This response is increasingly being used to address questions from media that attempt to define a more granular view of a very wide-ranging law. The law itself has been two years, as Gulf News (640g) is so fond of saying, 'on the anvil'. One is left wondering if the regulations have been part of that process or are a process yet to come.
In the meantime, I've been doing a little ferretting in response to the interesting questions I've been starting to encounter regarding the roles of media in today's online world. For instance, what's a journalist and what's a blogger? How should the two behave? Should bloggers be held to the same standards as journalists? And if not, to what standards should they be held, if any?
I found the document below useful and would welcome comments on it. It was referenced by Reporters Sans Frontiers and has been produced by CyberJournalist.net, where it has generated a significant volume of comment and contribution.
Could this be a framework for the Middle East? Something to guide legislators along the same lines as the UAE Journalists' Association guidelines?
This text and the comments on it (over 300, so make a cup of tea first) can be referenced here.
A BLOGGERS' CODE OF ETHICS
Be Honest and Fair
Bloggers should be honest and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
• Never plagiarize.
• Identify and link to sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
• Make certain that Weblog entries, quotations, headlines, photos and all other content do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
• Never distort the content of photos without disclosing what has been changed. Image enhancement is only acceptable for for technical clarity. Label montages and photo illustrations.
• Never publish information they know is inaccurate -- and if publishing questionable information, make it clear it's in doubt.
• Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.
• Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
Ethical bloggers treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect.
• Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by Weblog content. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
• Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
• Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance.
• Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy.
• Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects, victims of sex crimes and criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
• Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
• Explain each Weblog's mission and invite dialogue with the public over its content and the bloggers' conduct.
• Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas.
• Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence content. When exceptions are made, disclose them fully to readers.
• Be wary of sources offering information for favors. When accepting such information, disclose the favors.
• Expose unethical practices of other bloggers.
• Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.