some basic principles
- The right of the public to be informed about how they can vote, the issues at play in the elections, the different parties, the candidates and their manifestos.
- The duty of journalists to inform the public and contribute to civic education. Explain the issues at stake in the elections, the practicalities of voting (who has the right to vote, how, when, where, who can be a candidate?), through voicers, actualities, “wraps” and special features, for example. Remember to provide clarification, contextual information and comparisons for the public.
- The freedom and the duty of the media to pull candidates up on their contradictions, to question them on their manifesto, their policy statements and their integrity.
- Impartial and balanced coverage. Journalists must report on parties’ manifestos and activities in a neutral, balanced manner and distinguish facts from commentary. Nevertheless, “balanced” does not mean “total equality of airtime”. If certain candidates cannot or do not want to speak, or are in very large numbers, it is better to present their characters, their backgrounds and their manifestos (voicers and interviews with their activists) and monitor the application of the rules imposed by the national regulatory authorities.
- Information put out over the airwaves is not retractable and can have serious consequences, including on human lives. Journalists must never incite hatred, violence or discrimination, but must respect the presumption of innocence, privacy and dignity of individuals.
- The information disseminated must be scrupulously checked, especially during the election period. It must be “sourced”. Do not pass on rumours or other attempts at manipulation.
Integrity means that journalists must:
- Stay independent of parties and candidates.
- Refuse attempts at corruption (whether financial or material).
- Be prepared to step aside and refrain from covering themselves any issues that could end up putting them in a position of conflict of interests (if they are an activist, if they have personal links with such and such a candidate).
- Not accept transport or other expenses offered by parties to cover their rallies, unless they are offered to all newsrooms. It is of course preferable for reports to be financed internally. Whatever the conditions under which you cover rallies, your right and your duty is to cover these events objectively.
- Not use underhand means to obtain information (for example, recording an interview with a candidate without their permission).
- Not pay or receive money in exchange for information.
- Inform interviewees that their remarks are intended to be broadcast and thus made public.
- Never indulge in plagiarism, quote the sources of information.
- Owners and managers of media must accept and support the principles of independence and the ethical rules of journalism, and not exert pressure on journalists out of political interests or ulterior motives.