May 25, 2016
Kabul: After months of nationwide consultations, Afghan journalists approved the national code of ethics which is intended to promote the highest work quality and to ensure the independence and accountability of journalists and media organizations.
Journalists' support organizations and media outlets let by Afghanistan Journalists Federation had extensively worked on the code in order to come up with a comprehensive national set of ethics be acceptable for all media community in Afghanistan. The code which was approved during a big gathering of journalists in Kabul is considered a guide that encourages all who engage in journalism to take responsibility for the information they provide.
The code reflects the viewpoints of over 400 journalists from across Afghanistan and is designed in six chapters such as accountability, impartiality, balanced, reduction of risk, authenticity and professional behavior at work. The need to develop codes of journalism in Afghanistan was felt following consistent criticism by the Afghan government and some corners of society that journalists needed a better ethical or professional framework.
President Ashraf Ghani commended the completion and finalization of the code and termed it a good step forward. In a message to the gathering, President Ghani said: “The struggle of journalist leaders and organizations for preparing the ethics and standards of journalism will not only help them commit themselves to journalistic manners but also protect journalists from possible vulnerability,”
He said after the passage of 15 years, it was now the time for reviewing and assessing weaknesses and drawbacks. “We are a country in the region that has no journalist in its prisons. The government always considers media as a need to give information," he noted.
Syeda Muzhgan Mustafawi, the Deputy Minister of Information and Culture told the gathering that there are around 1,500 media outlets across the country and there is a need to also pay attention to quality in the area of journalism.
Mohammad Wais Khetab, Deputy Director of the Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) said that the journalists bear responsibility before the society in general, and that ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.
He added that freedom of the media is one of Afghanistan's biggest achievements in the past 15 years; however little attention is paid to quality and standards in this area and these new ethics are moral guidelines and standards against which media employees can compare their professional work.
In a bid to boost accountability, the code outlines certain work principles including identifying sources clearly, providing time for the accused criminals to express views, to avoid insulating individuals, acknowledging mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently and never deliberately distort facts or context.
The code ensure the independence of journalists as it encourages them to avoid activities that undermine credibility of journalists such as special offers, gifts and bribes should be rejected by journalists, as well as to avoid self-censorship and to prefer public interest over personal.
Based on the code, journalists should not bow down to direct and indirect pressure from government officials, individuals and groups and should also practice caution for their own safety. The code also stresses the need for balanced reporting. Journalists will publish information or report when it is confirmed by a credible source; avoid distortion of information or invading someone's privacy, giving proper time to the all parts in the report.
The code guides journalists to avoid interviewing underage children who are victims of violence without permission of their family. It also calls on media employers to provide safe working environments for their workers especially for female workers and to avoid any forms of discrimination.