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of Conduct for Zimbabwe media practitioners
Media Council of Zimbabwe
June 09, 2013
of this Code is to provide a set of common professional standards
of conduct for media practitioners and media institutions in Zimbabwe.
and media institutions should abide by these standards and the public
is entitled to expect that they will do so. There should be a remedy
for those harmed by media conduct that violates these standards.
This Code will be applied and enforced by the Media Complaints Committee.
In this Code: “media institution” means any institution
in Zimbabwe, whether in the public or private sector, that disseminates
news to the public through the medium of a newspaper and/or other
written and electronic publication or through electronic broadcasting.
“media practitioner” means a reporter, editor, radio
and television programme producer and presenter employed by a media
institution or a freelance reporter or columnist who is a stringer
or writes columns for a media institution.
This Code will govern the conduct of media practitioners and media
institutions that have agreed to be bound by this Code and to submit
to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Voluntary Media Council
a) Media practitioners must maintain the highest professional and
ethical standards. They must carry out their functions of informing,
educating and entertaining the public professionally and responsibly.
b) Media practitioners must defend the principle of the freedom
of the media to freely access, collect and disseminate information
and to publish comments and criticisms. They must oppose censorship,
suppression of news and the dissemination of propaganda.
a) Media practitioners and media institutions must report and interpret
the news with scrupulous honesty and must take all reasonable steps
to ensure that they disseminate accurate information and that they
depict events fairly and without distortions.
b) Media practitioners and media institutions must never publish
information that they know to be false or maliciously make unfounded
allegations about others that are intended to harm their reputations.
c) When compiling reports media practitioners must check their facts
and the editors and publishers of newspapers and other media must
take proper care not to publish inaccurate material. Before a media
institution publishes a report, the reporter and the editor must
ensure that all the steps that a reasonable, competent media practitioner
would take to check its accuracy have in fact been taken.
d) Special care must be taken to check the accuracy of stories that
may cause harm to individuals or organisations or to the public
interest. Before publishing a story of alleged wrongdoing, all reasonable
steps must be taken to ascertain the response of the alleged wrongdoer
to the allegations. Any response from that person must be published
together with the report setting out the allegations where possible.
e) Media institutions must endeavour to provide full, fair and balanced
reports of events and must not suppress essential information pertaining
to those events. They must not distort information by exaggeration,
by giving only one side of a story, by placing improper emphasis
on one aspect of a story, by reporting the facts out of the context
in which they occurred or by suppressing relevant available facts.
They must avoid using misleading headlines or billboard postings.
of inaccuracy or distortion
a) If a media institution discovers that it has published a report
containing a significant inaccuracy or distortion of the facts,
it must publish a correction at the earliest possible opportunity
and with comparable prominence.
b) If a media institution discovers that it has published an erroneous
report that has caused harm to the reputation of a person or institution
reputation, it must publish an apology promptly and with due prominence.
c) A media institution must report fairly and accurately the outcome
of an action for defamation against it.
Where a person or organisation believes that a media report contains
inaccurate information or has unfairly criticised the person or
organisation, the media institution concerned must give the person
or organisation a fair opportunity to reply so as to enable that
person or organisation to correct any inaccuracies and to respond
to the criticism.
a) A clear separation should be made between comment and opinion.
b) A comment or expression of opinion must be a genuine and honest
comment or expression of opinion relating to established fact.
c) Comment or conjecture must not be presented in such a way as
to create the impression that it is established fact.
Media practitioners and media institutions must not publish or suppress
a report or omit or alter vital facts in that report in return for
payment of money or for any other gift or reward.
Media practitioners and media institutions must not suppress or
distort information which the public has a right to know because
of pressure or influence from their advertisers or others who have
a corporate, political or advocacy interest in the media institution
Hatred or violence
a) Media practitioners and media institutions must not publish material
that is intended or is likely to engender hostility or hatred towards
persons on the grounds of their race, ethnic origin, nationality,
gender, sexual orientation, physical disability, religion or political
b) Media institutions must take utmost care to avoid contributing
to the spread of ethnic hatred or political violence.
