Sorry, this is a long post.
There was another scurry of activity in Dubai last night as media gathered for a meeting with HH General Sheikh Mohammad and Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zayed Al Nahan last night. The news of the gathering, which ran big in media here today (with, oddly, the exception of Emirates Today), revolved around further clarifications of the position regarding the rights and responsibilities of media in the UAE. That position was certainly made clearer on the news that the UAE Journalists' Association had put forward a voluntary code of conduct which has been adopted by the leading daily newspapers in the country. That code is given below in full.
Although by no means the entire story or solution, the code is presumably an attempt to move in the direction of a self-regulating media. That attempt comes prior to the publication of the much anticipated new media law, which may well render the code of conduct redundant on many points. In the meantime, there is at least a level of guidance now available for journalists and others working in the UAE media industry.
The below text is a cut and paste of that available at Gulf News' website. I do find it interesting that the focus is consistently not on the rights, roles and credibility of journalism, but on what journalists should not do and how they should not behave or act.
The desire to reconcile a belief in media freedom and a capable media together with attitudes and requirements of a conservative, albeit highly tolerant, society in a region where media freedom is at best patchy is not an easy thing to manage. It is a process I have seen developing for something like 20 years now and it's like watching Eensy Weensy Spider...
The Code of Ethics
The undersigned, board members of the Journalists Association and editors in chief of newspapers and publications, and out of belief in our responsibility towards the public and society, and the basis of journalism, on top of which is commitment to the truth and principles of freedom, justice, values, ethics and respect of law, approve the “Journalism Code of Ethics" and undertake to:
1. Respect the truth and the right of the public to have access to the true and accurate information.
2. While performing his duty, the journalist is demanded to commit himself at all times to the principles of freedom and integrity in gathering and publishing stories. He should also voice fair and neutral comments and criticism.
3. A journalist must only publish facts from sources known to him, and must not hide any basic and important information, forge facts of falsify documents.
4. He should use only legitimate means to obtain information, photos and documents from original sources.
5. Publishing news and information of pictures must be examined carefully for accuracy, and their true meaning must not be altered by editing, title or photo comment. All documents must be edited accurately, and any uncertified reports, rumours or speculations must be reported as such. If re-edited or reproduced material was used as a symbolic picture, it should be made clear through the comment that it is not a documentary picture.
6. Journalists undertake to rectify any published information that proved to be wrong and harmful to others.
7. There should be no compromise in credibility.
8. Respecting privacy is a main principle in the profession and journalists should respect the privacy of individuals and not expose it by publishing any thing without the consent of those individuals. If personal conduct over crosses with public interest, such conduct may be covered without violating the personal rights of uninvolved individuals.
9. In regards to the news source, the code and charter stress that Professionalism and confidentiality should be strictly observed if the source demands anonymity. The journalist has every right to present evidence or expose their source without the source’s consent.
10. Journalists should not seek to provoke or inflame public feelings by any means or use means of excitement and deception or dishonest reporting. They should not use media organs for purpose of libel or slandering.
11. The edited publications should not be influenced by personal interests or businesses with a third party. Publishers and editors-in-chief must turn down any such attempts, and draw a clear line between reported stories and commercial articles or publications.
12. Journalists should be very vigilant to traps of discrimination and avoid involving themselves by any means in any stories hinting to discrimination of race, sex, language, faith or national and social backgrounds.
13. They must be aware that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty, thus names and photos of suspects should not be published until a final verdict is issued.
14. In crimes and issues dealing with children, names and photos should not be published.
15. Journalists must be very careful in their personal relationships with news sources so as these bonds can not impact the Partiality.
16. The media should refrain from publishing photos of brutal violence and respect the feeling of the public especially children.
17. Journalists are urged to avoid using offending and obscene language in their reports.
18. Islam is a basic and important component of UAE culture, values and traditions, and the respect of divine religions and traditions and values of nations takes centre stage at the mandatory code of ethics of the media and should not be offended or desecrated by any forms.
19. Human rights should also be respected and valued and should not be abused by the media under any pretext.
20. Plagiarism, ill-intention interpretation, libel, slandering, censure, defamation, allegation and accepting bribery to publish or hide information are all dangerous professional violations.
21. When using facts published by competitors, journalists must give credit to the competitor.
22. Competing for news, pictures and information is a right, provided practicing such competition is honest and clear and does not hinder the work of colleagues in competing publications.
23. A journalist has to do his best not to become part of a story, and to cover news not make them. While gathering information, a journalist may not present himself as anything other than a journalist.
24. Coverage of medical cases must not be sensational, as this can lead to spreading fear or unrealistic hope among readers. Publishing the first stage of results of researches and medical achievements must not be portrayed as final and undisputed.
25. Journalists must not acquire information or pictures through harassment, temptation or violence.
26. Accepting valuable cash and kind gifts may cause a journalist to be biased in his coverage and is considered breach of the code. This does not apply to souvenir gifts given to the public.