Draft General Media Code of Practice for Samoa

PREAMBLE (Indicative draft)1
THIS Code is a voluntary charter to balance the rights and responsibilities of the Samoan media in a free and democratic society. It upholds both the rights of the individual and the public’s right to know. It embraces the traditional values of the Samoan way of life and the duty to hold public institutions to account, consistent with freedom of expression and the public interest in exposing corruption and malpractice.
The Code sets the benchmark for the high professional standards which all members of the Samoan media have a duty to maintain. It is the cornerstone of the system of self-regulation to which the media has made a binding commitment.
It is essential to the success of an agreed, voluntary code that it be honoured not only to the letter but also in the full spirit. It should not be interpreted so narrowly as to compromise its commitment to respect the rights of the individual, nor so broadly that it constitutes an unnecessary interference with freedom of expression or prevents publication in the public interest.
Editors, producers, publishers and broadcasting station managers have ultimate responsibility for implementing the Code and should take care to ensure it is observed rigorously by all media staff and external contributors, including non-journalists and advertisers, in broadcasts, publications, films, advertisements and online or DVD versions.
1.1i The media must take all reasonable care not to publish or broadcast inaccurate, misleading or distorted material, including modified photographs or other visual images, and deceptive advertisements.
1.1ii A significant or material inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion, once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published or broadcast.
1.1iii The media must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact in editorial output.
1.1iv Advertisements should be clearly distinguishable as such.
1.1v While newspapers and magazines are free to be partisan, broadcasters have a special duty of impartiality and balance.
1.1vi A publication or broadcaster must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
1.2 Opportunity to Reply
1.2i A fair opportunity to reply to material inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.

1.3i Private life: The media should take particular care to respect the private and family lives of individuals, their home, health, correspondence, and digital communications. Intrusions without consent would need to be demonstrably in the public interest.
1.3ii Children under 16 should be free from unnecessary intrusion. Material concerning a child’s private life should be published or broadcast only if there is some exceptional public interest other than the fame, notoriety or position of his or her family or guardian.
1.3iii Pictures: Individuals should not be photographed or filmed in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, without their consent, unless in the public interest.
1.3iv Grief or shock: In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and published or broadcast with due sensitivity. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.
1.3v Harassment: Journalists or broadcasters must not engage in harassment or intimidation. Unless in the public interest, they should not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals if asked to desist; or remain on their property when asked to leave.
1.4i Children’s welfare: A child under 16 must not be interviewed, filmed, or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent, guardian or similarly responsible adult consents.
1.4ii At school: Pupils must not be approached, filmed or photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities.
1.4iii In crime stories: The media should have particular regard for the potentially vulnerable position of children who are victims of, or who witness, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
1.4iv in sex cases: The media must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.
1.4v In incest cases: -
The child must not be identified.
The adult may be identified.
The word "incest" must not be used where a child victim might be identified.
Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.
1.4vi Payments: Minors should not be paid for material involving children’s welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child’s interest.
1.4vii TV and radio scheduling and films: Broadcasters and cinemas should take care to ensure that programmes or films scheduled for family audiences generally do not include language, images or content unsuitable for children. Where this is impractical, appropriate advance guidance must be given to allow parents to exercise appropriate control.
1.4viii Advertising material aimed at children should take particular care not to mislead them, disturb them by use of menacing images, encourage them into anti-social, aggressive or violent behaviour; or to compromise their own, or others’ safety; or to put undue pressure on parents to buy products.

1.5i Social issues: In dealing with issues of a culturally sensitive, shocking or emotionally painful, nature – such as atrocity, community unrest, violence, drug abuse, brutality, sadism, sexual salacity, or obscenity – the media should take care to present facts, opinions, and visual images with due sensitivity and discretion, subject to its duty to publish in the public interest.
1.5ii Reporting suicide: Care should be taken not to glorify or glamorise acts of suicide, and to avoid excessive detail of the method used, which might encourage imitative attempts.
1.5iii Clandestine devices and subterfuge: The media must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using misrepresentation or subterfuge, hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs, unless in the public interest.
1.5iv Hospitals: Journalists or broadcasters must identify themselves and obtain permission from a responsible official before pursuing inquiries in non-public areas of hospitals or similar institutions.
1.5v Confidential sources: Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information, until that source authorises otherwise. However, all reasonable attempts should be made to corroborate a story from other, on-the-record sources. Where the sole source is a confidential informant, an individual or organisation featuring significantly in the report should generally be offered an opportunity to respond.
1.5vi Plagiarism: It is unacceptable for editors or broadcasters to use material from rival media outlets without consent or proper attribution.
1.5vii Competitions should be conducted fairly and without favouring individual contestants.

1.6i Identification: In reporting crime or criminal cases, the media should not, unless it is both legally permitted and in the public interest –
· Name or in any way identify, without consent, victims of sex crimes;
· Identify any child aged under 16 accused of a criminal offence;
· Identify without consent relatives or friends of a person accused or convicted of a crime, unless they are relevant to the story.
1.6ii Glorifying crime: News reports and entertainment programmes should avoid glorifying or glamorising crime, violence or seriously anti-social behaviour.
1.6iii Payments must not be made to criminals or their associates for material which glorifies crime in general or exploits a particular crime, unless the information is in the public interest - such as exposing crime or corruption - and cannot be obtained by other means.
1.6iv Witnesses in active or likely criminal proceedings must not be paid or offered payment for information until the trial is over, unless – exceptionally - there is an over-riding public interest in obtaining material and it cannot be obtained by other means. Payment must never be conditional on the trial verdict and should be disclosed in advance to both the prosecution and defence.

1.7i The media must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
1.7ii Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability should be avoided unless relevant to the story.

1.8i Privileged information: Even if the law does not prohibit it, journalists should not use for their own profit material they receive ahead of its general publication, nor should they pass on such information for the profit of others.
1.8ii Inducements and gifts: Journalists and broadcasters should not accept any gift that abused the Samoan tradition of hospitality, by being intended – or likely to be perceived – as an inducement to influence their professional judgment.
1.8iii Personal interest: Where potential conflict arises over a journalist or broadcaster’s personal involvement in a story, because of family, village, financial or other close ties, he or she should disclose the interest to the editor, producer or publisher, so that the issue may be assigned, at the editor’s discretion, to a disinterested staff member.

1.9i The media should have due respect and sensitivity for Samoan culture, traditions, and values, consistent with upholding freedom of speech and conscience and subject to the media’s duty to hold all public institutions up to legitimate scrutiny in the public interest.
1.9ii Religious beliefs and institutions, while also subject to proper scrutiny, should be portrayed accurately, with due regard for the respect in which they are held by adherents. The gratuitous use of profane language in broadcasts or publications should be avoided.

1. 10i Exceptions to the rules of this Code may be allowed if they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest. This would include, for example:
· Detecting or exposing crime, corruption or serious impropriety or malpractice.
· Protecting public health and safety.
· Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.
· Upholding freedom of expression.

1.10ii The extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so, is a factor in deciding the public interest.
1.10iii Editors or broadcasters wishing to invoke the public interest must be prepared to demonstrate fully how the public interest was served.
1.10iv In cases involving children under 16; or victims of grief, shock, sexual assault or discrimination; or payments to witnesses in active criminal proceedings, editors and broadcasters must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to over-ride the normally paramount interest of the child or victim.

1 To be amended to include references to an adjudication process, following any agreement on the establishment of a Media Council or similar.


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