Ethical editorial guidelines
These Ethical guidelines of the Vijesti newsroom (hereinafter referred to as the Guidelines) refer to journalists, photographers, editors, technical editors, deputy editors, executive editors, editor-in-chief of the Vijesti (hereinafter referred to as "members of the editorial staff"), permanent associates and all others who participate in the preparation of content that Vijesti publishes, whether they are employed under an employment contract or under a written or oral contract for work (hereinafter referred to as "others"), unless otherwise stated in the text.
Members of the newsroom and others accept and adhere to the Code of Journalists of Montenegro since 2002 (the Code) and its amendments in 2015 and amendments in 2019 (Guide for the application of guideline 2.8 of the Code of Journalists of Montenegro (moderation of user comments on online platforms) (Guide) which are an integral part of these Guidelines.
The goal of Vijesti is to contribute to the development of society by collecting, preparing and distributing news and information, analysis and commentary and other journalistic content in accordance with the highest ethical and professional standards. Creating content of the highest possible quality and integrity is the basis of our reputation and the means by which we preserve the public's trust and the expectations of our readers.
The members of the Vijesti newsroom treat their readers as honestly and openly as possible. On any platform, we communicate the complete, unvarnished truth to our audience using all our abilities and resources at our disposal. We publish corrections and apologies in a prominent place, appropriate to the size and significance of the mistake we made, in accordance with the Media Act. In every content, we strive to be open, transparent, documenting due journalistic attention, and clear about the things we failed to find out. Members of the editorial staff who plagiarize, knowingly or negligently provide false information for publication, betray our agreement with readers. Such behavior will not be tolerated by Vijesti.
The goal of the News is to report on events, people and phenomena as impartially as possible, without fear of anyone or doing favors to anyone, and to treat readers, sources, advertisers and others fairly and openly. The goal is for others to see that it is so. The reputation of Vijesta as well as the professional reputation of the editorial staff rests on such a perception. Therefore, Vijesti and members of the editorial staff have a common interest in avoiding a conflict of interest, or the perception that they are in it.
Whatever we do, the first duty is to ensure that the integrity of the News is not tarnished by anything while we are guarding it. It is crucial that Vijesti and the members of the editorial staff adhere to the highest possible standards and not do anything that can undermine readers' trust in what we do and publish.
Because the News is influential, it is our moral responsibility to correct all our small and large factual errors, and it is most desirable that the journalist/permanent contributor does this voluntarily as soon as he notices the error. Fact checking, accuracy of quotations, integrity of photographs and avoidance of anonymous sources wherever possible are the basic postulates for preserving the integrity of the News.
What was stated in the editorial comment in the first issue of Vijesti, on September 1, 1997, is still valid today: "Our independence does not imply neutrality. We will have our own opinion on everything. We will also respect a different opinion." (...) We depend only on the professional code, postulates on which it is only possible to make good news and circulation newspapers: facts and sources".
These Guidelines are intended to help current and future editorial staff to keep it that way in the future.
It is necessary that women, as well as men, are called by their first and last names, and never derivatives of last names such as "Petrovićka", "Kalačeva", etc.
The journalist and the source can agree on one or more ways of publishing the information, quoting or mentioning it, or a combination of these ways:
The source is not cited at all or identified in any way, not even as an “unnamed source”. The information is usually published with a phrase like "News finds out", etc. The information can be used to better present the story or gain a better understanding of the topic, but it is the journalist's knowledge, not the source's.
Off the record:
Journalists and editors of Vijesti in their daily work are guided by the basic road map: Initial information - collection and verification of facts - documentation - publication
Accuracy also implies honesty in the selection, citation and way of using sources. Accuracy and impartiality, as important elements of the reputation of Vijesti, rest on the credibility of our sources. A News reporter or a camera is always the best source for an event we have attended. A named source is always better than an anonymous source. We must never mislead readers when citing sources, quoting a source that says one thing officially and saying something completely opposite to it unofficially, or citing multiple sources and only having one.
A Vijesti journalist uses named sources whenever possible because they are responsible for the information they provide, although Vijesti is responsible for accuracy, balance and legal consequences. The journalist should always make every effort to convince the source to come forward officially, under first and last name.
Rules of cooperation
When talking to a source, always make sure to establish clear ground rules for cooperation.
Notes should always be taken and interviews with sources recorded, in accordance with the Code.
