Media Ethics

1    Accuracy, balance and fairness
1.1    Media outlets have a duty to be balanced, impartial and fair in the treatment of news and current affairs. This implies that media outlets report and interpret news and current affairs honestly, and take care not publish or broadcast content which is inaccurate or distorted, or which may mislead or confuse readers, viewers or listeners.
1.2    If a significant inaccurate, misleading or distorted statement is published or broadcast, it should be corrected promptly, with due prominence and as close as possible in terms of place and time to the original statement and, if appropriate, a right of reply should be given to any individual or organization directly affected by the inaccuracy.
1.3    Broadcasters should not ‘editorialise’ (that is, express partisan views which may be taken as those of the broadcaster) while print media outlets should limit editorialising to explicit editorial content (i.e. this should be avoided in news and current affairs reporting).
1.4    For content which appears in a regular pattern (i.e. a repeat broadcast or a column in a newspaper), it is balance may be achieved across the series, rather than in every individual programme or article. For other content, balance achieved over a reasonable period of time is acceptable. ‘Authored’ content which presents an individual’s personal view should be clearly identified as such.
1.5    Media outlets should report fairly the result of any legal action brought against them or any legal or regulatory judgement made against them.

2    Politics and elections
2.1    Media outlets should aim to reflect the diversity of political opinion in society and to enable free and open debate on matters of public concern. Coverage of the positions and views of political parties should broadly reflect their representation in society, particularly during election campaigns.
2.2    Content published or broadcast by or on behalf of political parties should always be identified as such.
2.3     Media outlets should not allow active politicians – including individuals who have been elected or are running for an elected position or who are employees or office bearers of political parties – to appear as newscasters, interviewers or reporters in news programmes and, in other contexts, the party allegiance of active politicians should be clearly identified. This obligation is of particular importance during elections.

3    Leaked and restricted content and the protection of sources
3.1    Where media outlets receive leaked official and other content, for example from politicians or civil servants, it is their professional duty to publish or broadcast this content, where this is in the public interest and where they are legally allowed to do so. This Code supports that duty.
3.2    Media outlets have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information and to respect confidences knowingly and willingly accepted in the course of their work. This Code supports that obligation.
3.3    In cases of national emergency, media outlets may wish to limit disclosure of sensitive information in order to avoid danger to life (e.g. of armed-services personnel in wartime) or to public safety. This Code supports media outlets’ right to make such choices.
3.4    Embargoes on the release of content until a certain time which are imposed by the originator of that content (such as an embargo on a press release) should be respected unless the originator makes the content public, after which media outlets may also publish or broadcast it.
3.5    The laws of copyright and intellectual property should be observed, recognising that these allow for extracts or quotations from works to be carried in the media as long as attribution is given.

4        Identification and attribution of content
4.1    Media outlets should make a clear distinction between fact, comment and speculation. Care should be taken over the use of recognised media figures, such as newscasters, in other programme contexts and especially in advertisements.
4.2    Content which has been provided to media outlets by government, by other official sources, by commercial concerns, by campaigning organisations or by members of the public should, subject to the obligation to on confidential sources, be identified as such.
4.3    Where this is likely to play a positive role in the control or alleviation of natural disasters, media outlets may wish to transmit official announcements, instructions or advice; in this case, their nature and origin should be made clear.

5    Privacy and the public interest
5.1    The publication or broadcasting of information about the private or family lives of individuals without their consent is acceptable only where this is justified in the public interest.
5.2    Normally, consent should be obtained before a recording or picture is taken of an individual in a private place, defined as a place where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This is without prejudice to the dissemination, in the public interest, of images of individuals where it is impractical to obtain consent, for example in a crowded location. When such content is used to illustrate a specific point, care should be taken not to associate an identifiable individual with a potentially damaging implication (such as a medical statistic or an extreme political opinion).

