Revised Digital Media Code of Conduct

INTRODUCTION

This Code serves to provide the basic ethical standards for Online Content Creators operating in Zimbabwe or disseminating information into Zimbabwe. This Code outlines the basic ethical guidelines that online content creators should observe when publishing material for public consumption.

1. Interpretation
By Digital Media the Code refers to mass communication through digital technologies, online tools and internet whether as a blogger, a video blogger, a micro blogger or a social media participant.

In this Code Online Content Creator refers to individuals/organisation companies that share information through digital technologies and the internet as part of wider public knowledge creation and discussion.


Online creators are determined by the type of platforms they utilise, the reach of their messaging and the speed of information dissemination. These platforms used include, but are not limited to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Sound Cloud, WhatsApp, and other platforms that include Blogs and Websites.

 2. Application 

This Code will apply to groups and individuals, traditional media practitioner (print and broadcast), registered and unregistered organizations/companies  that share information using digital media and have agreed to be bound by this Code and have to submit to the disciplinary  jurisdiction of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ)

3.  General Standards

Online Content Creators who subscribe to this Code should uphold ethical standards associated with informing, entertaining and educating the general public.

 a. Information shared should be gender sensitive and balanced, men and women should be treated as equals in instances where they are sources, new subjects and as audiences.

b. Freedom of expression must be encouraged and upheld. It must not infringe on the basic rights of others, unless it is in the public interest.

c.  Practitioners should be fully aware of the various consequences of sharing information and views online noting the high speed at which content can become viral and reach mass audiences and as such they must remain fully conscious of the nature of the medium (s) that they are using  and how they must use them responsibly.

4.  Accuracy and Truthfulness

All Online Content Creators should, through their platforms share information that they can verify to be accurate, truthful, balanced and fair through reliable sources and research.

The following are critical in the process of disseminating accurate, truthful, fair and balanced information:

a.     Accuracy and Truthfulness

All Online Content Creators should always use relevant sources to verify information before they share it with the public. This can be in form of online links or offline sources of information. Accuracy to the accounts of individuals tagged on Twitter or Facebook and other platforms. Several accounts and pages use similar names and there is need to ensure the correct ones have been tagged.

This may be done through checking and verifying with the owners of the said accounts.

Online Content creators should avoid tagging individual or organizational accounts if they are not sure who the owner is.

b. Balance and Fairness


Online Content Creators should avoid suppression or exaggeration and distortion of facts. All arguments should be presented fairly, with enough supporting evidence for the audience to make its own judgment. Online Content Creators are encouraged to disclose conflicts of interest in the interest of the public.

5. Accountability

Online Content Creators should be accountable for their content. In the event that false or damaging information has been shared Online Content Creators should take ownership of such errors and promptly issue public apologies and corrections.


6. Protection of Sources

a.    Where sources wish to remain anonymous, a practitioner should ensure protection of the identity of the source.

b.    Online Content Creators are expected to ensure the security of information gathered and adhere to good practices in using the internet and online tools so as to protect sources.

c.    Protection of sources includes protection of data


7. Plagiarism

Using someone else’s work without attribution or acknowledgement is plagiarism and is therefore unlawful and unethical. Practitioners should credit their sources of information, with such information including quotations, statistics, facts, photographs, videos and sound clips or any other content. It should be standard practice to explicitly mention sources of third party material or use hyperlinks/tags to link back to the original online source.


8. Freedom of speech and expression

8.1 Online Content Creators should practise their freedom of speech and expression without sharing any derogatory information or hate speech and views, noting the speed at which such content can become viral  and permanent online.

8.2 Online Content Creators should resist undue pressure or influence from any person or authority who might want to unethically/unlawfully prevent free flow of information, free access to sources of information and open debate.

9. Surreptitious gathering of information

Where information not intended for mass public consumption is made available to an online content creator, permission must be sought to use this material. This applies to private and confidential information, which includes but is not limited to, content garnered from private email or chat, inbox conversations and direct messages. It also applies to information gathered from an account whose settings are set to private and via a third party source.

Therefore, when third party communication is used, the Online Content Creator must ensure that it is accurate and that permission has been obtained from the source. Where information is of public interest, a clause, off/on  record maybe disclosed.

10. Intrusion of Grief or Shock

In cases involving grief and shock, Online Content Creators should make enquiries and approach relevant parties with sensitivity and discretion. Such enquiries should be made privately, using appropriate methods.

11. Right of privacy

Online Content Creators should respect the right to privacy. Practitioners should not intrude into the private lives of individuals unless an overriding public interest exists.

12. Protection of minors and vulnerable persons

Online Content Creators should seek attention from parents or guardians for the use of children in pictures or when the minor is the source of information.

13. Reporting Court cases

Online Content Creators should consider what they share on social media with regards to court cases. Practitioners should consider what they share on social media with regards to court cases. Practitioners should avoid commenting on pending court cases. Online Content Creators should therefore consider their integrity and potential damage the story, article or picture might cause.


14. Right of reply

Online Content Creators should grant their sources and followers the right to reply and comment on their opinions and perspectives. Online Content Creators should grant this right with due consideration to the fact that sources may not be online at the point of initiation of conversation or discussion.

15. Monitoring of commentary

Online Content Creators should monitor and moderate commentary shared by their followers. An administrator should take responsibility to monitor the dissemination of hate messages, falsehoods and potentially harmful and defamatory information shared by the platform’s followers.

 

16.Photography

a. Online Content Creators should always credit the original creator of content when using images, graphics, illustrations, video, audio or any other type of related content.

b. Online Content Creators should exercise caution when using images outside the original context

c. Online content creators should also exercise caution and protect the integrity of journalistic photographs. Images must not be altered in such a way that distorts the original context or creates a false impression. Manipulated pictures may only be accepted if it is evident that they are being used in a picture collage.

 17. Satire/parody

Satirical news site and satirical blogs should declare their nature.

 

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