Wherever possible, information should be cross-checked. This refers to names and titles, functions, figures, data, authenticity of documents, information from interlocutors, accusations against persons and institutions, announcements, materials from the Internet and other facts. Two or more sources are always better than one, regardless of whether it is a named or anonymous source. In the era of digitization and the comprehensiveness of social networks, one should be especially careful in researching the mutual disconnection of two or more sources, because the information may have come from only one. When evaluating information from an anonymous source, the source's past credibility, function, and motives should be considered. Logic should also be used. If something sounds wrong, it should be checked further. Even when a journalist is on the scene, it is not right to rely on only one source.
One should talk to all parties to an agreement, dispute, negotiation or conflict. Each party must be given a reasonable opportunity to present its case, including evidence, under conditions that do not place it at a significant disadvantage vis-à-vis the other party.
Journalists and editors should try equally hard to prove and dispute the accuracy of the information they have.
As much context and detail as possible should be provided about sources, whether named or anonymous, to lend authenticity to the information.
Special caution should be shown regarding the motives for which sources cooperate with journalists, as the motive may be personal interests or the intention to cause harm to someone. If it has been verified that the statement of the source is correct, and the public interest in publication is unquestionable, the personal motive of the source is not an obstacle to the publication of the content.
When there is something unclear, contradictory or unconvincing in the information of the source, it should not be passed over without additional verification. Suggestions that some element of the story is unimportant must not be taken for granted.
Source and context
The source has the right to know which parts of his testimony will be published and in what context, how they will be published, whether he will be quoted verbatim, and who else will participate in the content.
In the event that the collected facts dispute the source's statements, he may be asked to confirm his knowledge with additional evidence, or his contribution will not be used, and previous agreements will be terminated.
Anonymous sources are the weakest. The use of anonymous sources is reserved only for situations when Vijesti cannot get information from others, which they consider credible and worth publishing. News is solely responsible for the accuracy of information from an anonymous source in any case.
A promise of anonymity
Whenever possible, the reporter and editor should discuss any promise of anonymity before it is given to a source, or before work begins on a story that may require such a promise.
Description of the anonymous source
The general rule is to tell readers as much as possible about the function and the source's motives known to us to remain anonymous. Phrases such as "the source who demanded (insisted) on anonymity" should be avoided, and an attempt should be made to briefly explain what kind of agreement the journalist and the source made, especially when the source's reasons can be explained.
Cooperation with an anonymous source implies that the journalist knows everything important about that person, including his name and surname, address, contacts, place of employment and social context to which he belongs.
Disclosure of source to editor
Vijesti, not the journalist, is responsible for the agreement with the source. If the journalist is asked to do so on legitimate editorial grounds, the journalist is obliged to disclose his source to the competent editor. The anonymity of the source must be preserved by the editor and the journalist, as well as other members of the newsroom who may find out the identity of the source.
If the journalist does not want to communicate the source to the editor, then the latter can refuse to publish the content and/or request that a certain topic be dealt with by another journalist, searching for facts beyond the previous one.
The mistrust caused by this case, as a serious obstacle in cooperation, can be presented to the News Ethics Council at the initiative of journalists and/or editors.
Prohibition of using an anonymous source
If it deems it correct, the editor can prohibit cooperation with a certain anonymous source. In sensitive cases, before making a decision, the editor can and should request a meeting with the source.
The conditions of anonymity are specified with the source before establishing cooperation, and after attempts to agree to a public appearance fail. It is agreed with the source, allowing either verbatim quoting or just retelling of the content that he transmitted. An agreement is also needed on the wording with which the source will be described so that it cannot be revealed who it is (see the Rules of Cooperation).
Disclosure of an anonymous source
The editors can decide to break the agreement of anonymity only if information has been obtained about a serious crime, danger to human health, or if it is determined that the source has maliciously lied. This should be clearly presented to the anonymous source. If the newsroom decides to expose an anonymous source, the public should be made aware of why it was done.
Story based on an anonymous source
Vijesti will publish news from an anonymous source in exceptional cases, when it is credible information from a verified source that has direct knowledge of the given situation (first hand). Publishing news from a single source can only be approved by the editor-in-chief.
News will always stand by the editorial staff who followed these sourcing instructions.
