Thursday

The Swedish Journalists

But who is to guard the guards themselves? Juvenal from the Roman Empire asked himself this question some 2000 years ago, and history hasn’t changed all that much since then. One of the real powers and creator of public opinion in any open modern society is the media, which daily has the chance of shaping the minds of its readers and ordinary citizens. Regarding in what way and how and which of the news are being delivered the University of Göteborg has produced statistics in a study regarding the distribution of the Swedish journalists’ own political beliefs, of those who earn their living by delivering the news to the news consumers.
JMGdata no 1-2000 j – Journalist’s party sympathies

JMGdata’s first number is about the journalist’s party sympathies – the results
are based on the latest journalist survey, Journalist 2000.
The study is a representative poll where questions were answered in November/December 1999, the results are compared to results from JMG’s earlier surveys from the year 1989 and the year 1995.

31% of the journalists sympathize with the Left party.
27% of the journalists sympathize with the Social Democratic party.
10% of the journalists sympathize with the Green party.
In total the left oriented red/green block in Sweden in the year 1999 had 68% of all of the journalists’ sympathies. This is clearly a huge majority compared with the oppositional block, which doesn’t really reflect the numbers compared with the Parliament, where the red/green coalition block held about 50% of the seats. How daily news agencies mirror this, via independent daily news reports, one might as well leave behind and instead look at what actually is being presented in the news and in the personal chronicles which tend to have a great influence in shaping the public opinion.

The ethical codes
Code of Ethics for Press, Radio and Television in Sweden
Issued by Pressens Samarbetsnämnd, 2001

Pressens Samarbetsnämnd is a joint committee founded by the leading media organizations in Sweden; The Newspapers Publishers Association, The Magazine Publishers Association, The Union of Journalists and The National Press Club.

These four organizations are responsible for the charter of the [Swedish] Press Council and the standing instructions for the Press-Ombudsman. They all contribute to the financing of the Press Council and the Office of the Press-Ombudsman.

The concept of self-regulation means that the parties define the ethical and professional guidelines and see to it that these guidelines are respected.

CODE OF ETHICS FOR PRESS, RADIO AND TELEVISION

The press, radio and television shall have the greatest possible degree of freedom, within the framework of the Freedom of the Press Act and the constitutional right of freedom of speech, in order to be able to serve as disseminators of news and as scrutinizers of public affairs. In connection to this however, it is important that the individual is protected from unwarranted suffering as a result of publicity.

Ethics do not consist primarily of the application of a formal set of rules but in the maintenance of a responsible attitude in the exercise of journalistic duties. The code of ethics for press, radio and television is intended to provide support for this attitude.

I. RULES ON PUBLICITY

Provide accurate news
1. The role played by the mass media in society and the confidence of the general public in these media call for accurate and objective news reports.

2. Be critical of news sources. Check facts as carefully as possible in the light of the circumstances even if they have been published earlier. Allow the reader/listener/viewer the possibility of distinguishing between statements of fact and comments.

3. News bills, headlines and introductory sections must be supported by the text.

4. Check the authenticity of pictures. See to it that pictures and graphical illustrations are correct and are not used in a misleading way.

Treat rebuttals generously

5. Factual errors should be corrected when called for. Anyone wishing to rebut a statement shall, if this is legitimate, be given the opportunity to do so. Corrections and rebuttals shall be published promptly in appropriate form, in such a way that they will come to the attention of those who received the original information. It should be noted that a rebuttal does not always call for an editorial comment.

6. Publish without delay critical rulings issued by the Swedish Press Council in cases concerning your own newspaper.

Respect individual privacy

7. Consider carefully any publicity, which could violate the privacy of individuals. Refrain from such publicity unless the public interest obviously demands public scrutiny.

8. Exercise great caution in publishing information about suicide and attempted suicide, particularly with regard to the feelings of relatives and in view of what has been said above concerning the privacy of individuals.

9. Always show the greatest possible consideration for victims of crime and accidents. Consider carefully the question whether to publish names and pictures with regard to the victims and their relatives.

10. Do not emphasize ethnic origin, sex, nationality, occupation, political affiliation, religious persuasion or sexual disposition in the case of the persons concerned if such particulars are not important in the specific context and demeaning.

