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Journalism ethics comprise standards and codes of conduct journalists and journalistic organizations aspire to follow. Principles of ethical journalism vary from place to place and context to context. However, standards typically include accuracy, objectivity, transparency, accountability, comprehensiveness, fairness, and diversity. The ability of journalists to adhere to ethical norms depends heavily on a constellation of often competing interests and forces they cannot control, including government interference, economic realities and technical limitations.

Standards of Professionalism: Mali's Press Environment, 2015

By Tidiani Togoli

“Caught up in the daily struggle to survive, the Malian press turns to self-censorship. It has become common to see the publication of an article conditioned on payment. This practice is accepted by press agencies because they lack funds to pay their reporters. The published articles are for the benefit of the one who pays and are therefore biased because the author, in effect, becomes a low-cost marketing firm… What government power would bother to exercise censorship on his own propaganda scheme? The win-win partnership between news agencies and government departments is no longer a taboo in the country. The press is silent on the weaknesses and bad practices of this ‘partnership’ or, otherwise, attempts to justify them. The government in return ensures that the press does not lack funds for ink and paper, and that regular and profitable advertising goes out through radio stations. When the press becomes the mouthpiece of Power, there is no need to worry about what it will say.”

Applying Standards: Media Owners and Journalism Ethics, 2013

By Eugene L. Meyer

“Recent focus in global discussions of media ethics has been on establishing and raising standards for rank-and- file journalists, including reporters and lower or mid-level editors. But there is a nascent effort to refocus a critical lens on the proprietors of media… Owners’ influence–benign or otherwise–is a global issue… The underlying question in any discussion of media owners’ ethics are these: Are publishers presumed to be also journalists? Or are they just business people whose product incidentally happens to be the news? And if they are solely the latter, should the same standards applied to journalists also be applied to them? Or do they exist in a separate if parallel universe?”

Media Codes of Ethics: The Difficulty of Defining Standards, 2011

By Eugene L. Meyer

“Profession-wide codes of ethics for reporters and editors have long been established and are widespread in Western democracies, where they are typically voluntary and are often issued and adopted by leading organizations of journalists. They incorporate best practices that may go beyond the laws of libel, defamation, and privacy. In the not-so-free world, these codes are not always the products of a self-regulating free press. They may represent a cultural and political compromise with a society or government that holds a more restrictive view of what journalists should and should not report. This report examines the different types of media codes of ethics and offers recommendations for making them more robust and useful in efforts to raise standards of journalism.”

Other Online Resources:

International Federation of Journalists: A global charter of ethics for journalists

Society of Professional Journalists: The “gold standard” code of ethics for United States journalists

American Press Institute: Guides explaining the basic principles and elements of good journalism

University of Wisconsin Center for Journalism Ethics: Resources for journalists, educators, and students and news relating to media ethics

University of Oxford – Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism: Extensive reading list on numerous aspects of journalism

Books:

The Global Journalist in the 21st Century – Weaver and Willnat

The New Ethics of Journalism – McBride and Rosenstiel

Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload – Kovach and Rosenstiel