Code of Ethics
The Journalists’ corporation signed several agreements with the journalists’ trade union (FNSI) and with other actors of the media world to regulate several aspects of the profession. We will briefly describe these instruments. For their content they can be considered as Codes of Ethics but the Italian Court of Cassation considered them as having legal status. Consequently, it is mandatory for professional journalists to respect them.
The Information and Advertisement Charter, signed in 1988, from the Journalists’ Corporation and several advertisement agencies, basically states that the difference between information and advertisement must always be clearly understandable.
The Charter of Treviso, signed in 1990, has the task of regulating the way media talk about children. It contains a series of provisions aimed at protecting the psychological development of children involved in news items. According to the Charter, children involved in news stories susceptible of damaging his reputation, must remain anonymous. Furthermore, the publication of all the elements that could lead to the identification of the child must be avoided. Also, the child must not be interviewed or drawn in broadcasting programmes that can damage his dignity or his psychophysical balance.
The Charter of Duties of Journalists was signed by the Journalists Corporation with the National Federation of the Italian Press (FNSI) in 1993. This document contains provisions related to different aspects of the journalistic profession. It advice journalists to respect individuals, avoid any form of discrimination, correct any mistake also by the means of the correction. It also contains provisions about the prohibition to publish violent or gruesome images and the necessity of safeguarding citizens’ privacy.
Sources according to the Charter must not be hidden to the public. In case of secret sources, though, the “professional secret” prevails and journalists are not forced to reveal their names.
The Deontology Code regards the handling of personal data in the practice of journalism. This Code is also part of the new “Unique Act on privacy” and its violation can cause a disciplinary sanction and also entail a civil action asking for punitive damages. The main task of the Code is to balance individuals’ right to privacy with both citizens’ right to information and press freedom. The Code states that when collecting personal data journalists always have to declare their identity, their profession and their objective. Exceptions are provided when declaring themselves could cause risks for their profession or making it impossible to practice their profession. Also the Code contains provisions about which stories can be considered of public interest , stating that in any case journalists have to respect the principle of “public interest” and don’t publish private details that are not indispensable for the information to be complete. As in the Treviso Charter, in the Deontology Code, also, there are provisions regarding the relation between minors and information specifically aimed at protecting underage people involved in news items.
The Economic and Financial Duties Charter, approved in 2005, basically provides a regulatory framework for journalists dealing with economic and financial information. This Charter has been made necessary by the fact that in Italy many publishers are also linked to other economic activities and this might cause a conflict of interest. For this reason, the Charter compels journalists to report correctly, without omissions and without any distortion, any news, also when those related to their publisher.
The Media and Sports Code is a code of auto regulation for journalists working in the field of sport programmes. The Charter of Rome (Deontology Code concerning asylum seeker, refugees, victims of human trafficking and migrants) has been adopted after a strong pressure by the UNHCR. The basis of the Charter is the need to respect the substantial factual truth, avoiding every form of discrimination. The Charter was necessary because of the frequent use of an inadequate terminology related to migrants in Italy, causing confusion and several episodes of discrimination.
In addition to the official Charters approved by the professional organizations, there also are some Codes of Ethics linked to singular newspapers.
Particularly, the Corriere della Sera Charter and the Repubblica Agreement on Rights and Duties of Journalists, set out the main ethical standards for journalists working in the two main national newspapers. Both the documents give particular importance to the independence of journalists and their responsibility towards their audience.
The Self-regulation Code of the Sole 24 Ore, signed by the journalists of the Sole 24 ore, the main economic newspaper in Italy, recalls the ethical principles for journalists working for this newspaper and also dedicates a particular space to the conflict of interest in which economic journalists can easily incur.