Code Of Ethics

Code Of Ethics

Zimbabwe Newspapers is an integrated newspaper publishing, broadcasting and commercial printing company.  It is a public company with 51 percent of its shares owned by the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust and the rest by pension funds, insurance companies, investment funds and individuals.

It has responsibilities to its audiences in print, online and broadcast platforms as well as advertisers, shareholders and employees. The company can fulfil its responsibilities by publishing and broadcasting content of the highest possible quality within the limits of commercial viability.  The first responsibility is to readers, listeners and viewers who attract advertisers and give value to shareholders and employees.

The general editorial policy of the group is:

  • Newspapers, both print and online, radio and television stations must be credible, giving readers information that is as accurate as possible, varified by its own staff or supplied by credible sources;
  • They must be as complete as possible publishing and broadcasting reports of the major local, national, regional and international events, sport or cultural.
  • Sensitivity must be exercised in the handling of sensational, gory and lurid stories and photographs.
  • The publications and broadcast stations are family-oriented, supporting the aspirations of all Zimbabweans and their collective goals, and generally those of the elected government of the day.
  • In exercising their judgment, editors shall take into account:
  1. The National Interest;
  2. The Public Benefit or Interest
  3. Family values on all its platforms.
  4. That Zimbabwean societies have their own mores and values which have to be recognized.

In order to ensure that these policies, and especially the first policy relating to credibility, can be implemented there is need for a Code of Ethics, professional integrity being the very core of any journalistic undertaking.

  1. All information from all sources will be checked and tested for accuracy to avoid errors arising from carelessness, sloppy reporting and lack of skill.
  2. Deliberate misrepresentation or distortion of facts is a punishable offence accordance with company’s Code of Conduct.
  3. Sources must be identified unless there are very good reasons. Such reasons must be made known to the Editor and there must be an explanation, if only a brief phrase, telling the reader why the source cannot be identified.  Readers are entitled to maximum information of where facts come from so they can assess the reliability of such information. Identification does not necessarily mean naming a source; “company spokesperson”, “police spokesman” or “spokesperson of the family” as well as “official statement” must of necessity be identified with the person as opposed to “a doctor who cannot be named for professional reasons”. s usually give adequate information for assessing credibility.  The reader, listener or viewer is entitled to know where the information is coming from.  Vague attributions such as “sources close to the company” or “highly placed sources” should be eschewed wherever possible.
  4. If a source requires total anonymity, find out why. Sometimes they will be trying to use our publications or broadcasts to push personal agendas.  In most cases information from such sources can be used to start an investigation, rather than just used in original form, and extra care must be taken to check and test the accuracy of such information. Don’t allow anonymous sources to make unsubstantiated comments about others or simply take cheap shots at others hiding behind the cover of anonymity.
  5. Often the implications of a set of facts will come from the writer of a story, rather than from a source. This should be made clear, using phrases as “this means” or “this implies” or “the likely result is”.  Keep in mind that the reader must know who is saying what.
  6. Writers and broadcasters must avoid prejudging issues when writing reports or broadcasting and should eschew personal advocacy in news and analytical pieces.
  7. Opinion, as opposed to analysis or exhibiting implications, must be kept out of news stories.
  8. Opinion and comment articles can obviously advocate certain courses of action, but the facts such opinion is based on must be accurate and such accuracy must be checked and tested.
  9. Headlines and teasers should be a fair and accurate reflection of the article they head or are designed to draw a reader’s attention to.
  10. Pictures and videos can be enhanced to make clear what is illustrated. But do not alter images and sound to mislead the public. Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information. Clearly label illustrations and re-enactments. In other words, when images or sound are altered this must be clearly stated as a photo illustration, graphic or staged video.
  11. Captions must be accurate and are the responsibility of the photographers.
  12. Errors should be acknowledged and corrected as soon as possible with, if necessary, a brief explanation of why/how the newspaper/radio/television
  13. Journalists should provide context and in so doing must not misrepresent or oversimplify so much that the truth is lost.
  14. The journalists must ensure the original context of all quotations or clips is maintained and that they communicate the original tone and meaning, even after editing.
  15. We have an obligation to gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
  16. The laws of the land regarding defamation/slander/libel requires journalists to keep their original written notes of any story for at least three (3) years, the maximum period during which an aggrieved person may still have the legal right to sue for story in any of our entities. It is therefore the absolute responsibility of the reporters and photographers to ensure that this is sacrosanct. Radio, television, cameramen and online reporters. To that end personnel responsible for knowledge centres across the company’s news products in particular must understand their responsibility in this regard and they are responsible for making sure that necessary records in the form of publications, cuttings, original tapes, video clips are filed accordingly.
  17. Zimpapers subscribes to gender equality. Every care shall be taken to ensure that this is reflected in our employment, publications and broadcasts. As much as possible, references shall be made to “spokesperson” instead of spokesman or spokesman.