Reporting of elections
a) Media practitioners and media institutions must report on elections
in a fair and balanced manner.
b) Before reporting a damaging allegation made against a candidate
or a political party, a media practitioner should obtain, wherever
possible, a comment from the candidate or party against whom the
allegation has been made especially where the allegation has been
made by an opposing candidate or an opposing political party.
c) A media practitioner or media institution must not accept any
gift, reward or inducement from a politician or candidate.
d) As far as possible, a media practitioner or media institution
should report the views of candidates and political parties directly
and in their own words, rather than as they are described by others.
e) A journalist must take care in reporting the findings of opinion
polls. Any report should wherever possible include details about
the methodology used in conducting the survey and by whom it was
Reporting of police investigations and criminal court cases
a) In our law a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty
in a court of law. The media must therefore refrain from publishing
articles prejudging the outcome in criminal cases or seeking to
influence the outcome of the cases.
b) Media institutions are entitled to inform the public about the
arrest of suspects by the police and the trial of persons accused
of crimes. They should not, however, publish the names of suspects
until the police have filed formal charges against them, unless
it is in the public interest to do so before formal criminal charges
c) Where a media institution has begun to report a criminal case,
it must follow up and report subsequent developments in the case.
For example, it is grossly unfair to report that a person has been
charged with murder and then fail to report that the person was
acquitted. The report of the subsequent developments must be given
a) It is normally wrong for a media practitioner to intrude into
and to report upon a person’s private life without his or
b) Reporting on a person’s private life can only be justified
when it is in the public interest to do so. This would include;
(i) detecting or exposing criminal conduct;
(ii) detecting or exposing seriously anti-social conduct;
(iii) protecting public health and safety;
(iv) preventing the public from being misled by some statement or
action of that individual, such as where a person is doing something
in private which he or she is publicly condemning.
c) Media practitioners may probe and publish details about the private
moral behaviour of a public official where this conduct has a bearing
upon his or her suitability as a public official.
Intrusions into grief or shock
a) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries should
be carried out and approaches made with sympathy and tact.
b) Media practitioners or photographers making enquiries at hospitals
or similar institutions should normally identify themselves to a
responsible official and obtain permission before entering non-public
Interviewing or photographing children
a) Media practitioners should not interview or photograph children
under the age of sixteen in the absence of, or without the consent
of, a parent or an adult who is responsible for the children.
b) In interviewing and photographing children in difficult circumstances
or with disabilities, special sensitivity and sympathy must be used.
c) Children should not be approached or photographed while at school,
creche or similar institution without the permission of the appropriate
Children in criminal cases
Media institutions must not publish the names of any person under
sixteen arrested by the police or tried in the criminal courts.
Victims of crime
Media institutions must not identify victims of sexual assaults
or publish material likely to contribute to such identification
unless the victim has consented to such publication or the law authorised
them to do so.
Innocent relatives and friends
Media institutions should generally avoid identifying relatives
or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime unless the reference
to them is necessary for the full, fair and accurate reporting of
the crime or the legal proceedings.
Surreptitious gathering of information
a) Media practitioners should use open methods of gathering information
in which they clearly identify themselves as media practitioners.
Generally they should not obtain or seek to obtain information or
pictures through surreptitious methods such as misrepresentation,
deception, subterfuge or undercover techniques.
b) Surreptitious methods of information gathering may only be used
where open methods have failed to yield information in what is public
interest. These methods may thus be employed where, for example,
they will help to detect or expose criminal activity or will bring
to light information that will protect the public against serious
threats to public health or safety.
a) Media institutions must not prejudice the legitimate national
security interests of Zimbabwe and place at risk members of the
Defence Forces who are on active military duty.
b) This provision does not prevent the media from exposing corruption
in security or defence agencies or from commenting upon levels of
expenditure on defence.
Media practitioners must not engage in plagiarism. Plagiarism consists
of making use of another person’s words, pictures or ideas
without permission and without proper acknowledgement and attribution
of the source of those words, pictures or ideas.
Protection of sources
a) Where a person has agreed to supply information only on condition
that his or her identity remains confidential and the media practitioner
agrees to this condition, the media practitioner must respect this
undertaking and refuse to reveal the identity of the source.
b) However, the media practitioner may tell the source that his
or her identity might have to be revealed if it becomes clear in
court that this information is needed to prevent or expose serious
the VMCZ fact
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