SOUTH AFRICAN PRESS CODE

Preamble

The press exists to serve society. Its freedom provides for independent scrutiny of the forces that shape society, and is essential to realising the promise of democracy. It enables citizens to make informed judgments on the issues of the day, a role whose centrality is recognised in the South African Constitution.


Section 16 of the Bill of Rights sets out that:


1. “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes:

a) Freedom of the press and other media;

b) Freedom to receive and impart information or ideas;

c) Freedom of artistic creativity; and

d) Academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.

 

2. “The right in subsection (1) does not extend to

a) Propaganda for war;

b) Incitement of imminent violence; or

c) Advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion,and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.”


The press strives to hold these rights in trust for the country's citizens; and it is subject to the same rights and duties as the individual. Everyone has the duty to defend and further these rights, in recognition of the struggles that created them: the media, the public and government, who all make up the democratic state.

Our work is guided at all times by the public interest, understood to describe information of legitimate interest or importance to citizens.

As journalists, we commit ourselves to the highest standards of excellence, to maintain credibility and keep the trust of our readers. This means always striving for truth, avoiding unnecessary harm, reflecting a multiplicity of voices in our coverage of events, showing a special concern for children and other vulnerable groups, and acting independently.

We adopt the following Press Code:


1. Gathering of news


1.1. News should be obtained legally, honestly and fairly, unless public interest dictates otherwise.


1.2. Press representatives shall identify themselves as such, unless public interest or their safety dictates otherwise.


2. Reporting of News


2.1. The press shall take care to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly.


2.2. News shall be presented in context and in a balanced manner, without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation, material omissions, or summarisation.


2.3. Only what may reasonably be true, having regard to the sources of the news, may be presented as fact, and such facts shall be published fairly with due regard to context and importance. Where a report is not based on facts or is founded on opinion, allegation, rumour or supposition, it shall be presented in such manner as to indicate this clearly.


2.4. 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 stated in such report.


2.5. A publication shall seek the views of the subject of critical reportage in advance of publication; provided that this need not be done where the publication has reasonable grounds for believing that by doing so it would be prevented from publishing the report or where evidence might be destroyed or sources intimidated. Reasonable time should be afforded the subject for a response. If the publication is unable to obtain such comment, this shall be stated in the report.


2.6. A publication shall make amends for publishing information or comment that is found to be inaccurate by printing, promptly and with appropriate prominence, a retraction, correction or explanation.


2.7. Reports, photographs or sketches relating to indecency or obscenity shall be presented with due sensitivity to the prevailing moral climate. A visual presentation of explicit sex shall not be published, unless public interest dictates otherwise.


2.8. Journalists shall not plagiarise.


3. Independence and conflicts of interest


3.1 The press shall not allow commercial, political, personal or other non- professional considerations to influence or slant reporting. Conflicts of interest must be avoided,as well as arrangements or practices that could lead audiences to doubt the press's independence and professionalism.


3.2 Journalists shall not accept a bribe, gift or any other benefit where this is intended or likely to influence coverage.


3.3 The press shall indicate clearly when an outside organisation has contributed to the cost of newsgathering.


3.4 Editorial material shall be kept clearly distinct from advertising.


4. Dignity, Reputation and Privacy


4.1. The press shall exercise care and consideration in matters involving the private lives and concerns of individuals. The right to privacy may be overridden by a legitimate public interest.


4.2. The press shall exercise care and consideration in matters involving dignity and reputation. The dignity or reputation of an individual should only be overridden in the following circumstances:


4.2.1. The facts reported are true or substantially true;


4.2.2. The article amounts to fair comment based on facts that are adequately referred to and that are true or substantially true;


4.2.3. The report amounts to a fair and accurate report of court proceedings, Parliamentary proceedings or the proceedings of any quasi-judicial tribunal or forum; or


4.2.4. It was reasonable for the article to be published because it was prepared in accordance with acceptable principles of journalistic conduct and in the public interest.


4.3. The identity of rape victims and victims of sexual violence shall not be published without the consent of the victim or in the case of children, without the consent of their legal guardians and it is in the best interest of the child.


4.4. The HIV/AIDS status of people should not be disclosed without their consent, or in the case of children, without the consent of their legal guardians, and only if it is in the public interest and it is in the best interest of the child.


5. Discrimination and Hate Speech


5.1. Except where it is strictly relevant to the matter reported and it is in the public interest to do so, the press shall avoid discriminatory or denigratory references to people’s race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth or other status, nor shall it refer to people’s status in a prejudicial or pejorative context.


5.2. The press has the right and indeed the duty to report and comment on all matters of legitimate public interest. This right and duty must, however, be balanced against the obligation not to publish material that amounts to:


5.2.1. Propaganda for war;


5.2.2. Incitement of imminent violence; or


5.2.3. Advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.


6. Advocacy


A publication is justified in strongly advocating its own views on controversial topics provided that it treats its readers fairly by:


6.1. Making fact and opinion clearly distinguishable;


6.2. Not misrepresenting or suppressing relevant facts; and


6.3. Not distorting the facts.


7. Comment


7.1. The press shall be entitled to comment upon or criticise any actions or events of public interest provided such comments or criticisms are fairly and honestly made.


7.2. Comment by the press 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.


7.3. Comment by the press shall be an honest expression of opinion, without malice or dishonest motives, and shall take fair account of all available facts which are material to the matter commented upon.


8. Children


The Bill of Rights (Section 28.2) in the South African Constitution states: “A child's best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.”


8.1. The press shall therefore exercise exceptional care and consideration when reporting about children under the age of 18. If there is any chance that coverage might cause harm of any kind to a child, he or she shall not be interviewed, photographed or identified unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents, or a public interest is evident.

 

8.2. Child pornography shall not be published.

Child Pornography is defined in the Film and Publications Act as: Any image or any description of a person, real or simulated, who is or who is depicted or described as being, under the age of 18 years, engaged in sexual conduct; participating in or assisting another person to participate in sexual conduct; or showing or describing the body or parts of the body of the person in a manner or parts of the body of the person in a manner or circumstance which, in context, amounts to sexual exploitation.


8.3. The press shall not identify children who have been victims of abuse, exploitation, or who have been charged with or convicted of a crime, unless a public interest is evident and it is in the best interests of the child.


9. Violence


Due care and responsibility shall be exercised by the press with regard to the presentation of brutality, violence and suffering.


10. Headlines, Posters, Pictures and Captions


10.1. Headlines and captions to pictures shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the report or picture in question.


10.2. Posters shall not mislead the public and shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the reports in question.


10.3. Pictures shall not misrepresent or mislead nor be manipulated to do so.


11. Confidential and anonymous sources


11.1. The press has an obligation to protect confidential sources of information.


11.2. The press shall avoid the use of anonymous sources unless there is no other way to deal with a story. Care should be taken to corroborate the information.


11.3. The press shall not publish information that constitutes a breach of confidence, unless a legitimate public interest dictates otherwise.


12. Payment for Articles


The press shall avoid shady journalism in which informants are paid to induce them to give the information, particularly when they are criminals - except where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and the payment is necessary for this to be done.