This Blog will comment on the Swaziland News Media with a particular emphasis on the ethical standards of the kingdom’s journalism. The best way to do this is to use the standards journalists in Swaziland set for themselves and to study how well they adhere to these.
The majority of Swazi journalists and other media practitioners are organised in professionals associations such as The Swaziland National Association of Journalists (SNAJ), which has a membership of 150 out of the estimated 200 journalists who are working in the country.
SNAJ itself has published a code of conduct and this provides a framework of reference to all practicing journalists in Swaziland, both full-time and freelance. The code is meant to ensure that members adhere to the highest ethical standards, professional competence and good behaviour in carrying out their duties. Its overriding concern is that members of the media should conduct themselves with a high sense of responsibility without infringing the rights of individuals and society in general.
The Code is divided into 19 Articles, an edited version of which follows:
Art 1: Peoples right to information (The duty of every journalist is to write and report, adhere to and faithfully defend, the truth. A journalist should make adequate inquiries, do cross-checking of facts in order to provide the public with unbiased, accurate, balanced and comprehensive information. The public must have unfettered access to all media).
Art 2: Social responsibility (Including a journalist may advise a survivor of a sexual offence to go for counselling).
Art 3: Professional integrity and conflict of interest (Journalists should not accept bribes and there should be no conflict of interest in the carrying out of the journalists’ duties.
Art 4: Plagiarism is unethical and illegal.
Art 5: Respect for privacy and human dignity (Journalists should respect the right of the individual, privacy and human dignity. Enquiries and intrusions into a person’s private life can only be justified when done in the public interest. A journalist should guard against defamation, libel, slander and obscenity. A journalist shall seek consent of the survivor before taking pictures or conducting interviews with survivors of sexual offences. In cases of minors, the consent of their guardians shall be sufficient. Evidence of the consent may be recorded electronically or documentary.)
Art 6: Respect for national and ethnic values (A journalist shall not originate material which encourages discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, colour, creed, gender or sexual orientation. Journalists should respect ethnic values of Swazi society unless they compromise good moral values or violate human rights.).
Art 7: Confidential sources (Journalists are bound to protect confidential sources of information).
Art 8: Suppression of news (Under no circumstances should news or a publication be suppressed unless it borders on issues of national security).
Art 9: Corrections (Whenever there is an inaccurate or misleading report it should be corrected promptly and given due prominence. An apology should be published whenever appropriate).
Art 10: Rejoinders (A fair opportunity to respond to issues should be given to individuals and organizations).
Art11: Information and pictures (A journalist shall obtain information, photographs and illustrations only by ethical means provided the use of other means can be justified).
Art 12: Separating comment from facts (While free to take positions on any issue, journalists shall draw a clear line between comment, conjecture and fact).
Art 13: Hate speech. (Journalists shall avoid by all means the publication of speech that might promote hatred, spite and conflict amongst the Swazi or any other nation.)
Art 14: Respect embargoes when they exist on stories.
Art 15: Survivors of sexual assault (Journalists shall avoid identifying survivors of sexual assault or any information that may lead to the identification of the survivor.
Art 16: Dealing with minors (Journalists shall protect the rights of minors and in criminal and other cases secure the consent of parents or guardians before interviewing or photographing them).
Art 17: Personal grief and distress (Journalists should exercise tact and sensitivity in seeking information and publication).
Art 18: News headlines and sensationalism (Newspaper headlines shall be fully warranted by contents of the articles they announce. Photographs shall give an accurate picture of an event not highlight an incident out of context. Journalists shall endeavour to avoid reporting on information that will result in secondary trauma.)
Art 19: HIV AIDS. There are ten sub sections to this article covering areas including the right to confidentiality and privacy; informed consent and the rights of children infected with HIV.