Information must be published on News platforms as soon as it becomes known, provided that it is prepared in accordance with professional standards
The publication of information is not delayed, and especially not timed for a certain moment in order to favor or harm certain individual or group interests. Withholding information is a serious offense.
This does not imply the right to publish partially verified and inaccurate content. You should always choose accuracy over speed.
When texts are prepared that are not strictly related to daily events, and journalistic procedures are not completed by the deadline, publication should be postponed until the material is ready for presentation. In such cases, the editors must not pressurize the content to be published if the journalist/permanent contributor warns that the processing is not yet complete.
The suggestion to postpone the publication should not, however, be misused as an excuse for poor organization of work, and especially for illegal retention of information.
Post with fencing
Journalists and editors, due to limited press deadlines, may not anticipate future events in their texts, regardless of the high degree of certainty that they will happen before the information reaches the reader. The rule should always be applied: We go with what we have.
Materials that should still be worked on, but their publication cannot be postponed because it is dictated by the pressure of daily events, should be presented in such a way as to make the public aware of what still remains unclear and unexplained, so that we do not assert anything which we are not sure about yet.
All sides, on no one's side
Events, people and phenomena are reported impartially in Vijesti. The principle of free and broad debate among advocates of different opinions and perspectives is respected, giving them space to fight for public support with authentic argumentation.
Different beliefs and experiences are presented to the public, without labelling, prejudice and discrimination. Readers and users thus gain a more objective picture of the complex world, and Vijesti contributes to the culture of dialogue, tolerance, understanding and equal opportunities.
Impartiality and objectivity do not always come down to giving equal space to all parties. For example, perpetrators of violent crimes or leaders of minor radical political groups are generally not entitled to the same space as victims or mainstream political parties.
To each new subject on the public scene, the members of the editorial staff will treat the relevance of the topics it raises with public interest.
However, one must always strive for the content to be fundamentally fair and balanced. Claims should not be presented as facts and accusations as a sign of guilt. It is the duty of the editorial staff to give the actors of such stories the opportunity to present their side.
Reporting by others
When the facts were collected by someone else and/or that content is transmitted by Vijesti, the source will be clearly referenced. This applies to materials from newspapers, magazines, books and broadcasts, as well as from news agencies. When content from other media is transmitted verbatim or recounted, the name of the original media must be clearly highlighted in the equipment. When reviewing a large-scale or complex event, Vijesti refers to "reports from news agencies and Vijesti journalists."
To admit an exclusive to another
It is preferable, when time permits, that Vijesti journalists themselves report and verify the story of another media outlet that is worth publishing. In that case, the facts do not have to be attributed to another media, but the text should state that that media was the first to exclusively publish that information or story.
Referring to other media cannot be a license to publish rumours, speculations or even information that does not pass verification by the standards of Vijesti - whether something is worth publishing, whether it is a matter of good taste, and whether it is credible.
Help the reader to judge for himself
Proper attribution for material that is not ours contributes to accuracy, whether it is a story, photo or video. This allows our readers to assess the reliability of the information.
Signing other people's photos or videos
It is not enough to sign the source of a photo or video with "private archive" or "internet" or "facebook". The source should be clearly identified, for example "mans photo/video" or "gov.me" or "photo provided by Petar Petrović".
Signing our photos or videos
Our photos and video material should be marked with the name and surname of the photojournalist/recorder and add "News", for example "Savo Prelevic/News"
Permission to publish
To download photos from media and private sites, private accounts from social networks, permission to publish should be requested.
Failure to disclose the source of material and publication of material for which permission to publish has not been obtained always exposes Vijesti and journalists to accusations of plagiarism and lawsuits.
Permissions to publish the original contents of the News in other media are granted by the editor-in-chief, or a person authorized by him.
Each word between quotation marks means what a speaker at a meeting, a direct interlocutor, or someone sending a written statement actually said. News does not "clean" quotes. If the grammar, spelling and style of the quotation are inappropriate, the quotation marks should be removed and the paragraph should be paraphrased.
What is thrown out
The journalist should remove "speech" from the quotation (for example, "this", "hmmm", "as I would say", etc.) and other redundant words or phrases, and correct minor grammatical errors, but only provided the deletion does not alter the meaning of the quotation in any way. It is not our job to embellish what people say by cleaning up inelegant sentences, nor is it our job to expose them to ridicule by publishing such quotes. In most cases, this dilemma is resolved by paraphrasing or non-administrative speech. When the dilemma still exists, the reporter should consult with a more experienced reporter or editor.
