Swaziland Journalists’ Code of Ethics

In 2002 the Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ), in coordination with the Swaziland Editors Forum and  practising reporters and editors, developed and approved a code of conduct to ensure professional standards were maintained by all journalists in the country.

The code was updated in 2005 to include clauses on the coverage of HIV/AIDS and gender issues. However, at the moment no organisation exists to ensure the code of ethics is adhered to. Therefore SNAJ currently relies on willing editors in newsrooms to make sure journalists know about — and adhere to — the code. For more background, see Dr Richard Rooney’s ‘Swazi Media Commentary’ blog.

SNAJ Code of Ethics

ARTICLE 1: People’s Right to Information
1. The duty of every journalist is write and report, adhere to and faithfully defend the truth.
2. A journalist should make adequate inquiries, do cross-checking of facts in order to provide the public with unbiased, accurate, balanced and comprehensive information.
3. The public must have unfettered access to all media.

ARTICLE 2: Social Responsibility
1. In collecting and disseminating information, the journalist shall bear in mind his/her responsibility to the public at large and the various interests in society.
2. A journalist may advise a survivor of a sexual offence to go for counseling.
3. A journalist has a responsibility to make a follow-up on stories unless circumstances warrant otherwise.

ARTICLE 3: Professional Integrity and Conflict of Interest
1. Journalists should not accept bribes or any form of inducement to influence the performance of his/her professional duties.
2. There should be no conflict of interest in the carrying out of the journalist’s duties.
3. Journalists should not, unless under understandable circumstances hide their identity by avoiding the by-line.

ARTICLE 4: Plagiarism
1. A journalist should not plagiarise because it is unethical and illegal.
2. Where there is need to use another’s material, it is proper to credit the source.

ARTICLE 5: Respect for Privacy and Human Dignity
1. Journalists should respect the right of the individual, privacy and human dignity.
2. Inquiries and intrusions into a person’s private life can only be justified when done in the public interest.
3. A journalist should guard against defamation, libel, slander and obscenity.
4. A journalists shall avoid identifying the exact place of survivors in sexual offences.
5. A journalist shall seek consent of the survivor before taking pictures or conducting interviews with survivors of sexual offences. In cases of minors, the consent of their guardians shall be sufficient. Evidence of the consent may be recorded electronically or documentary.

ARTICLE 6: Respect for National and Ethnic Values
1. A journalist should not originate material which encourages discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, colour, creed, gender or sexual orientation.
2. Journalists should respect ethnic values of Swazi society unless they compromise good moral values or violate human rights.

ARTICLE 7: Confidential Sources
1. Journalists are bound to protect confidential sources of information.

ARTICLE 8: Suppression of News
1. Under no circumstances should news or a publication be suppressed unless it borders on issues of security or is in the public interest to do so.

ARTICLE 9: Corrections
1. Whenever there is an inaccurate or misleading report, it should be corrected promptly and give due prominence. An apology should be published whenever appropriate.

ARTICLE 10: Rejoinders
1. A fair opportunity to respond to issues should be given to individuals and organizations.
2. Any report or write-up affecting the reputation of an individual or an organization without a chance to reply is unfair and must be avoided by journalists.

ARTICLE 11: Information and Pictures
1. A journalist shall obtain information, photographs and illustrations only by ethical means, provided use of the other means can be justified only by public interest. However, a journalist is entitled to exercise a personal conscientious objection to the use of such means.
2. A journalist shall reveal his/her identity when seeking information or taking pictures of victims of sexual offences and further explain the purpose of his/her interview.

ARTICLE 12: Separating Comments from Facts
1. While free to take positions on any issue, journalists shall draw a clear line between comment, conjecture and fact.

ARTICLE 13: Hate Speech
1. Journalists shall avoid by all means the publication of speech that might promote hatred, spite and conflict amongst the Swazi or any other nation.

ARTICLE 14: Respect Embargoes
1. Journalists should observe embargoes on stories.

ARTICLE 15: Survivors of Sexual Assault
1. Journalists shall avoid identifying survivors of sexual assault or any information that my lead to the identification of the survivor.

ARTICLE 16: Dealing with Minors
1. Journalists should protect the rights of minors and in criminal and other cases secure the consent of parents or guardians before interviewing or photographing them.
2. Journalists shall:
2.1 uphold the rights of vulnerable children.
2.2 strive to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct in reporting children’s affairs.
2.3 be sensitive and accurate when reporting issues involving children.
2.4 consider carefully the consequences of reporting any information governing children.
2.5 avoid visually or otherwise identifying children unless it is overwhelmingly in the interest of the child.
2.6 seek independent verification of information provide by children and take special care to ensure this takes places without putting child informants at risk.
2.7 endeavour to avoid the use of sexualized images of children.