6    Grief, bereavement and distress
6.1    Media workers should approach people in extreme distress or suffering from personal grief or shock with sensitivity and discretion. This is without prejudice to the right of media outlets to report on legal proceedings, including investigations into crimes and procedures taking place before courts and other bodies with the power to impose legally binding remedies.

7    Harassment, pursuit and covert recording
7.1    Media outlets should not seek interviews or information by intimidation, harassment or coercion.
7.2    Media workers should not, unless this is justified in the public interest, use deception, including by using people who are close to the individual to get information from them orpersist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist or remain on their property when asked to leave, or follow people in these cases.
7.3    The use of covert technical recording tools, such as concealed cameras or microphones, to obtain covert recordings is not legitimate unless the content so gathered: is of legitimate public interest; is essential to the credibility and authority of the piece; and could not have been obtained or obtained safely by any other legitimate means; and the practice has been explicitly approved by a senior editor, provided that this latter requirement may be waived in emergency situations.
7.4    In set-up situations, such as ‘candid camera’ formats in television entertainment, where a specific individual’s behaviour is recorded without their knowledge or prior warning, their consent should be sought before the content is transmitted. Its use without their permission can be justified only if this is necessary to make an important point of public interest, and this should be approved at a senior editorial level.
7.5    Individuals should be told when a telephone conversation is being recorded for media purposes, except when the provisions for covert recording apply.

8    Subterfuge
8.1    Media outlets should normally use straightforward means to obtain information, identifying themselves as journalists and their organisation. The use of a false identity or similar techniques is justified only where disclosure is in the public interest and the content could not have been obtained by any other means.

9    Interviews

9.1    Conventional interviews should be arranged, conducted and edited fairly and honestly. Interviewees are entitled to know in advance the format and subject (although not necessarily the detailed content) of the interview, and whether, for broadcasters, it will be live or recorded.
9.2    If a prospective interviewee attempts to impose conditions on an interview (for example by refusing to appear with other interviewees, by insisting that the contribution not be edited or by demanding a list of questions for vetting in advance), the media outlet may withdraw the invitation. Any conditions which are accepted may be made clear to the audience.
9.3    Anyone has an absolute right to refuse to take part in a programme or interview. If they do so, their refusal should be described to the audience in neutral terms (such as ‘declined our invitation’ or ‘was unavailable for comment’). The media outlet may publish or broadcast the known views of a non-participant, provided this is done in a fair and balanced way.
9.4    The presentation and/or editing of an interview should not distort or misrepresent the views of the interviewee, or suggest that he or she said something he or she did not.
9.5    There should be sound public interest reasons for allowing an interviewee to be presented anonymously.
9.6    ‘Doorstepping’, i.e. catching people unaware for an interview, should be resorted to only when a direct approach has failed provided that where a direct approach might lead to the suppression of public interest information this requirement may be waived.

10    Discrimination
10.1    Media outlets should avoid any discriminatory, derogatory or patronising reference to people’s race, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation or preference, age, physical or mental disability or illness.
10.2    The characteristics listed above (race, colour, etc.) should not be identified in media content except where this is directly relevant or adds significantly to readers’, listeners’ or viewers’ understanding. Particular care should be taken regarding references to vulnerable minorities.
10.3    Media outlets are free to report and comment on all matters of public interest, but they should take care not to encourage or promote racial, ethnic or sectarian hatred or discord, including by one-sided reporting on ethnic tensions.

11    Religion
11.1    Media outlets should respect the special place which religions are likely to hold in the lives of their adherents. Sensitive and balanced treatment of religious themes is particularly important in a multi-faith society like Myanmar, and media outlets should be aware of the offence which can be caused to believers by casual, gratuitous and expletive references to religious figures.
11.2    Religious programmes which are broadcast on television or radio should not proselytise or attempt to influence the audience by preying on their fears, by making claims about individuals or groups which cannot be substantiated, or by denigrating the religious beliefs of others.

