The Munich Ethics Charter (Where Declaration of duties and rights of journalists), signed on in Munich and adopted by the European Federation of Journalists, is a European reference concerning the ethics of journalism, distinguishing ten duties and five rights. The text takes up the principles of the Charter of Professional Duties of French Journalists written in 1918 and revised in 1938, to specify the rights allowing them to be respected. It takes up the principle of professional secrecy (article 7, reproduced below), adding a duty deemed essential, that of protecting journalists’ sources of information.

The Munich charter was drafted with the help of Paul Parisot, president of the French Journalists’ Union (CFDT), which became Union Syndicate of Journalists CFDT, a journalist at Maverickhired in the early 1960s as editor of the daily France-Evening of Pierre Lazareff, where he tried to prevent the arrival of Robert Hersant, with the company of the editors of the newspaper. Paul Parisot obtained the creation of the National Union of Journalists’ Unions (UNSJ) in 1966. During the congress of the FIJ (International Federation of Journalists) in Dublin in the unions of French, Belgian and German journalists demand that guarantees be sought in Europe, for the independence of journalists, in the face of pressure from employers and States.

Then, during a conference organized in 1971 in Munich at the invitation of the Deutscher Journalisten-VerbandPaul Parisot drafts the declaration of the rights and duties of journalists[1]known as the Munich Charter, signed by all the other French journalists’ unions, as well as by those of five other countries of the European common market (Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands)[1].

Written in a direct and concise style, to be accessible to all, the 15 articles of the charter fit on one page. The wording is precise, to be easy to interpret, in the event of a legal appeal. Concrete and practical, the text aims to be a useful guide to the exercise of journalism on a daily basis.

The first article of duties, the most important, emphasizes that a salaried journalist must not hesitate to take risks in order to respect the truth, the 10and recalling that it works under the exclusive authority of its editors. the 3and insists on respect for sources and 7and on their protection.

Articles 4, 5 and 6 protect the persons quoted or photographed.

Articles 8 and 9 precisely define the boundaries between journalism and communication.

The five articles relating to rights are a little longer, to allow journalists to demand, in court or from any other power, the means to respect their duties.

Article 12 defines a right of withdrawal in the event of violation by the employer of the contract of trust with the readers, a contract which must be written.

Article 14 says that the shareholder must dialogue with the editorial team.

The ten duties of the charter[modifier | modifier le code]

  1. To respect the truth, whatever may be the consequences for oneself, and this, because of the public’s right to know the truth.
  2. Defend the freedom of information, commentary and criticism.
  3. Publish only information whose origin is known or accompany it, if necessary, with the necessary reservations; do not delete essential information and do not alter texts and documents.
  4. Do not use unfair methods to obtain information, photographs and documents.
  5. Commit to respecting people’s privacy.
  6. Rectify any published information that proves to be inaccurate.
  7. Maintain professional secrecy and not disclose the source of information obtained confidentially.
  8. To refrain from plagiarism, slander, defamation, unfounded accusations as well as from receiving any advantage due to the publication or deletion of information.
  9. Never confuse the profession of journalist with that of advertiser or propagandist; not to accept any instructions, direct or indirect, from advertisers.
  10. Refuse any pressure and accept editorial instructions only from editors.

The five rights of the charter[modifier | modifier le code]

  1. Journalists claim free access to all sources of information and the right to investigate freely on all the facts that condition public life. The secrecy of public or private affairs can in this case be opposed to the journalist only by exception on the basis of clearly expressed reasons.
  2. The journalist has the right to refuse any subordination that would be contrary to the general line of his company, as determined in writing in his contract of employment, as well as any subordination that would not be clearly implied by this general line. .
  3. The journalist cannot be forced to perform a professional act or to express an opinion that would be contrary to his conviction or his conscience.
  4. The editorial team must be informed of any important decision likely to affect the life of the company. It must at least be consulted, before a final decision, on any measure affecting the composition of the editorial staff: hiring, dismissal, transfer and promotion of journalists.
  5. In consideration of his function and his responsibilities, the journalist is entitled not only to the benefit of collective agreements, but also to a personal contract ensuring his material and moral security as well as a remuneration corresponding to the social role which is his and sufficient to guarantee its economic independence.

