There is hardly anything that anyone can do without influencing somebody else; there is nothing that a
journalist can do in her or his line of duty without affecting somebody.
Journalists should fully understand and appreciate just how much power they have. That everything
they do in their professional lives influences people. That this influence can sometimes make or break a
person. And that this places a huge responsibility on everybody concerned.
A Code of Ethics and Conduct is the first and most important way of regulating the press and online
media (“the media”, for the purpose of this exercise). Editors and journalists often ask me for advice prior
to publication. My first question always is: What does the Code of Ethics and Conduct say? In most cases
the answer to this question solves the problem.
A Code of Ethics is an ethical compass without which the media are all at sea.
What follows is a discussion of the latest South African Code of Ethics and Conduct, section by
section and sentence by sentence, explaining why the issues contained in them are important and illustrating
the principles and consequences involved – in the hope that this would provide basic guidelines to
journalists for acting ethically at all times.