12    Strong language
12.1    The gratuitous use of strong swearwords or obscene or blasphemous language should be avoided. The dissemination of such terms is justified only where it is essential to the audience’s understanding, including because it forms part of a direct quotation, or to the dramatic development of a story.

13    The involvement of children

13.1    Children (see notes for definition) should not be interviewed in the absence of, or without the consent of, a parent or other adult responsible for the child, unless this is justified in the public interest, including because the child does not have a parent or guardian.
13.2    Children should not be approached or interviewed at school without the permission of the headmaster or headmistress or concerned teacher.
13.3    The dissemination through the media without consent of content about a child’s private life cannot be justified solely by the fame, prominence or position of his or her parents.
13.4    Children should not be paid or otherwise compensated (for example by giving a gift) to obtain content relating to the child’s welfare, and parents and guardians should not be paid or otherwise compensated for content about their children or wards, unless this is clearly in the child’s interest.

14    Victims of sexual crimes

14.1    Victims of sexual crimes should not be identified, or content published or broadcast from which their identity is likely to be inferred, and children should not be identified where they are appearing as witnesses in sexual offence cases, unless this is permitted by law and can also be justified in the public interest.
14.2    Reports of cases alleging sexual offences against a child may identify an involved adult but may not identify the child or include facts which imply a close relationship between an accused adult and a child victim, unless this is permitted by law and can also be justified in the public interest.

15    Portrayal of sexual conduct

15.1    When reporting on or portraying sexual activity or conduct, media outlets should be sensitive to the danger of offending public decency or the feelings of the audience, especially before the watershed.

16    Portrayal of violence in broadcasting

16.1    Broadcasters should be able to justify the realistic portrayal of violence or the threat of violence as being essential, in its content and intensity, to the integrity of the programme. In other words, they should be able to show that ‘sanitising’ or removing the violent content would undermine the programme’s coherence, completeness and/or honesty. Especial care should be taken where there is a risk that portrayal of violence might fuel further violence.
16.2    Detailed and/or prolonged depiction of violence should not be broadcast through the media, particularly where the practices are capable of easy imitation and involve articles or substances readily available to children, such as domestic knives or household chemicals. Similar restrictions apply to the portrayal of suicide or attempted suicide.

17    Scheduling considerations, ‘labelling’ and on-air warnings in broadcasting

17.1    Content unsuitable for children should not be broadcast at times when large numbers of children may be expected to be viewing or listening. The ‘watershed’ time after which this expectation may be progressively relaxed is 22:00. This provision also applies to trailers and promotions which are broadcast before 22:00, regardless of when the actual programmes are to be broadcast.
17.2    Where acquired programmes have been given a suitability classification at origin, this should be reviewed and edited for appropriateness in the Myanmar context and then included in promotions and trailers and shown before or at the beginning of transmission of the programme. Media outlets may also attach such classifications to their own programmes and to unclassified acquired programmes. In all cases, an appropriate warning should be broadcast before or at the beginning of any programme containing content which is likely to be disturbing or offensive to the average viewer or listener, or harmful to children, bearing in mind the nature of the media outlet, the time of transmission and the likely audience.

18    Crime and anti-social behaviour

18.1    Crime and anti-social behaviour, especially where it involves violence, should not be glamorised or reported or portrayed in a manner which is likely to encourage imitation or experimentation.
18 .2    Relatives of people accused or convicted of crime should not normally be identified unless this is directly relevant.

19    Kidnapping and hi-jacking

19.1    No information should be published or broadcast which is likely to endanger lives in, or prejudice attempts to deal with, a kidnapping or a hi-jacking.

20    Demonstrations and civil unrest

20.1    Media outlets should be aware that media coverage can influence events and that their presence at the scene of a demonstration or civil unrest may be exploited by elements in the crowd.
20.2    Live coverage of demonstrations and disturbances should be placed in context and should, where these incidents involve sensitive matters, such as race relations, be balanced in nature.

