08 October 2008

IAPA approves document outlining guidelines for press responsibility

Madrid, Oct. 6, 2008. In a session of its general assembly members of the IAPA today approved IAPA Aspirations the organization developed over the last 3 years to meet the need for a definition of the manner in which the press should handle its responsibilities in a democratic society.

IAPA Aspirations approved by General Assembly in Madrid

Madrid, Oct. 6, 2008. In a session of its general assembly members of the IAPA today approved IAPA Aspirations the organization developed over the last 3 years to meet the need for a definition of the manner in which the press should handle its responsibilities in a democratic society. IAPA Aspirations and the standards it sets for the media complements the organization's seminal Declaration of Chapultepec which defined standards for freedom of the press and expression in 10 principles in 1994.

Representatives from media, universities, governments and ONGs met in San Jose, Costa Rica in 2006 for a Hemisphere Conference on Journalism Values for the 21st Century where participants first tackled the issues that are central to fair and just reporting such as definition of the role of the press, media independence, fairness and impartiality, accuracy, and protection of sources. A rapporteur report of the roundtable discussions, "Conversations on Journalism Values for the 21st Century" was published in 2007 and distributed to newsrooms and journalism schools throughout the Americas. A campaign is in place by the IAPA to introduce this new document over the next year.

Jack Fuller Tribune Publishing Co., chaired the committee working on the project since 2003. Other members included Alejo Miró Quesada, El Comercio, Lima, Perú, Armando González, La Nación, San José, Costa Rica, Bartolomé Mitre, La Nación, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Danilo Arbilla, Búsqueda, Montevideo, Uruguay, Diana Daniels, The Washington Post Company, Washington D.C., Earl Maucker, Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Edward Seaton, The Manhattan Mercury, Manhattan, Kansas, Gonzalo Marroquín, La Prensa, Guatemala City, Guatemala, Jayme Sirotsky, RBS, Rede Brasil Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil, Rafael Molina, El Dia, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and Raul Kraiselburd, El Día, La Plata, Argentina.

The text of IAPA Aspirations follows:


The IAPA assumes as principles for the defense of freedom of the press and of expression those established in the Declaration of Chapultepec. To that document is now added a letter of aspirations to serve as guide to the practice of journalism, recognizing the right of each medium of communication to establish its own ethical norms.

The Ten Principles of the Declaration of Chapultepec

1. No people or society can be free without freedom of expression and of the press. The exercise of this freedom is not something authorities grant; it is an inalienable right of the people.

2. Every person has the right to seek and receive information, express opinions and disseminate them freely. No one may restrict or deny these rights.

3. The authorities must be compelled by law to make available in a timely and reasonable manner the information generated by the public sector. No journalist may be forced to reveal his or her sources of information.

4. Freedom of expression and of the press are severely limited by murder, terrorism, kidnapping, intimidation, the unjust imprisonment of journalists, the destruction of facilities, violence of any kind and impunity for perpetrators. Such acts must be investigated promptly and punished harshly.

5. Prior censorship, restrictions on the circulation of the media or dissemination of their reports, forced publication of information, the imposition of obstacles to the free flow of news, and restrictions on the activities and movements of journalists directly contradict freedom of the press.

6. The media and journalists should neither be discriminated against nor favored because of what they write or say.

7. Tariff and exchange policies, licenses for the importation of paper or news-gathering equipment, the assigning of radio and television frequencies and the granting or withdrawal of government advertising may not be used to reward or punish the media or individual journalists.

8. The membership of journalists in guilds, their affiliation to professional and trade associations and the affiliation of the media with business groups must be strictly voluntary.

9. The credibility of the press is linked to its commitment to truth, to the pursuit of accuracy, fairness and objectivity and to the clear distinction between news and advertising. The attainment of these goals and the respect for ethical and professional values may not be imposed. These are the exclusive responsibility of journalists and the media. In a free society, it is public opinion that rewards or punishes.

10. No news medium nor journalist may be punished for publishing the truth or criticizing or denouncing the government.

Letter of Aspirations*

It is the task of journalism to seek and to disseminate information, ideas, and opinions exercising freedom of expression. In meeting that task, the profession enables every citizen to exercise that freedom fully and to maintain the right to information that is indispensable for reaching decisions: from those that concern the exercise of his or her civil sovereignty to those that allow him or her to live a full life in accord with his or her desires and legitimate ambitions.

To meet this objective, the press should be able to count on all guarantees that allow it to collect and disclose the news. An independent Judicial Power that assures respect for the inherent rights of the individual and that guarantees the strength of democratic institutions is essential. As a consequence, it is fitting for the press to promote the values of democracy and to defend freedom of expression, affirming the right of each individual to express himself or herself without fear of reprisal of any kind, whatever its origin.

The effectiveness of the journalist’s task will be determined by the level of confidence and the support of readers, who constitute the ultimate tribunal. To earn that credibility is a commitment for the press, obliging it to the highest level of transparency, independence and honesty. This responsibility must be at the forefront at the moment of deciding what should be published, and the press should be rigorous in its standards of verification. It ought never publish anything it knows to be inexact, in the same way that it cannot fall into the dishonesty of spreading information as its own, and original, when it is the work of another.

The press ought to acknowledge in a timely form its errors in describing events, and ought to be prepared to publish critical information and critical analyses regarding journalism. The press should be open to publishing opinions that differ with the point of view of a journalist or of a publishing entity, as well as reports of events that can harm its own interests, if those opinions and reports are in accord with the criteria applied to other news: public interest and accuracy.

Editors ought to offer to the persons and institutions implicated in the news the opportunity to make known their version of events in order to approach as close as possible to the truth and to guarantee pluralism and diversity. The same incident can be considered or interpreted in various manners. The press serves the public best when it presents a rich variety of points of view and always seeks out the greater number of sources of information, even those that some might prefer to ignore or conceal.

It is indispensable for the public to be aware of these factors to differentiate clearly among what is advertising, what is information, and what is opinion. The press and journalists ought to avoid conflicts of interest, whether they be political, financial, or other in nature. They should be responsible even in cases in which conflict is merely apparent. And when conflict does exist, or is inevitable, it must be made public to prevent it from affecting editorial judgment.

Consulting the greatest number of sources, and identifying them, contributes to transparency and enriches the credibility of the press. But at times there are circumstances that require anonymity of sources, although they must never be used lightly. Anonymity ought to be used to protect sources only when the information cannot be obtained in any other way.

The press, given the task it undertakes, cannot renounce the reporting of matters that affect public interest and common good, but it should take care not to wound persons and institutions unnecessarily, always assuring the supreme right of citizens to receive information.

* The official version is the Spanish version and this translation was by Margaret Sayers Peden