- Whereas the free flow of information is one of the most important guarantees of liberty and democracy;
- Whereas freedom of the press derives from the fundamental freedoms of thought, speech, free expression and opinion, and is widely legally recognized so nationally and internationally, and as such no one must dictate content to news media;
- Whereas freedom of the press entails that journalists and news media have sole prerogative to control all aspects of editorial freedom relating to content, form, and timing of publication of information;
- Whereas the public’s right to information is the legitimate right of the public to be informed of issues of public interest and, to fulfill this right, the role of journalists is to report, edit, analyze and publish such information with complete independence;
- Whereas the notion of the public interest is variable to different cultures and eras and this pursuit of the public interest entails journalists’ access to privileged information vital to responding to the political, economic, social, and cultural concerns of citizens to allow them informed participation in the life of a democracy;
- Whereas journalists and news media are first and foremost servants of the public, and the public’s right to information supersedes any other considerations regarding editorial choices;
- Whereas journalists and news media ought in all situations to provide the public with reliable information;
- Whereas the public’s right to information is foundational to journalistic ethics;
- Whereas, in order to ensure the full exercise of freedom of the press and the public’s right to information, the Press Council has been specifically founded to hear public complaints concerning journalistic ethics;
- Whereas, in order to hear and adjudicate such complaints, the ethical principles guiding journalism must be set down;
- Whereas the standards set forth in this Guide create first and foremost an obligation of means for journalists and news media;
- The Quebec Press Council has adopted the following Guide of ethics.
Section A: Purpose and scope of this Guide
This Guide sets forth ethical standards concerning the practice of journalism in Quebec.
For the purposes of these guidelines, the terms below shall have the following meanings:
a. “Journalist”: any person who exercises journalistic duties with the objective of serving the public interest; who researches, collects, fact-checks, edits, comments on or disseminates information about matters of general interest aimed at a broad audience.
b. “News media”: subject to the exceptions stated by the Quebec Press Council, refers to any entity, regardless of its legal status or the medium used, that edits, publishes or broadcasts a publication or program of journalistic nature on Quebec territory.
This Guide applies equally to journalists and to news media.
News media must ensure this Guide is applied, complied with, and upheld at all times. They must continuously endeavour to promote this Guide of journalistic ethics with their staffs, and ensure they not compel journalists, whatever their affiliation with the organization, to resort to practices contrary to this Guide.
By this Guide, news media are entirely responsible for all journalistic content they choose to produce, publish or broadcast on any given platform or social media account, regardless of the medium used.
Though news media are responsible for the content they produce, publish and broadcast, journalists are nonetheless accountable for their actions and responsible for the journalistic work they produce, regardless of the medium used.
Any natural or legal person may lodge a complaint with the Quebec Press Council for an alleged violation of the principles this Guide by a journalist or news outfit.
Complaints are dealt with according to the Quebec Press Council rules and sanctions, where appropriate, are imposed according the same rules
Section B: Independence
6. Independence and integrity
Journalists must avoid, in both their professional and personal lives, any behavior, engagement, function or task that could impair their ability to perform their duties with independence and integrity.
6.1 Conflict of interest
Journalists must avoid any conflict of interest, real or perceived, and must exhibit a high degree of personal integrity at all times.
News media must avoid placing their journalists in situations of conflict of interest, either real or perceived.
6.2 Political, ideological and commercial influences
News media shall under no circumstances let their commercial, political, ideological or other interests outweigh the public’s right to information of quality or restrain the professional independence of their journalists.
6.3 Disguised advertising
News media must avoid any form of indirect or disguised advertising in reporting news or information.
6.4 Abuse of professional status
Journalists must not use their professional status or any information they gather while performing their duties, nor shall hide or withhold information in order to garner personal advantages or privileges, or benefit their families, friends or anyone else.
6.5 Gifts and gratuities
Journalists must refuse gifts and gratuities offered to them in a professional context, unless they are of little value or serve directly for a journalistic assignment.
6.6 Paid travel
Journalists may not accept paid travel or travel expenses from a third party for an assignment, unless the payment is explicitly disclosed in the story, or if the travel is specifically for training purposes.
News media must recognize that journalists are free to sign their own work and must never be pressured to sign a piece that has been substantially altered.
8. Journalistic material
Journalists and news media do not disclose their notes, drafts, and records to third parties, unless compelled to by law, or when overwhelmingly in the public interest.