First, this Resolution makes a distinction between news and opinions: news should be based on truthfulness, ensured by appropriate means of verification and impartiality in presentation. Opinions, on the other hand, are necessarily subjective and therefore they cannot be made subject to the criterion of truthfulness, although they need to be expressed honestly and ethically.

According to the CoE’s Parliamentary Assembly, the media have an ethical responsibility towards citizens and society and a very important role in the formation of citizens' personal attitudes and the development of society and democratic life.

Then, the Assembly reflects on the right to information as a fundamental human right. The owner of the right is the citizen, who also has the related right to demand that the information supplied by journalists be conveyed truthfully - in the case of news - and honestly - in the case of opinions, without outside interference by either the public authorities or the private sector. With regard to the media, a distinction must be made between publishers, owners, and journalists.  In this corporate structure, freedom within the media must also be protected and internal pressures prevented. Moreover, the target audience must be considered as individuals and not as a mass.

The Resolution also delves into the function of journalism and its ethical activity. It considers that participation would be impossible if information on public affairs were not available to citizens. Journalism should not attempt to create or shape public opinion. Particular attention is dedicated to investigative journalism. Moreover, the Assembly stresses the necessity of respecting the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy as well as the right of reply and the media outlet’s duty to correct false or erroneous statements. Furthermore, journalists must be guaranteed decent pay and proper working conditions and facilities. They should avoid any kind of connivance liable to affect their independence and impartiality. With regard to the use of new technologies, journalists must be required to get appropriate professional training.

The Resolution then analyses the rules governing editorial staff and the situations of conflict and cases of special protection. For instance, under the pressure of factors such as terrorism, discrimination against minorities, and so on, media and journalists have to oppose violence and hate-speech and to reject all forms of discrimination. Particular attention must be paid to children and young people.

Finally, the Assembly elaborates some suggestions concerning ethics and self-regulation in journalism, such as the foundation of self-regulatory bodies or mechanisms.

Tags: Ethics of journalism Access to information Political pressure European policies and legislation Hate speech Human rights Investigative journalism Media Law Privacy Fact-checking
Short title: Resolution on the Ethics of Journalism (CoE)
Publication Date: 30/06/1993
Research and Editorial Team: Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe