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Pakistan Observer - - IN­TER­NA­TIONAL -

The Fun­da­men­tals Ac­cu­racy and truth

Re­port the facts ac­cu­rately in a proper con­text with­out se­lec­tive use of ma­te­rial or de­lib­er­ate omis­sions. Sep­a­rate fact from opin­ion and not re­port ru­mours as fact. Main­tain the high­est stan­dards of ver­i­fi­ca­tion. The head­line and the lead para­graph must be sup­ported by the story and we must en­sure that back­ground in­for­ma­tion is cor­rect.

Ev­ery story must be cor­rectly, pre­cisely and trans­par­ently sourced. Only use anony­mous sources if we have no al­ter­na­tive or for se­cu­rity rea­sons and the story is suf­fi­ciently im­por­tant to jus­tify it.

Date­lines must be hon­est, and by-lined writ­ers must be where they say they are. Pho­tos and videos must not be staged, ma­nip­u­lated or edited to give a mis­lead­ing or false pic­ture of events. Graph­ics must be scaled cor­rectly to avoid giv­ing a dis­torted com­par­i­son of data. In­for­ma­tion used in graph­ics must come from trust­wor­thy sources and be thor­oughly checked.

Must not be in­flu­enced by the hype or pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing an event and should never ex­ag­ger­ate. Treat su­perla­tive claims such as first, big­gest, best and worst with the scep­ti­cism they de­serve.

Seek the truth and not pas­sively re­port in­for­ma­tion as it is pre­sented. Chal­lenge sources. Ac­cu­rately quote a politi­cian, but is he or she giv­ing cor­rect facts or telling the truth? Where did the aid worker learn the ca­su­alty toll? Are the num­bers cited in a speech cor­rect?

Re­port the news but should draw at­ten­tion to any in­con­sis­ten­cies and in­ac­cu­ra­cies in a news­maker’s com­ments.

In other words, pro­vide as clear and truth­ful cov­er­age of events as pos­si­ble. With the amount of ru­mour and noise cir­cu­lat­ing on­line and on so­cial net­works, the role of the main­stream me­dia of pro­vid­ing ac­cu­rate and ver­i­fied news, via iden­ti­fied and re­li­able sources, has never been more im­por­tant.

Bal­ance and fair­ness: Cov­er­age must be fair, im­par­tial and bal­anced. Must try to con­tact all sides of a story and ob­tain com­ment and re­ac­tion from those fac­ing crit­i­cism or ac­cu­sa­tions of wrong­do­ing. Un­less deal­ing with break­ing news, a per­son should be given rea­son­able time to re­spond. A sin­gle unan­swered phone call or email is in­suf­fi­cient. If not pos­si­ble reach the per­son in time, say so in the story and keep try­ing to elicit com­ment, up­dat­ing the story if ob­tained.

Pro­duc­ing bal­anced cov­er­age does not oblige the me­dia to give equal space to all sides of an is­sue. Do not have to re­peat hate speech, defam­a­tory com­ments and in­cite­ments to vi­o­lence or pro­pa­ganda. Do not quote views that con­tra­dict es­tab­lished facts when giv­ing back­ground in­for­ma­tion.

Reg­u­larly step back and ask one­self if cov­er­age in ques­tion re­ally is bal­anced and com­plete, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to sen­si­tive top­ics such as con­flicts or elec­tions.

Com­plaints and the right of re­ply Com­plaints made about cov­er­age should be dealt with them po­litely, calmly and promptly, even when the com­plaint is un­jus­ti­fied. When a com­plaint is jus­ti­fied cor­rect a fac­tual er­ror or of­fer to quote the ag­grieved party in a fresh story — which does not pre­clude re­turn­ing to the orig­i­nal source of the story for fur­ther com­ment.

In the case of com­plaints that touch on po­ten­tial le­gal is­sues, such as li­bel or breach of law,(a) ask the per­son to sub­mit the com­plaint in writ­ing and (b) re­fer the mat­ter to the man­age­ment for han­dling by le­gal de­part­ment.

One must not en­ter into cor­re­spon­dence with the per­son con­cerned be­yond ac­knowl­edg­ing re­ceipt of their com­plaint and say­ing that it has been trans­ferred to the rel­e­vant de­part­ment.Any­thing writ­ten or said, how­ever, well in­ten­tioned, can be used in fu­ture le­gal ac­tion.

Cor­rec­tions and kills

Cor­rect er­rors quickly and trans­par­ently. Do not set a time limit on cor­rec­tions - even if days or weeks have passed, fac­tual er­rors must be cor­rected and if nec­es­sary, the story killed and re­moved from the data­base. When in doubt, the jour­nal­ist should con­tact the chief edi­tor and le­gal de­part­ment for ad­vice.