It was adopted by the journalists’ unions of the 6 Common Market countries meeting in Munich on [2]who voted unanimously “the Declaration of the duties and rights of journalists”[3]. The journalists’ unions of Switzerland and Austria took part in the meeting and also voted on the charter[4].

It was then adopted by the International Federation of Journalists[5] (IFJ)[6], then later by the International Organization of Journalists (IOJ), which was its Soviet counterpart during the Cold War. The National Union of French Journalists’ Unions then asked the employers’ organizations for this text to appear in the preamble to the collective agreement for journalists, in order to impose on all “the ethical principles of the profession and the clauses necessary for its extension “, according to Bernard Voyenne, in French journalists. This request did not succeed, and some of the directors of French newspapers indicated, in a survey carried out in 2000, that they were unaware of the Munich Charter[7].

It is article 5 of the duties “Obliging oneself to respect the privacy of individuals”, often invoked in conjunction with article 4, which requires “not to use unfair methods to obtain information, photographs and documents”, the term unfair being made stronger when another article of the charter is also violated.

The charter has sometimes been mentioned by parliamentarians to suggest moderation of the media, in the area of ​​respect for private life. In the affair of the publication of Johnny Hallyday’s medical file, the UMP deputy Muriel Marland-Militello, who had defended with 24 UMP deputies the right to medical secrecy, underlined that this publication was “in contradiction” with “the Munich Charter , which advocates not to use unfair methods to obtain information, photographs and documents and to undertake to respect the privacy of individuals”[8].

The creation, in October 2009, of the Syndicate of the Independent Online Information Press by Mediapart, Rue89, @rrêt sur images, Indigo Publications, Slate, Terra Eco and, led these seven publications to specify that they intend to enforce the charter in their writing[9]. It is also officially recognized by companies such as France Télévision and Le Canard Enchaîné.

A draft ethical charter replacing that of Munich and likely to enter into the collective agreement for journalists[10] was, however, presented on in Paris by a group of ten “wise men” led by Bruno Frappat, which aroused various reactions on the Internet[9] and in the print media[11].

The SNJ expressed concern about this project and in particular deplored the fact that the draft new text does not explicitly mention that the “stated duties apply to all actors in the editorial chain”, in particular to journalists who , “by title or function, have authority over other journalists”. For the SNJ, which drafted the first code of ethics in 1918, any text must mention that “the journalist’s responsibility vis-à-vis the public takes precedence over any other responsibility”.[12]. The other two main journalists’ unions, the Union Syndicale des Journalistes CFDT and the Syndicat National des Journalistes CGT, expressed the same concerns.

This union, the first among journalists with more than 49% of the vote, recalled that ethics cannot be dissociated from the problem of the “legal recognition of the editorial team”, which must be granted the possibility of “s’ collectively oppose anything that could contravene the ethical principles and professional conscience of journalists”[13].

  1. a and b“The ethics of journalists in the 20th century. From responsibility before peers to duties towards the public”, by Jean-Marie Charron, Le Temps des medias notoh 1, [1]
  2. “The disorders of meaning: alert on the media, companies, public life”, by Patrick Lamarque, page 114
  3. Media and citizenship: codes of ethics for journalists, by Marie-Christine Marrié, page 13
  4. JM Chappé, CFTC – JOURNALISTS UNION “, on (consulted the ).
  5. Journalism, the challenge of self-regulationby Jean-Marie Charon (CNRS), page 395
  6. Charon, Jean-Marie, Journalism, the challenge of self-regulation », Networks. Communication – Technology – SocietyPersée – Portal of scientific journals in SHS, flight. 18, notoh 100.‎ , p. 385–401 (DOI 10.3406/reso.2000.2230read online consulted the ).
  8. The Obs, ” L’Express denies having published Johnny Hallyday’s medical file », The Obs,‎ (read online Free accessconsulted the ).
  9. a and bStreet 89 “, on Street89 (consulted the ).
  12. Deontology: who does not advance retreats!press release from the SNJ of October 4, 2010, on its website

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