 

  1. Every effort should be made to give those criticized by others or accused of misdeeds, an opportunity to comment on or to refute the information provided by others. Leaving a message to phone back is rarely adequate.  If necessary go to the person’s workplace or home to ensure that contact is made.  Refutation usually means that the original information is found to be false, so these efforts to contact the “other side” are covered by the prime directive to ensure accuracy as well as the ethical and legal requirement to give an opportunity to both sides.
  2. Analysis, the implication of fact, should be so far as possible balanced.

A story rarely has two sides. Balance is achieved by getting the many sides to a story. Worry about fairness and wholeness.

  1. It is illegal in Zimbabwe to identify minors involved in court cases or as the victims of crime. Identification goes beyond naming; so to say an unnamed child is the son or daughter of a named person is to identify them.  Generally say a Harare or Mashonaland East schoolgirl was raped, rather than give the school, suburb or district.  Editors can, where there is a clear public benefit, permit more detail without going as far as naming the child or giving positive identification.
  2. Adult victims of sexual crimes should not be named since society still looks down on these and does not regard them in the same light as victims of other violent crimes such as robbery. However, the victims may waive their right to this requirement. In that case, however, care must be taken to ensure that the accused are not identified unless they appear in court, not are they portrayed as guilty unless so found by competent courts only.
  3. Newspapers should be sensitive to the feelings of families of victims.
  4. Details of a sexual crime or a suicide are stressful to ordinary readers, listeners and viewers and need not be given. It is almost always adequate to say, for instance, a woman was raped in her office, or a man hanged himself in his kitchen, rather than go into the explicit details of how the assault or suicide took place.
  5. If anonymity is given, after due consideration, to a source then it is incumbent on the newspaper to preserve that anonymity. Systems should be set up so that only the actual reporter and the Editor know the identity of such sources to avoid inadvertent disclosure.
  1. Never plagiarize. Using another person’s analysis or interpretation can be considered to be plagiarism if not attributed.
  2. Do not stereotype people by gender, race, national origin, religion or the like. Every person is an individual and is responsible for their own misdeeds.
  3. Zimbabwe is a circular state. Admittedly, Christianity and its multitude denominations dominate. Reporters need to keep this fact in focus. They and editors must keep focused in the face of populist Pentecostal churches and will must ensure there is no element of bias in reporting about religion. Editors and reporters must ensure that the mushrooming of the “prophet phenomenon” does not give the impression of favoritism in our media as a whole.
  4. Be sensitive to religious and cultural views of those written about, even when you disagree with these or believe them them to be false. Be both accurate and sensitive.
  5. Be ever ready to question your own assumptions. Never impose your own values on the readers, listeners and viewers.
  6. Do not use underhand methods of gathering news. It is permissible for a reporter to act as an ordinary member of the public, so long as they say things like “people in the queue were told” or “the public saw” or whatever. It is not permissible for a reporter to dress up as a doctor or a priest, for example, or to tell a person they are interviewing that they are someone else or work for a different newspaper.
  7. Avoid undue intrusion into people’s privacy. Remember private people have greater right to keep to themselves information about themselves than public officers.
  1. Fact, analysis and opinion should be carefully labelled. Opinion has no place in a news report.  So far as possible opinion pieces and news stories should be on separate pages.
  1. Editors are responsible for applying the general policy of the company as well as this code to their newspapers. They should read this code and apply it in tandem with the Editorial Charter of Independence that they have signed.
  2. Editors and top management should not dissemble as to the ownership of the newspaper. There is nothing unethical about having the State or in our case the Mass Media Trust, owning the majority of shares so long as readers are aware of this, just as there is nothing unethical about anyone else owning a newspaper so long as this ownership is public. Zimpapers subscribes to the norm that there is nothing amiss in supporting a view, a political or government line or a political party, for that matter.

Whilst we encourage native advertising in our publication, we should distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Sponsored content must be clearly labeled.

Even if the medium changes, ethical practices remain the same. We are bound by the above ethics no matter where our stories are published or broadcast. The Social Media Policy provides extra clarity on how our employees should conduct themselves on social media and should be read together with this Code of Ethics and the company’s Code of Conduct.

J: In order to display the company’s dedication to professionalism each and every employee, in particular journalists, are required to use their emails as provided by the company for all their electronic business communication without exception. Every [email protected] e-mail address shall as of necessity, carry a company designed business card signature and a generic disclaimer and legal notice at the bottom in standard formats.