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German Press Code

(Stand 23. Juli 2004)

Drawn up by the German Press Council in collaboration with the Press associations and presented to Federal President Gustav W. Heinemann on December 12, 1973 in Bonn. (Updated version of March 3, 2005)

The freedom of the Press guaranteed by the Basic Law (Constitution) of the Federal Republic of Germany embraces independence and freedom of information, expression and criticism. Publishers, editors and journalists must in their work remain aware of their responsibility towards the public and their duty to uphold the prestige of the Press. They must perform their journalistic duties to the best of their ability and belief and must not allow their work to be influenced by personal interests or extraneous motives.
The Press Code embodies the professional ethics of the Press. These include the duty within the framework of the Constitution and constitutional laws to maintain the standing of the Press and speak up for the freedom of the Press.
The regulations pertaining to editorial data protection apply to the Press in gathering, processing or using information about persons for journalistic-editorial purposes. From research to editing, publishing, documenting and storing these data, the Press must respect people?s privacy and right to self-determination on information about them.
The professional ethics grant everyone affected the right to complain about the Press. Complaints are justified if professional ethics are infringed.

Respect for the truth, observance of human rights and accurate informing of the public are the overriding principles of the Press.

The publication of specific news and information in text and photographs must be carefully checked for accuracy in the light of existing circumstances. Its sense must not be distorted or falsified by editing, headlines or picture captions. Documents must be accurately reproduced. Unconfirmed reports, rumours or assumptions must be quoted as such.
It must be clear, or made so, that symbolic photographs are such.

Published news or assertions, particularly those related to persons, which turn out to be incorrect must be rectified promptly in an appropriate manner by the publication concerned.

Dishonest methods must not be used to acquire person-related news, information or photographs.

Agreed confidentiality is to be observed as a fundamental principle.

All those employed by the Press shall preserve the standing and credibility of the media, observe professional secrecy, use the right to refuse to give evidence, and not disclose the identity of informants without their express consent.

The responsibility of the Press towards the public requires that editorial publication is not influenced by the private or business interests of third parties or by the personal commercial interests of journalists. Publishers and editors must reject any attempts of this nature and make a clear distinction between editorial and commercial content.

The Press shall respect people’s private lives. If, however, the private behaviour of a person touches upon public interests, then it may be reported upon. Care must be taken to ensure that the personal rights of non-involved persons are not violated.
The Press shall respect people’s right to self-determination on information about them and guarantee editorial data protection.

It is contrary to journalistic decorum to publish unfounded claims and accusations, particularly those that harm personal honour.

Publication in words and photographs which could seriously offend the moral or religious feelings of a group of persons, in form or content, are irreconcilable with the responsibility of the Press.

The Press will refrain from inappropriately sensational portrayal of violence and brutality. The protection of young persons is to be considered in reporting.

No-one may be discriminated against due to a handicap or their membership of a racial, ethnic, religious, social or national group.

Reports on investigations, criminal court proceedings and other formal procedures must be free from prejudice. For this reason, before and during legal proceedings, all comment, both in reports and headlines, must avoid being one-sided or prejudicial. An accused person must not be described as guilty before final judgement has been passed. Court decisions should not be reported before they are announced unless there are serious reasons to justify such action.

Reports on medical subjects should not be of an unnecessarily sensationalist nature that could raise unfounded fears or hopes among readers. Research findings that are still at an early stage should not be portrayed as conclusive or almost conclusive.

The acceptance or granting of privileges of any kind which could influence the freedom of decision on the part of publishers and editors are irreconcilable with the prestige, independence and mission of the Press. Anyone accepting bribes for the dissemination of news acts in a dishonourable and unprofessional manner.

It is considered fair reporting when a public reprimand issued by the German Press Council is published, especially by the publications concerned.

The German Press Council