24. Social responsibility

The lines have been blurred because of the new media. Thanks to the Internet, these days there are as many “news” sources as there are individuals on social network sites, and more amateur news bringers than there are professional journalists. True journalists must review their work criteria and make them more demanding.

A journalist only militates for universal values

The journalist plays a major part in society but he’s not a political player in the common sense of the term, even though his social role does have political impact. The values at the core of his professional actions are universal : peace, democracy, freedom, solidarity, equality, human rights, education, women rights, children rights, social justice, etc. His writings contribute to social and political evolutions.

Though he champions for these values, he never does so for sectorial, individual or partisan interests. Else he’ll fall into role confusion, alienates his freedom and betrays the trust his readers hold in his independence.

If he becomes a member of a political party – which is his right as a citizen – he must forbid himself to use his writings for political propaganda. Editorial charts prevent such excesses. For example, they won’t allow a member of a party or a union to cover news related to this party or that union.

Opinion journalism is no exception to the rule

More often than not, a journalist championing humanist values will have to openly fight powers that deny them. Sometimes he pays that with his life. But even in case of extreme tensions, he mustn’t forego deontological rules that prevent him form disrespecting any kind of beliefs or forms of speech, including those that try to silence him. A journalist that believes in universal values will make a point to give his adversaries a voice and be tolerant with regards to them in his analyses and comments.

Reference text

  • Professional duty of French journalists charts (1918).
  • American journalists’s code of ethics (1926).
  • British journalists’s code of conduct (1938).
  • International Journalists Federation declaration of principle on the conduct of journalists, AKA « Charter of Bordeaux » (1954).
  • Charter of rights and duties and journalists, AKA « Charter of Munich » (1971).
  • German press code (Pressekodex, 1973).
  • UNESCO declaration on media (1983).
  • European Council resolution relative to ethics of journalism (1993).

« Caesar’s wife must be above reproach… »

The journalist, like Pompeia, Caesar’s second wife, repudiated on doubts of adultery, must be above reproach. His social accountability demands that his professional integrity never be doubted. Such a demand includes respect of privacy, of human dignity, refusal of treacherous methods, refusal to promote personal interests, but also any kind of complicity or compromise of principles.


These are very high expectations for professional journalism, but they’re also what makes our job noble, at least according to Seneca : “Magnam fortunam magnus animus decet”, “A noble soul fits a noble condition…”.