Apart from the weather forecast, journalism is all about seeking and reporting truth. In order to make wise decisions about welfare and warfare, a society needs accurate and comprehensive information and analysis, such as how many people Veena Malik has slept with and whether she will be loyal to her husband.

In line with these principles, Reporters without Editors has compiled the following code of ethics for the Pakistani media.

Truth and honesty

Fairness and honesty are the fundamental principles of reporting, but require courage that reporters in Pakistan cannot safely practice. A journalist must display professional integrity by expecting other journalists to follow these principles.

Journalists should:

- Never seek out subjects of public interest to investigate or report. Wait for the news to come to you.

- Never go out of your way to make a source because you might not be the best judge of their motives. Honest sources come to reporters.

- Use only one source.

- Never identify your sources, even if they came to you with a press release. It is your privilege. If you are going to justify using it, you will lose it.

- Always promise anonymity to your source, but identify them later on in the report to ensure credibility. Use the word ‘confirmed’ instead of ‘said’ to make them look like a separate source.

- Ensure that headlines, photographs and highlights do not represent what is written in an article. That would make them redundant. Oversimplification makes the best headline.

- Distort the contents of photographs, especially those of political rallies, to make sure there is fair representation of groups and parties that you think are being underrepresented in the mainstream media.

- Plagiarize background information. Wikipedia does not have an author. You are not stealing from anyone in particular. It is common human legacy.

- Ensure that they give a voice to the poor in their reports. (Journalists are among the poorest segments of society.)

- Blur the boundaries between fact and opinion, and news and advertisement. We live in a postmodern world of blurring boundaries.

Respect and rights

A reporter must treat other reporters as humans who deserve respect. However, this privilege should not be extended to non-journalists, or editors.

Journalists should:

- Film and photograph victims of grief or tragedy especially when they are crying. A good journalists does not let his emotions interfere with his reporting. Reporters should not offer any comforting words or gestures to such people. They should not remove the microphone in front of them. It is essential that they name your channel, for which they will need to see the logo on the mic.

- Show significant arrogance while gathering information. The police and the citizens need to understand that journalism is expected to cause harm and discomfort.

- Invade privacy and obstruct police investigations in order to assert that they have a right to do so in the greater public interest.

- Always identify survivors of sex crimes, especially if they are children. That will give a human angle to such stories.

- Always name criminal suspects before they have been formally charged. They should be featured on television, preferably live. A good journalist always asks suspects how they could carry out a horrendous act like the one he might be accused of. A right to fair trial is not more important that the public’s appetite for such information.

Freedom and accountability

Independent journalism requires freedom from any threat of accountability.

Journalists should:

- Not be paid a salary, and if they are, the salary should be as low as possible and delayed as long as possible. A good journalist must carry out their job not for monetary gains but for the public’s right to know.

- Cite their friends and relatives as anonymous sources without any prejudice that they might benefit from such reports.

- Not accept mistakes, even typographical. A good journalist never responds to legal notices.

Reporters without Editors is proud to state that this code of ethics has been voluntarily adopted by a large majority of journalists in Pakistan. Violations of this code have led to termination of staff members of a number of news publications and television channels.

 The author has a degree in Poetics of Prophetic Discourse and works as a Senior Paradigm Officer.

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