Exercise care in the use of pictures

11. Whenever appropriate, these rules also apply to pictures.

12. Montage, electronic retouch and captions should be handled in such a way as not to mislead or deceive the reader. Whenever a picture has been altered through montage or retouch this should be stated. This also applies to such material when it is filed in picture libraries.

Listen to each side

13. Offer persons, who are criticized in a factual report, the opportunity to reply instantly to the criticism. Aim at presenting the views of all parties involved. Bear in mind that the sole objective of filing complaints of various kinds with various bodies may be to cause harm to an individual.

14. Remember that, in the eyes of the law, a person suspected of an offence is always presumed innocent until proven guilty. The final outcome of a legal case should be published if it has been previously reported on.

Be cautious in publishing names

15. Give careful consideration to the harmful consequences that might ensue for persons if their names are published. Refrain from publishing names if it might cause harm unless it is obviously in the public interest.

16. In case a person's name is not published, also refrain from publishing a picture of that person or particulars of occupation, title, age, nationality, sex, etc, which would enable identification.

17. Bear in mind that the entire responsibility for publishing names and pictures rests with the publisher.

COMMENTS ON PART I

The Swedish Press Council is primarily responsible for interpreting the concept "good journalistic practice" as far as the press is concerned; in matters not referred to the Press Council, the Press-Ombudsman has this responsibility. It should be noted that the Press Council and the Press-Ombudsman do not deal with possible deviations from the rules in radio or television programmes. The Swedish Broadcasting Commission, appointed by the government, is responsible for monitoring such programmes.

The criticized newspaper will publish the Press Council’s ruling. In addition brief reports will also be published in Pressens Tidning (The Press Journal) and in Journalisten (The Journalist). Subscriptions to the Press Council’s decisions are handled by the Swedish Newspaper Publishers Association (Tidningsutgivarna).

Rulings by the Broadcasting Commission may be ordered from the Commission Secretariat.
Most of the Swedish daily newspapers are attached to and bound by these ethical codes. Jan Guillou, elected president of the Association of Journalists by its 5 200 members, went on a crusade with a suggestion of sharpening the press rules, (at least regarding certain criminal investigative journalism) for a couple of years, and regarding this he stated: “My simple demand is, that what is written in the news should be the truth.”.

When journalists investigate journalists it becomes even more absurd, and especially so when people like Guillou are heading a program on SVT, Mediemagasinet. Since the chancellor of justice had already proved this millennium, that when professionals report obvious incitement and agitation like the examples we’ve seen published in DN, and this had little impact, there isn’t that much left at the disposal for those powerless citizens who criticize the biased journalist propaganda’s ranting monopoly. But in this new era of information technology and the Internet, there was now a new option available, with the possibility of getting the message out, and potentially the whole world – personal and ideological websites.

The Swedish website Mediakritik (Media Criticism) had been operative and run on a private initiative at grass-roots level, where regular readers was able to report what they feel to be biased news reports. Each reported biased news was linked with the option of sending an automated complaint response to the media or the responsible journalist. And many journalists read the criticism. Sometimes the responsible reporters in question acknowledged that they had taken part of the criticism by actually responding with explanations in their own words. This service had now been running for the last couple of years, and it has handled several complaints regarding bias and partial propaganda against Israel. That Israel is a news subject that tends to involve many of the Swedish readers should not come as a surprise, especially when one can see many of the comments exploding in numbers in comparison with other reported news. It’s like opening a can of worms. Much of the criticism tends to go overboard, and the subject changes from time to time, as readers are able comment on the reported bias. What comes to mind is when this happens it is usually deliberate sabotage and this is well known, and the direct result is that the debate about the reported criticism is closed. So the mail option was also removed due to abuse. So far the two most criticized news agencies have been Aftonbladet (AB) and the national news agency TT (Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå) when it comes to reported Israel bias. Not one of these two news agencies have ever responded to any criticism during this time regarding their reported biased news on the topic of Israel.

SVT reports on October 27, 2004 that the Swedish Freedom of Press is ranked 11th in the world. In the earlier years Sweden placed itself on number seven and nine. Other Nordic countries were ranked at first place together with the Netherlands, Switzerland and Slovakia. This news was based on a questionnaire sent out to journalists, lawyers and human rights activists.

Continue to chapter, Terrorist terminology



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