Selective use of quotations
Selective use of quotations can lead to unbalanced reporting. The quotes used by the journalist must correspond in a general sense to what the speaker wanted to say/write, and body language (for example a smile or a wink) that can influence the meaning of what is being reported should also be described. When you quote someone, you should always give the context or circumstances of the quote. In any case, both the journalist and the editor must be convinced that the intention of the speaker has been preserved.
An editor who has to shorten a story will try not to disturb its balance. He will be especially careful not to cut quotes or information that contradicts other stated positions. Whenever possible, he will inform the journalist of the abbreviations he has made.
Unless the reporter has detailed notes or footage, it is usually wise to paraphrase long comments. In any case, a journalist cannot write a quote longer than 500 characters with spaces in the text without consultation with the editor. "Educative" quotes can undermine readers' trust in the News, especially in the digital era when almost all public events are recorded and available on the Internet.
Highlighting the omitted part of the quotation
When a phrase or a digression that is not important for the text is omitted from the quotation, the following mark (...) should be placed in the quotation. More than one such sign should be avoided in a quotation, and if it is necessary to remove part of the quotation additionally, the quotation marks should be closed and a new quotation or paraphrasing should be started.
Inserting into a quote
Insertion, for example the name of a person or organization, or other details about a subject that is mentioned for the first time in the content, and which the speaker did not say, is done by putting additional information in parentheses, in case, gender and number, which is the function of the rest of the sentence ,(for example "The King (of Montenegro, Nikola Petrović) could not have acted differently", or "There was intense pressure on (King of Montenegro Nikola) Petrović to change his position").)
When translating quotes from a foreign language, they should correspond to the spirit of the Montenegrin/Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian language, and not be translated literally. The use of google translate and other machines for translating quotes and in general, should be reduced to obtaining basic information about that content and never for verbatim publication. One should beware of translating quotes from foreign press that the speakers gave in Montenegrin/Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian language, because the back translation almost never corresponds to the original. You should always try to find the original quote, and if this is not possible, you should use fewer quotes and more paraphrasing.
Quotes in Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian should not be adapted to the Montenegrin language. Exceptionally, if a word is unknown to the general public in the Montenegrin area, then only it should be translated in parentheses.
Fact checking in written text
Vijesti journalists are the main fact checkers and often the only ones. Concrete facts in all contents — geographic terms and distances, addresses, telephone numbers, functions of people, etc. — are confirmed by journalists with standard sources such as telephone directories, official websites of local and state authorities, companies and organizations. For complex stories, which are designated as such by the editor or editor-in-chief, the story is given to the person assigned by the editor-in-chief to check all the facts.
Journalists are obliged to keep the materials on the basis of which they wrote the text (notes, recordings of conversations, photos, videos, material downloaded from the Internet, documents, etc.) for at least five years from the publication of the text, because this is the legal term in which a lawsuit can be filed for insults and slander.
Corrections and denials
Incorrect information must be corrected by the editors as soon as they notice the error. The correction of observed inaccuracies is published even when there is no request for it from the outside. The correction based on the new findings of the editorial office is published in the press under the title "Correction", and is signed by the editor who published the text.
Corrections to the portal
On digital platforms, after a voluntary correction by the editorial staff, the following should be stated below the text: "In the earlier version of this text, it was incorrectly written that..... and it is correct...", as well as the date of the correction.
If the text is removed, the reasons and date of removal should be stated.
Who has the right to react
Persons outside Vijesti or their legal representatives have the right to deny allegations or accusations related to them or others with whom they are connected, in accordance with the Law on Media.
Allegations or accusations related to a deceased person have the right to be denied by immediate family members (father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters) or their legal representatives
The correction and response are published in accordance with the Law on Media.
Apology and urgency
If the mistake is serious, an apology should be published to those who were harmed and then to the readers, in that order. Denials must be published within the legal deadline, and in the case of serious errors immediately, in order to reduce the damage as soon as possible.
Members of the editorial staff do not, in principle, impersonate themselves in order to obtain information or a story. They can sometimes keep silent about their identity and allow others to assume anything about their identity, in situations where, for example, the work and attitude of an institution or organization towards citizens or the behavior of people at a meeting or of policemen in a bar near the police station is observed, etc.