Data jour­nal­ism Jour­nal­ists min­ing data must en­sure that the ma­te­rial is ac­cu­rate and orig­i­nates from a trust­wor­thy source. They must present the re­sult­ing con­tent in a neu­tral fash­ion. They must not present the data in a way that favours any par­tic­u­lar nar­ra­tive or in­di­cates bias. Graph­ics giv­ing data should be prop­erly scaled to avoid giv­ing mis­lead­ing im­pres­sions. Hand­outs Must clearly iden­tify all ma­te­rial re­ceived as hand­outs from gov­ern­ments, press ser­vices etc. and never present it as orig­i­nal work. The same rule ap­plies to pool re­ports.

Iden­ti­fy­ing your­self as a jour­nal­ist

Jour­nal­ists must iden­tify them­selves as such. They must not con­ceal or mis­rep­re­sent their iden­ti­ties with­out an over­rid­ing rea­son such as per­sonal safety, in which case the news man­age­ment should be in­formed.


We must ex­plain the cir­cum­stances un­der which we con­ducted an in­ter­view and say if there were any ground rules (which would re­quire prior ap­proval from the bu­reau chief, head of ser­vice or chief edi­tor). If it was a face-to-face in­ter­view, we should make that clear by giv­ing the lo­ca­tion and any colour el­e­ments that add to the story.

If the in­ter­view was con­ducted elec­tron­i­cally, we must say so, e.g. – XXX said in the in­ter­view, which was con­ducted by tele­phone/Skype call/ email/ Face­book mes­sen­ger etc.

This must be made clear from the very start of the series so that there is no dan­ger of

Never sub­mit the text of an in­ter­view or quotes for vet­ting although we can re-con­tact the in­di­vid­ual for clar­i­fi­ca­tion of any fac­tual points or un­clear quotes.


We must never present the work of oth­ers as our own. If we use ex­ter­nal ma­te­rial such as ex­tracts from the work of oth­ers, pick-ups from in­ter­views and other me­dia, the source must be fully iden­ti­fied and cred­ited. We must not vi­o­late copy­right.

Pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence

We must re­spect the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence and never sug­gest that be­cause an in­di­vid­ual has been ar­rested or charged that he or she is guilty.

Pro­tec­tion of sources

Jour­nal­ists have a duty to pro­tect the iden­tity of con­fi­den­tial sources and fix­ers and should never know­ingly put them at risk. Dig­i­tal sur­veil­lance is now com­mon­place and this should be taken into ac­count when work­ing on sen­si­tive sto­ries. If we prom­ise our sources con­fi­den­tial­ity, we must be pre­pared to ac­cept any le­gal con­se­quences that may re­sult.

Jour­nal­ists should never hand over their record­ings, notes or im­ages to a third party. If re­quested to do so they should in­form the chief edi­tor who will seek le­gal ad­vice if nec­es­sary. Re­spect for the law Jour­nal­ists should re­spect the laws of the coun­tries where they work and must not re­sort to il­le­gal means such as theft, mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion, steal­ing of pass­words, hack­ing or elec­tronic sur­veil­lance to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion. We can re­port on ma­te­rial whose ori­gin is legally ques­tion­able such as leaked clas­si­fied doc­u­ments, but we must take care to en­sure that we are not leav­ing our­selves open to po­ten­tial le­gal ac­tion. In such cases, the re­porter should con­tact the chief edi­tor who will con­sult with the le­gal de­part­ment if nec­es­sary.

Sources and At­tri­bu­tion

We have a duty to be as trans­par­ent as pos­si­ble in our re­port­ing so anony­mous sources should only be used to re­port in­for­ma­tion that we can­not ob­tain by other means. The use of anony­mous sources should be an ex­cep­tion, not the rule, and we must ex­plain in as much de­tail as pos­si­ble why we can­not iden­tify the source.

Be­fore grant­ing anonymity, we must con­sider the mo­ti­va­tions of the source and be wary of pos­si­ble ma­nip­u­la­tion.


We should never film or record peo­ple with hid­den equip­ment un­less there is an over­rid­ing pub­lic in­ter­est or if we have se­cu­rity or other le­git­i­mate rea­sons. It is for­bid­den to film or record some­one with­out their knowl­edge when the story con­cerns their pri­vate life or is in a pri­vate lo­ca­tion.

Use of quotes

We must re­port sources ac­cu­rately, with­out mod­i­fy­ing what was said or se­lec­tively us­ing quotes that mis­rep­re­sent the sense of the state­ment.

It is not our re­spon­si­bil­ity to cor­rect gram­mat­i­cal mis­takes or clumsy lan­guage. We can use a par­tial quote or para­phrase if nec­es­sary, although it is le­git­i­mate to quote ver­ba­tim a pub­lic fig­ure who mis­spoke.

We must never change the sense of a quote through edit­ing, ei­ther in text or video, and avoid us­ing el­lipses. With­out over­bur­den­ing the text, we should give com­plete quotes and limit par­tial quotes. If there is any room for doubt, we must ex­plain where and how we ob­tained the quote.

(This chap­ter is con­tained in AFP Ed­i­to­rial Stan­dard and Best Prac­tices—12.4.2016 and cir­cu­lated mid-May by Eth­i­cal Jour­nal­ism Net­work( EJN).

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