ARTICLE 17: Personal Grief and Stress
1. In case of personal grief or distress, journalists should exercise tact and sensitivity in seeking information and publication.

ARTICLE 18: News Headlines and Sensationalism
1. Newspaper headlines shall be fully warranted by contents of the articles they announce.
2. Photographs and telecasts shall be given an accurate picture of an event no highlight an incident out of context.
3. Journalists shall endeavour to avoid reporting on information that will result in secondary trauma.

ARTICLE 19: Ethical Guidelines in Reporting on HIV and AIDS for Swaziland  Media
It is recognized that the actions of the media have real consequences on people’s lives. This is more so in the area of reporting on HIV and AIDS where harmful reporting may result in negative implications for the people concerned and promote stigma and
discrimination. Reporting HIV and AIDS is a special area that requires separate uidelines for reporting on the epidemic. This guide aims at complementing the Swaziland National Association of Journalists Code of Ethics as well as in-house codes
and provides a standard of reporting HIV and AIDS.

ARTICLE 19.1: Gender, HIV and AIDS
1. Journalists shall avoid reporting on HIV and AIDS in a manner that will portray either sex as the sole carrier or cause of HIV and AIDS.
2. Journalists shall be aware of and be able to present the gender dimensions of HIV and AIDS bearing in mind that women are the most infected and affected gender.
3. Gender relations affect every aspect of the epidemic from prevention to transmission, care and support as well as treatment. This should be reflected in media reporting.
4. Journalists should also be aware of gender-based assumptions and prejudices and should guard against the continuous negative stereotyping.
5. Journalists shall guard against gender discrimination on assignments concerning HIV and AIDS.

ARTICLE 19.2: The Rights of People Living With HIV and AIDS
1. The right to privacy and confidentiality is recognized and shall apply to all persons.
2. In the context of reporting on HIV and AIDS, the following need to be taken into account:
a) The HIV status of an individual is private unless indicated otherwise.
b) All people have a right to bodily autonomy therefore the right to control personal information even where such information is contained in public or semi-public documents in inviolable.
c) Children have a right to privacy.

ARTICLE 19.3: Confidentiality
1. The name or photograph of an individual with HIV should not be published without the person’s consent.

ARTICLE 19.4: Informed Consent
1. A journalist will clearly identify himself/herself when interviewing or photographing people living with HIV and AIDS.
2. The purpose of the interview or photograph and the context in which these may be utilized and the potential ramifications for the individual, their family and their children shall be stated.
3. Journalists shall ensure that persons interviewed have disclosed their status to their partners and immediate family (to be defined by the interviewee).
4. Where possible, informed consent shall be obtained in the person’s own language.
5. Promises that cannot be upheld shall be avoided.
6. Consideration shall be given as to whether people living with HIV and AIDS are in a position to provide informed consent.
7. Journalists, photographers and camera-persons shall be sensitive to the dangers of implying or placing a person in a situation that may imply HIV status.
8. These guidelines shall apply even where organizations working in the area of HIV and AIDS have facilitated media interviews.

ARTICLE 19.5: Exceptions Allowed
1. It is recognized that there shall be exceptions where the right to privacy, which is not an absolute legal right, may be set aside. Confidentiality may be breached where there is an identifiable risk to an identifiable person.
2. Where issues are considered to be of public interest, informed consent may be set aside. The exception may be invoked under the following circumstances:

a) detecting and exposing crime
b) detecting and exposing anti-social behaviour
c) detecting and exposing issues of public health and safety
d) preventing the public from being misled
e) detecting and exposing hypocrisy and falsehoods by public figures and

ARTICLE 19.6: Interviewing People Living with HIV and AIDS
1. Journalists who may be ill must take special precautions as they present a health risk when coming into contact with persons whose immune systems may be compromised. In such circumstances, it is advised that interviews be postponed.
2. Where possible, people should be interviewed in their own language.
3. Journalists shall not make payment directly to obtain interviews or material. Genuine humanitarian support may however be considered. This shall be provided through third parties to ensure they are separated from conditions of interview.