The journalist can decide on this independently, only if due to circumstances he finds himself in the middle of an event that takes place without prior announcement or prediction, but even then he must contact the editor-in-chief as soon as possible and ask for his consent.
Prolonged impersonation, even passive, for example, employment with an institution or company in order to investigate its operations from the inside, may be used only with the prior consent of the Editor-in-Chief.
Photos on News platforms must reflect or describe reality, people and objects must not be added, moved, rotated or removed from the place being photographed or from the finished photo (except for the common practice of cropping to avoid unnecessary external parts of the photo). Color or gray scale adjustments should be limited to the minimum required for clear and accurate reproduction. Photos from the event may not be staged or their subjects pose.
Photos that serve as an illustration of an idea or situation must always be clearly labeled as illustrations. This does not apply to portraits or still life (photos of shoes, food, etc.), but applies to other types of photos in which we have artificially arranged people or things, as well as to collages, montages and photos that have been digitally altered. In all these cases, the legend that says "photo illustration" is mandatory. Sometimes, it is desirable to add an explanation of how the illustration was created.
If a member of the editorial staff has any doubts about the correctness of the changes to the photo or how to explain to readers what has been done with the photo, they should consult with the photo editor, technical editor, or editor-in-chief (but before publishing or submitting for reading to the editor or in print, in order to avoid misunderstandings at the last minute or unsatisfactory improvised solutions).
A journalist covering an event (demonstration, trial, conference, etc.) should not leave it until it is over, or until another journalist arrives to continue the work started in agreement with the editor.
No one except the responsible editors can order another member of the editorial staff what to do or not to do. Privileging and favoring any private, political, commercial or other interest is not allowed.
Members of the editorial staff and others are obliged to refuse all inappropriate agreements with information actors, sources and advertisers and to refrain from connections that may create suspicion that anyone from the outside is influencing the content they work for.
News does not enter into joint projects with the government, opposition, political parties and religious organizations. Rare exceptions can be humanitarian or educational projects, socially responsible actions in the clear and undoubted interest of the public.
The publisher's interest need not be the public interest
Independence must not be compromised by business relationships or financial interests of the publisher. The editors are obliged to react to any attempt at censorship under pressure.
Journalists, editors and photojournalists are obliged to limit their private political activity exclusively to exercising the right to vote.
Membership in parties
The public identifies the members of the newsroom with Vijesti, and any political exposure of them may create suspicion of bias. That is why journalists, editors and photojournalists must not be members of political parties, nor candidates at the local or national level for any political position.
Party donations and insignia
Members of the editorial staff may not make monetary or other donations to parties and other political organizations, wear their badges, publicly use objects with their logos such as pens or lighters, or put their signs on their cars or private houses.
A family member as a party functionary
If a member of the immediate family is in the leadership of a party, political organization or is a candidate in the elections, the editorial staff should immediately warn the editor. In accordance with the assessment of the situation, the editor will ensure that that member of the editorial staff does not participate in political reporting.
Members of the editorial staff may not accept to perform any paid or unpaid consulting and other services for a political party or organization, nor to participate in party demonstrations and campaigns. If a member of the editorial staff, nevertheless, decides to engage in politics privately in any way, he must know that he has thereby called into question his involvement in this company.
Journalists in the election campaign have an obligation to report impartially and to provide the public with enough information about relevant election participants, their political positions, programs and commitments, so that citizens can form their own judgment.
Analytical texts with credible interlocutors and the results of the work of the government and the opposition in the period between two election cycles can also help the creation of this court.
In addition to reporting on election rallies and key political messages, Vijesti can also organize debates and round tables, or write articles on topics that are of public interest and where relevant election participants can share their views.
When reporting on the ceremonial opening of works or completed investments, where the authorities at any level try to achieve the so-called institutional advantage, the Vijesti journalist in reporting should limit himself to news about the event with basic facts, without political messages from the actors, placing the entire event in the proper context .
The editors will reject all attempts at overt or covert political or other advertising.
Conflict of interests
Members of the editorial staff are obliged to avoid behaviors and activities that may create a conflict of interest, or the impression that it exists.
The publisher respects the rights of its employees to privacy, investments and financial transactions, as well as work in humanitarian, educational, religious and other public organizations and societies. However, the members must balance activities inside and outside the editorial office very carefully in order to avoid any suspicion that any content was created under the influence of private interests of editorial members.
