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Code of Ethics of the Norwegian Press

Ethical Code of Practice for the Press (printed press, radio, television and net publications).

Each editor and editorial staff member is required to be familiar with these ethical standards of the press, and to base their practice on this code. The ethical practice comprehends the complete journalistic process from research to publication.

1. The Role of the Press in Society

1.1. Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Information and Freedom of the Press are basic elements of a democracy. A free, independent press is among the most important institutions in a democratic society.

1.2. The press has important functions in that it carries information, debates and critical comments on current affairs. The press is particularly responsible for allowing different views to be expressed.

1.3. The press shall protect the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press and the principle of access to official documents. It cannot yield to any pressure from anybody who might want to prevent open debates, the free flow of information and free access to sources. Agreements concerning exclusive event reporting shall not preclude independent news reporting.

1.4. It is the right of the press to carry information on what goes on in society and to uncover and disclose matters, which ought to be subjected to criticism. It is a press obligation to shed critical light on how media themselves exercise their role.

1.5. It is the task of the press to protect individuals and groups against injustices or neglect, committed by public authorities and institutions, private enterprises, or others.

2. Integrity and credibility

2.1 The responsible editor carries personal and full responsibility for the contents of the media and has the final decision in any questions regarding editorial content, financing, presentation and publication. The editor shall act freely and independently towards any persons or groups who – for ideological, economic or other reasons – might want to exercise an influence over the editorial content. The editor shall safeguard the editorial staff’s production of free and independent journalism.

2.2 The editor and the individual editorial staff member must protect their independence, integrity and credibility. Avoid dual roles, positions, commissions or commitments that create conflicts of interest connected to or leading to speculations of disqualification.

2.3 Be open on matters that could be relevant for how the public perceive the journalistic content.

2.4 Members of the editorial staff must not exploit their position in order to achieve personal gain, including receiving money, goods or services, that can be perceived as compensation from outsiders for editorial benefits.

2.5 A member of the editorial staff cannot be ordered to do anything that is contrary to his or her convictions.

2.6 Never undermine the clear distinction between editorial copy and advertisements. It must be obvious to the public what is deemed to be commercial content. The distinction must be obvious also when using web links and other connective means. Decline any commercial content that can be confused with the individual medium’s journalistic presentation.

2.7 Editorial mention of products, services, brand names and commercial interests, including the media’s own, must be motivated by editorial considerations and must not appear as an advertisement. Maintain an obvious distinction between marketing activities and editorial work. Turn down any offers of journalistic favours in return for advertisements. Avoid indiscriminate reproduction of PR material.

2.8 Hidden advertising is incompatible with good press practice. Commercial interests must not influence journalistic activities, content or presentation. If the editorial material is sponsored, or a programme has product placements, this must be obvious to the public. Sponsorship must always be clearly marked. Sponsorship or product placement in news or current affairs journalism or journalism directed at children is incompatible with good press practice. Direct expenses for journalistic activities must in the main be paid by the editorial department itself. In the event of an exception, the audience must be made aware of what is financed by external interests.

2.9 Members of the editorial staff must not accept assignments from anyone other than editorial management.

3. Journalistic conduct and the relationship to the sources

3.1: The source of information should, as a general rule, be identified, unless it conflicts with the protection of sources or the consideration of a third party.  Sources should not, as a general rule, be allowed to present negative personal characteristics anonymously.

3.2. Be critical in the choice of sources, and make sure that the information provided is correct. It is good press practice to aim for diversity and relevance in the choice of sources. If anonymous sources are used, or the publication is offered exclusivity, especially stringent requirements must be imposed on the critical evaluation of the sources. Particular caution should be exercised when dealing with information from anonymous sources, information from sources offering exclusivity, and information provided from sources in return for payment.

3.3: It is good press practice to clarify the premise for the contact when interacting with sources If there is an agreement regarding quote approval, it should be made clear what this agreement includes and which deadlines apply. The editors themselves decide what is finally published.

3.4. Protect the sources of the press. The protection of sources is a basic principle in a free society and is a prerequisite for the ability of the press to fulfil its duties towards society and ensure the access to essential information.

3.5. Do not divulge the name of a person who has provided information on a confidential basis, unless consent has been explicitly given by the person concerned.

3.6: Out of consideration for the sources and the independence of the press no one has the right to receive unpublished material.

3.7: Sources must be quoted correctly. The press has an obligation to report the intended meaning in quotes from an interview. No sources are entitled to having their quotes reproduced in full.