ARTICLE 19.7: The Rights of Children Infected and Affected by HIV
1. Journalistic activity that touches on the lives and welfare of children should be carried out with appreciation for the vulnerable situation of children.
2. Reporting on children shall uphold their right to privacy, confidentiality and informed consent as defined under 19.4. Consent shall be confirmed by the children and responsible adults, guardians or carers.
3. Journalists and media organizations should strive to maintain the highest standard of ethical conduct in reporting children’s affairs.
4. Journalists shall strive for standards in excellence in terms of accuracy and sensitivity when reporting on issues involving children.
5. Journalists shall avoid programming and publication of images that intrude into the space of children with information that is damaging to them.
6. Journalists shall avoid the use of stereotypes and sensational presentation that promote journalistic material involving children.
7. Journalists shall consider carefully the consequences of publication of any material concerning children.
8. Journalists shall guard against visually or otherwise identifying children unless it is demonstrably in the public interest.
9. Journalists shall ensure independent verification of information provided by children and take special care to ensure this takes place without putting child informants at risk.
10. Journalists shall avoid the use of sexualised images of children.

ARTICLE 19.8: Rights and Responsibilities of Journalists in Reporting HIV and AIDS
1. Access to Information: Media have a right to access information especially where such information is deemed to be in the public interest.
2. Legitimate criticism of a public officer: Criticism is permissible where this relates to the execution of their duty.
3. Advocacy Journalism: Media are justified in motivating their own views, as such it is the duty and responsibility of reporters to use advocacy journalism especially where the actions of stakeholders are viewed as unreasonable or not objective. However, in doing so, journalists shall be careful not to twist the facts.
4. Conflict of interest: Individual journalists shall disclose whether there is a conflict of interest especially when receiving gifts or sponsorship from organizations, institutions or corporations.
5. Act independently: Journalists shall maintain a healthy distance from activists, government and other organizations, institutions and corporations.
6. Accuracy: Journalists shall ensure that all reports are accurate through keeping themselves informed of current scientific information relating to HIV and AIDS and by participating in training programs. Where media are unsure of facts, these should be verified by obtaining assistance of experts.
7. Informed reporting through providing context: Statistics should be placed in context taking into account and acknowledging the underlying historical, racial, cultural and socio-economic factors that fuel the epidemic.
8. Balance: Reports should be balanced not only in relation to content but also in terms of placement of stories between positive and critical reports.
9. Sensationalism: Journalists shall guard against being sensationalistic especially in relation to the use of language, headlines, captions and banners, especially where such headlines may result in offering false hope of cures or perpetuating stigma and discrimination.
9.1 Sources: Journalists shall ensure that proper sourcing, including at least two sources per article, and protect the identity of their sources.
10. Diversity and non-discrimination: In media reporting of HIV and AIDS issues, journalists are encouraged to take into account cultural norms and values.
11. Scepticism: When reporting claims by government organization or drug companies on special deals, new treatment, drug trials, vaccine developments etc, journalists shall take special consideration of claims of cures and ensure these are substantiated by peer-reviewed articles published within medical journals or through obtaining the views of experts on the topic of concern. It is of public interest to alert the public of false claims of cures so as to prevent harm.

ARTICLE 19.9: Language, HIV and AIDS: The following is a guideline on the use of language in media reporting on HIV/AIDS
At all times, media should strive to use language that is sensitive and non-discriminatory.

1. HIV and AIDS: HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS is clinically defined as the stage when a person’s CD4 cell count falls below 200. A person can live for many years prior to the onset of AIDS. Journalists are encouraged to distinguish between HIV and AIDS.
2. People Living wtih HIV/HIV Positive: People Living With HIV and AIDS (PLWA) or HIV positive are preferred rather than victim, sufferer and HIV/AIDS carrier.
3. HIV epidemic is preferred to the terms AIDS scourge or plague which is considered sensationalistic and may fuel panic, discrimination and hopelessness; adding to the perception that those with HIV and AIDS are to be avoided.
4. HIV antibody test, CD4 cell count test, viral load Test are preferred to the term ADIS test. An HIV (antibody) test detects the antibodies which are produced within three to eight weeks of infection. CD4 cell count measures the strength of the immune system and the viral load test measures the amount of viral particles in the blood. Theses tests are used to measure the progress of HIV and AIDS in the body.
5. Specify the fluids involved in the transmission of HIV: semen, breast milk, blood, vaginal fluid. Not all bodily fluids transmit HIV.
6. Contract HIV is preferred to catch HIV as no-one can catch HIV.
7. Innocent: the term innocent is discouraged as no-one chooses to contract HIV, no-one deserves to get HIV and suggests that someone is guilty.
8. Sex worker is preferred to the term prostitutes which is derogatory, insulting, value-laden with negative connotations.
9. Gay/homosexual/men who have sex with men/same sex: it is advisable for the journalists to check with the person concerned which term would be most appropriate.

Click here for a simplified version of the SNAJ code of ethics.

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