Ban on reporting
A member of the editorial staff cannot report on events, people and phenomena with which he is personally connected or in which he is involved.
Signing appeals and petitions
As a rule, members of the editorial staff do not sign appeals, petitions or similar initiatives on any topic, except for those concerning freedom of media and expression, in the broadest sense.
I can express my views by writing analyzes and comments on Vijesti platforms.
If the members of the editorial staff decide to still sign an appeal, petition or similar initiative outside this context, they must not use the name of Vijesti, as well as the company where they are employed, in addition to their personal data, which could create the impression that their act is simultaneously and editorial position. The signatory of such an appeal, petition or similar initiative may not report on the subject.
Protests and demonstrations
As a rule, members of the editorial staff do not participate in protests, demonstrations and similar gatherings, nor in any form of civil activism (except those concerning freedom of the media and expression, in the broadest sense), except when they are there on a work assignment. Participants in protests, demonstrations or similar gatherings or activists may not report on that topic.
Conflict of interest report
It is impossible to individually regulate the multitude of real situations that enter into the context of conflicts of interest, but the problems can be successfully overcome by the responsible behavior of everyone within the company. The basic model is to immediately report potential sources of conflict of interest to superiors so that adequate solutions can be applied in the interest of preserving objectivity, when a conflict of interest cannot be avoided. You should inform your superior about any personal work and engagement, private work and engagements of family members and close people who may be connected to the content being prepared for publication. Information about private relationships and interests must not be concealed.
Product advertising and other jobs
Members of the editorial staff may not participate in the advertising of products created outside of this company. They may not give advice to third parties on financial or investment business, nor perform paid or unpaid work for government bodies (except when it concerns freedom of the media and expression, for example drafting laws on the media, safety of journalists, etc.), political parties, lobby groups , corporations, trade unions (except journalistic) and for-profit organizations.
Any text, which, instead of providing information of interest to the public, has the intention and features of marketing promotion, is an inadmissible act of a journalist, incompatible with professional standards and entails responsibility
For example, a journalist who writes about finance and business is obliged to inform the editor that he owns the shares of a certain company or shares in an investment fund. So that there is not the slightest doubt that the journalist favors the company or fund in which he is a co-owner, the editor will ensure that the journalist no longer reports on these contents. Or, a journalist who writes about publishing must inform the editor if his wife becomes the director of an influential publishing house, and the editor will then move him to other jobs. The editor should know if the journalist is an activist of a religious community in his free time, so as not to assign him to report on religious issues. An art critic cannot write a review of her sister's exhibition. A journalist may not conduct an interview with the president of a pharmaceutical company who is his relative or close friend.
Misuse of information
The members of the editorial staff may not use the information obtained while working for Vijesti for their own financial or other interests.
Information News that has not been published on our platforms may not be transmitted to third parties.
Members of the editorial staff will refuse services, benefits and gifts offered to them by persons or institutions. Journalists report on events according to their professional conscience and not under the influence of privileges offered to them because of their position in the media.
Acceptance of services, benefits and gifts that exceed symbolic value (up to 25 euros) is not allowed, because it affects objectivity, or creates such an impression in the public.
Members of the editorial staff may receive gifts such as notebooks, t-shirts, books, CDs and other items of low value, which serve to promote certain products. If it is not possible to avoid receiving a gift (if it arrives, for example, by mail or is brought to the newsroom or to another address), the member of the newsroom is obliged to return such a gift, with a cover letter in which he thanks, but politely explains why he cannot to receive.
Services are considered, for example, to provide internal information that enables privileged financial transactions, free car servicing, enrolling a child in school or kindergarten or college beyond the criteria that apply to others, hiring a partner or family member, etc.
Misuse of News for private affairs
When performing or contracting his private affairs, the editorial staff member introduces himself by his personal name and does not refer to the publishing company or Vijesti.
Members of the editorial staff will accept free tickets for sports events, theater performances, concerts and other events they report on if they are also available to representatives of other media that broadcast the same content, and then only for themselves, and never for people close to them.
Invitations from institutions, companies and private individuals to free trips can be accepted only exceptionally, i.e. when such a trip is the only possibility to obtain information of public interest. The decision on such exceptions is made by the editor.
