms shall not be protected by Nation publications.
21. REPORTING THE COURTS AND PARLIAMENT
Reporters shall report on Court and Parliamentary proceedings only subject to the restrictions imposed by either of them as per their orders.
- Nation publications shall avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to a person’s race, religion, sex or sexual orientation or any physical or mental illness or disability.
- Nation publications shall avoid publishing details of a person’s race, colour, religion, nationality, country of origin, sex or sexual orientation, marital status, political views or intellectual or physical disability unless these are directly relevant to the story.
- Nation publications shall avoid the use and publication of threatening, abusive or insulting words or material with the intention of stirring up racial hatred or in circumstances where racial hatred is likely to be stirred up.
Nation Publications Limited shall own and have sole rights relating to intellectual property rights in the materials submitted and all copies thereof in whatever format. Nation journalists shall not use for their own purpose or profit information or material obtained or received during or in the course of their employment nor shall they pass on such information or material to others, prior to its publication.
Nation journalists shall not, unless with permission, have their stories or photographs published by any other media outlet deemed to have competing interests with Nation Publications Limited and shall declare their interest prior to rendering journalistic services to any other local or international media institutions.
25. CONFIDENTIAL SOURCES
Nation journalists have an obligation to protect confidential sources of information. However, the Editor must be given all sources of information by all journalists. Any information from a confidential source must be corroborated by at least two authentic and independent sources.
26 FAIR PLAY
Nation publications shall not publish unofficial charges affecting reputation or moral character without an opportunity being given to the accused to be heard as fair practice demands the giving of such opportunity in all cases of serious accusation outside judicial or parliamentary proceedings.
From time to time, where dealing with a sensitive story, the Editor may need to consult with Management. Sensitive stories shall be those that have serious national implications: such as the declaration of war, national disaster, revelations that can affect the position of the national economy, can cause national panic or panic on a wide scale, can cause civil strife or national strikes, etc.
- While Nation publications shall use their own discretion in matters of taste, care shall be taken to avoid lapses of taste so repugnant as to bring the freedom of the press into disrepute or be extremely offensive to the public.
- Nation journalists have a duty to uphold their professional ethics and conduct and must ensure that they do not bring the profession into disrepute.