21    Relations with the police and other authorities

21.1    Media workers should not appear to act as direct agents of the police or other authorities since this could call into question their editorial independence or put the safety of their staff at risk.
21.2    This Code supports the principle that content which has not been published or broadcast should not be released to the authorities except where required by law, including in response to a court order.

22    Payment in criminal cases

22.1    Payments should not be made, directly or indirectly, to individuals who have been convicted of or have confessed to crimes, or to their associates or relatives, for information related to those crimes.
22.2    No payment or offer of payment should be made, directly or indirectly, for information to any person expected to be a witness in criminal proceedings until the proceedings are brought to a final conclusion by whatever means.
22.3    Payments of this kind may very exceptionally be allowed where this is justified in the public interest and where the content cannot be obtained by any other means.

23    Advertising, product-placement and ‘undue prominence’

23.1    Advertisements should be clearly distinguished from other media content, normally by a visual device or a jingle.
23.2    Advertising should normally be confined to paid-for advertising space or time (‘commercial breaks’). Product placement within other media content in return for payment or other considerations is not acceptable. Where reference is made within programmes or articles to commercial products or services, they should not be given greater prominence than is justified by purely editorial considerations.
23.3    Advertising content should respect the principles of ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’. Advertisements should observe similar criteria to editorial content in terms of taste, decency and social responsibility. It should not disparage identifiable competitors or other products and any comparisons should be based on facts which can be substantiated. Testimonials or endorsements should be genuine and relate to the endorser’s personal experience.

24    Competitions

24.1    Media outlets should ensure that, as regards media coverage of competitions, there is no collusion between the media outlet and contestants which results in an advantage for any contestant over any other.


25    Personal interest and influence
25.1    People engaged in the media should not allow personal or family interests to influence them in the conduct of their professional duties.
25.2    They should not allow themselves to be influenced by any person through an offer of payment, gift or other advantage, or by advertising or commercial considerations.

26    Financial journalism

26.1    People engaged in the media should not use financial information received in their professional capacity for their own or their families’ profit, or pass it on to others, before it becomes publicly available.
26.2    They should not comment on financial holdings in which they or their families have an interest without disclosing that interest to their editor and, where appropriate, to the audience.
26.3    They should not buy or sell financial holdings about which they have published or broadcast recently or on which they are about to comment.

27    Other considerations of content and treatment for broadcasters

27.1    Subliminal techniques (the use of images and/or sounds of very short duration, of which the viewer or listener may not be consciously aware) should not be used in any context. Care should also be taken over the use of strobe light effects, which can aggravate certain medical conditions.
27.2    If a programme features a hypnotist, he or she should not be shown performing straight to camera. Demonstrations of exorcism or of occult practice are not permitted in news and current affairs programming, except where they are the subject of a legitimate investigation. Other programmes containing such content should not be scheduled before the 22:00 ‘watershed’.

28. NOTES

1. Children
Unless otherwise specified in this Code, childrenmeans individuals who are less than 18 years old. People aged 18 and over are regarded as adults.

2. The Public Interest
As indicated in this Code, in some cases media behavior which is otherwise in breach of this Code may be justified by reference to an overriding public interest. In such cases, the Council will undertake a balancing of the public interest and the interest protected by the Code standard, to see which is dominant. The list of legitimate public interests is not closed, but some leading examples are: the detection, exposure or prevention of crime, corruption or serious impropriety; the protection of public health and safety; preventing the public from being misled on an important matter; and satisfying an overriding public right to know. Revealing the private affairs of public figures is legitimate where this is relevant to their performance in, or fitness for, their public roles.
It may be noted that ‘in the public interest’ is not the same as ‘of interest to the public’. Breach of this Code is not justified by mere curiosity. It is up to the media outlet to demonstrate that, in all of the circumstances, their behavior was justified by reference to a legitimate and overriding public interest. In cases involving children, an exceptional public interest will be required to override the otherwise dominant interest of the child.

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