3.8: If there is an agreement on quote approval, this should primarily contribute to ensuring that the source has been quoted accurately and to correct factual errors. No one without editorial authority can intervene in the editing or presentation of editorial material.

3.9: Act considerately in the journalistic work. Do not exploit other people’s feelings, lack of media experience, ignorance or failing judgment. Remember that people who are in shock or grief are more vulnerable than others.

3.10. Hidden cameras/microphones or false identity may only be used under special circumstances. The condition must be that such a method is the only possible way to uncover cases of essential importance to society.

3.11. The press shall as a rule not pay sources or interviewees for information. Exercise moderation when paying a consideration for news tips. It is incompatible with good press practice to employ payment schemes designed to tempt people, without due cause, to invade the privacy of others or to disclose sensitive personal information.

4. Publication Rules

4.1.Make a point of fairness and thoughtfulness in contents and presentation.

4.2. Make plain what is factual information and what is comment.

4.3. Always respect a person’s character and identity, privacy, ethnicity, nationality and belief..Be careful when using terms that create stigmas. Never draw attention to personal or private aspects if they are irrelevant.

4.4. Make sure that headlines, introductions and leads do not go beyond what is being related in the text. It is considered good press conduct to reveal your source when the information is quoted from other media.

4.5. In particular avoid presumption of guilt in crime and court reporting. Make it evident that the question of guilt, whether relating to somebody under suspicion, reported, accused or charged, has not been decided until the sentence has legal efficacy. It is a part of good press conduct to report the final result of court proceedings, which have been reported earlier.

4.6. Always consider how reports on accidents and crime may affect the victims and next-of-kin. Do not identify victims or missing persons unless next-of-kin have been informed. Show consideration towards people in grief or at times of shock.

4.7. Be cautious in the use of names and photographs and other clear identifiers of persons in referring to contentious or punishable matters. Special caution should be exercised when reporting cases at the early stage of investigation, cases concerning young offenders and cases in which an identifying report may place an unreasonable burden on a third party. Identification must be founded on a legitimate need for information. It may, for instance, be legitimate to identify someone where there is imminent danger of assault on defenceless individuals, in the case of serious and repeated crimes, if the identity or social position of the subject is patently relevant to the case being reported on, or where identification protects the innocent from exposure to unjustified suspicion.

4.8. Reporting on children, it is considered good press conduct to assess the implications that media focusing could cause in each case. This also pertains when the person in charge or parent, has agreed to exposure. As a general rule the identity of children should not be disclosed in reports on family disputes or cases under consideration by the childcare authorities or by the courts.

4.9. Be cautious when reporting on suicide and attempted suicide. Avoid reporting that is not necessary for meeting a general need for information. Avoid description of methods or other matters that may contribute to provoking further suicidal actions.

4.10. Exercise caution when using photos in any other context than the original.

4.11. Protect the credibility of the journalistic photograph. Photos used as documentation must not be altered in a way that creates a false impression. Manipulated photos can only be accepted as illustrations if it is evident that it in actual fact is a picture collage.

4.12. The use of pictures must comply with the same requirements of caution as for a written or oral presentation.

4.13. Incorrect information must be corrected and, when called for, an apology given, as soon as possible.

4.14. Those who have been subjected to strong accusations shall, if possible, have the opportunity to simultaneous reply as regards factual information. Debates, criticism and dissemination of news must not be hampered by parties being unwilling to make comments or take part in the debate.

4.15. Those who have been the subject of an attack shall have the chance to reply at the earliest opportunity, unless the attack and criticism are part of a running exchange of views. Any reply should be of reasonable length, be pertinent to the matter and seemly in its form. The reply can be refused if the party in question has rejected, without an objective reason, an offer of presenting a contemporaneous rejoinder on the same issue. Replies and contributions to the debate should not be accompanied by polemic editorial comment.

4.16. Beware that digital publication pointers and links could bring you to other electronic media that do not comply with the Ethical Code. See to it that links to other media or publications are clearly marked. It is considered good press conduct to inform the users of interactive services on how the publication registers you, and possibly exploits your use of the services.

4.17. Should the editorial staff choose not to pre-edit digital chatting, this has to be announced in a clear manner for those accessing the pages. The editorial staff has a particular responsibility, instantly to remove inserts that are not in compliance with the Ethical Code.

Adopted by The Norwegian Press Association: 1936, 1956, 1966, 1975, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2015 og 2020 (01.01.2021).

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