Media ethics refer to acceptable guidelines that govern the media, thereby promoting good morals and stipulated laws that set required standards. Ethics also help journalists and media institutions to assess their basic morals, political principles and rights.
In developing the ethical guidelines for radio and television stations in Zambia, provisions of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) Act of 2002 and IBA Amendment Act (2010) were relied on.
Part IV Section 24 of the IBA Amendment Act of 2010 provides expectations for the three categories of broadcasting licensees as follows:
The programming provided by a commercial broadcasting service shall subject to the conditions of the broadcasting licence and the provisions of this Act:
1. Reflect the culture, character, needs and aspirations of the areas specified in the broadcasting licence
2. Provide an appropriate amount of local or national programming
3. Include news and information programmes on a regional, and where appropriate, local significance
4. Include significant portions of Zambian drama documentaries and children’s programmes that reflect Zambian themes, literature and historical events and
5. Meet the highest standards of journalistic professionalism.
The programming provided by a community broadcasting service shall reflect the needs of the people in the community, including the cultural language and demographic needs shall:
1. Provide a community broadcasting service dealing specifically with issues that are not predominantly dealt with by the broadcasting service covering the same areas
2. Be informative, educational and entertaining
3. Focus on the provision of programmes that highlight grassroot community issues including developmental issues and general educational affairs, environmental affairs, local, international and current affairs reflective of local culture
4. Promote the development of a sense of common purpose and improved quality of life
(a) The media shall be obliged to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly.
(b) Only fair methods should be used to obtain news, photographs and documents except where overriding public interest justifies the use of other means. News shall be presented in context and in a balanced manner without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by distortion, exaggeration, misrepresentation, material omissions or summarization.
(c) Only what may be reasonably true, having regard to the sources of the news may be presented as fact and such facts shall be published fairly with due regard to context and importance. Where a report is not based on facts or is founded on opinions, allegations or supposition, it shall be presented in such manner as to indicate this clearly.
(d) Journalists shall rectify promptly any harmful inaccuracies, ensure that corrections and apologies receive due prominence and afford the right to reply to persons criticized when the issue is of sufficient importance.
(e) A media organization should usually seek the views of the subject of serious critical reportage in advance of publication, provided that this need not be done where the publisher has reasonable grounds for believing that by doing so, it would be prevented from publishing the report as where the evidence might be destroyed or witnesses intimidated.
(f) A media organization should make amends for publishing information or comment that is found to be inaccurate by printing/broadcasting promptly and with appropriate prominence a retraction, correction or explanation.
(g) Reports, photographs or sketches relative to matters involving indecency or obscenity shall be presented with due sensitivity towards the prevailing moral climate.
(h) A visual presentation of sexual conduct may not be published, unless a legitimate public interest dictates otherwise.
(i) Pornography shall not be published.
(j) The identity of rape victims and victims of sexual violence shall not be published without the consent of the victim, unless there is overriding public interest to do so.
(k) Children who are victims of sexual offences shall not be identified directly or indirectly, either through interviews with adults or description that may reveal their identity.
(l) News obtained by dishonest or unfair means, or by breach of confidence, should not be published unless a legitimate public interest dictates otherwise.
(m) In both news and comment, the media shall exercise exceptional care and consideration in matters involving the private lives and concerns of individuals, bearing in mind that any right to privacy may be overridden only by a legitimate public interest.
(n) Journalists must respect the moral and cultural values of the Zambian society.
(o) Journalists should respect the people’s privacy unless public interest demands otherwise.
(a) The media should avoid discrimination or discriminatory references to people’s race colour, ethnicity, religion, gender, physical or mental disability or illness, or age.
(b) The media should not refer to a person’s race, colour, ethnicity, religion, gender, physical or mental illness in a prejudicial or pejorative context, except where it is strictly relevant to the matter reported or adds significantly to the reader/viewer/listener’s understanding of that matter.
(c) The media have the right and indeed the duty to report and comment on all matters of legitimate public interest. This right and duty must, however, be balanced against the obligation not to publish material which amounts to hate speech.
A media organization is justified in strongly advocating its own views on controversial topics provided that it treats its audience fairly by:
(a) Making fact and opinion clearly distinguishable;
(b) Not misrepresenting relevant facts;
(c) Not distorting the facts in text or headlines.
(a) The media shall be entitled to comment upon or criticize any actions or events of public importance provided such comments or criticisms are fairly and honestly made.
(b) Comment by the media shall be presented in such manner that it appears clearly that it is comment, and shall be made on facts truly stated or fairly indicated and referred to.
(c) Comment by the media shall be an honest expression of opinion, without malice or dishonest motives and shall take fair account of all available facts which are material to the matter commented upon.
(a) Headlines and captions to picture shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the report or picture in question.
(b) Posters shall not mislead the public and shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the reports in question.
(c) Pictures shall not misrepresent or mislead nor be manipulated to do so.
The media has an obligation to protect confidential sources of information.
No payment shall be made for articles to persons engaged in crime or other notorious misbehaviour or to convicted persons or their associates, including family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues, except where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and the payment is necessary for this to be done.
Due care and responsibility shall be exercised by the media with regard to the presentation of brutality, violence and atrocities
(a) Access to the profession should be free. The professional level of future journalists should be as high as possible.
(b) Trainee journalists must undergo proper training under conditions agreed by the publishers and journalists unions.
(c) Appointments are restricted to qualified journalists, that is, persons who have minimum professional qualifications agreed by journalists unions and media organizations. Such qualified journalists should be recognized as such in Collective Agreements. Employers accept that it is the duty of the media in general and the employer in particular to reflect the society it serves.
(a) Journalists must have the right to act according to their conscience in the exercise of journalism.
(b) No journalist should be directed by an employer or any person acting on behalf of the employer to commit any act or thing that the journalist believes would breach his or her professional ethics adopted at national level or that would infringe the international code of principles for the conduct of journalism adopted by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). No journalist can be disciplined in any way for asserting his or her rights to act according to their conscience.
(1) Common minimum standards of editorial independence should apply in all media.
(2) These minimum standards must include:
(a) The editorial staff represents the moral and intellectual capital of publishing houses and broadcasting station.
(b) The right of the editorial council to be consulted on decisions which affect appointment and dismissal of the Editor in Chief.
(c) Definition of editorial policy and content of the paper/broadcasting station; personnel policies;
(d) Transfer/change of tasks of the journalists in the editorial department.
(e) The right of editorial council to be heard on matters of grievances concerning editorial policy.
(f) The right of a journalist to refuse an assignment, if the assignment proves to breach journalists’ professional ethics as laid down in the Code of Ethics.
(h) The right of the editorial staff to prevent interference of management of third parties on the editorial content.
(i) The right of journalists to equal pay and equality in career development.
You can complain against any radio or television station that has aired anything that, in your view, has breached the broadcasting ethical standards..
You can base your complaints on a breach of the code of professional standards
You can make a complaint within three months of the broadcast, failure to which the IBA cannot process your complaint. Radio and television stations are mandated by law to store information for up to three months.
You can address your complaint to:
The Director General
Independent Broadcasting Authority
Mass Media Complex
Alick Nkhata Road
P.O. Box 32475