Sometimes it is inevitable that institutions or persons with whom the journalist cooperates pay for the lunch, but this should be avoided whenever possible. Critics who write for our editions about restaurants, hotels and other service facilities pay for the consumed services themselves, do not announce themselves in advance and may not accept special treatment from the host.
Distance to sources
Journalists and editors should nurture their relationships with sources, but in doing so, discipline is needed so that the measure necessary to preserve objectivity is never exceeded.
Correct relationship with sources implies business cooperation while maintaining distance. It is not advisable to frequently share any form of privacy with sources. Frequent socializing, going out, or entering into any business or private relationships with sources may raise suspicions about the bias of a reporter or editor. The test question that a member of the editorial staff should ask himself when he often hangs out privately with a source is: "Would I be comfortable hanging out like this with a source who is on the opposite pole of the political, economic, social or any other scene."
The superior is obliged to discourage possible intimacy of journalists or editors with the source, and if necessary, will move them to other tasks.
External media engagement
Members of the editorial staff may not work for the media of another publisher without the permission of the editor-in-chief. It is preferable for them to be guests on radio, television and other media outside the company if they are invited as analysts or experts in the areas in which they specialize. The editor-in-chief must be notified in advance of such performances. Members of the editorial staff must not express extreme views, hate speech, call for violence in public appearances, and should be analytical, impartial, fair and objective in their appearances. When they are in doubt whether something should be said or not, they should ask themselves whether they could publish it in their comments or analysis in the News.
Members of the newsroom and others who appear in other media must ask to be clearly represented there as members of the Vijesti newsroom.
In agreement with the employer, members of the editorial staff can occasionally be engaged as lecturers in educational institutions. Except in situations where they are invited as representatives of the publisher or Vijesti, it is not justified to refer to the company or Vijesti.
Members of the editorial staff can engage in various social and humanitarian activities in their free time, but this engagement must not jeopardize the credibility of information and the reputation of the company, nor cause suspicion of a conflict of interest.
Publisher of Vijesti, and member of the editorial staff as the subject of the news
If the subject of the news becomes a publisher of Vijesti, a platform, a newsroom, a member of the editorial staff or an external collaborator, Vijesti will inform the public about it in accordance with all the recommendations of these Guidelines and professional journalistic procedure, regardless of what comments were made by persons representing the company's business interests. In any text that mentions the Daily Press, or the owners of the company, the journalist will state that they are the publisher or owners of the News.
There is no charge for information
News does not pay for information. With the approval of the responsible persons, Vijesti can reimburse the source only for costs related to the delivery of information, for example travel costs and the like. Only in extremely exceptional cases, when the information is of great importance to the public, and it is not possible to obtain it otherwise, the editor-in-chief may authorize payment for the information.
Independence of a member of the editorial staff in Vijesti
Journalists and editors have the right to conscientious objection. Members of the editorial staff cannot be forced to work contrary to their values and moral beliefs, nor to publish content that they professionally cannot or cannot yet stand behind. In both cases, they have the right to refuse the task and must not bear the consequences. They must not be forced to work contrary to good journalistic practice or contrary to their beliefs.
The journalist has the right to withhold his signature on the content that the editor has decided to publish, even though the journalist has warned that the story has not yet been prepared in accordance with professional standards, that is, in accordance with the recommendations of these Guidelines or the provisions of the Code. In internal disputes of this type, the highest level of the editorial board headed by the editor-in-chief decides.
News will respect the embargo on documents and reports submitted by institutions and companies. This rule does not apply if members of the editorial staff manage to obtain the information by their own means.
The editor's judgment is very important so that the publication of information that something will happen could affect the sequence of events. For example, the decision-maker can change it at the last moment "so that journalists don't tell him what to do"
Members of the editorial staff respect the laws that apply to their work. As journalistic loyalty is primarily directed to the interests of the public, there are extraordinary situations when a decision can be made to break the law. Such a decision can be grounded and therefore justified when a specific violation of the law is a prerequisite for the publication of information of high interest and importance to the public, for example the publication of documents protected by law as secret, publication of protected private data, etc.
The decision to break the law is made by the highest level of the editorial board headed by the editor-in-chief, aware of all the consequences that may follow, who then informs the executive director.
News, members of the editorial staff and others behave correctly and consistently towards the public, sources, business associates, colleagues and competitors.
Each issue comes out with an imprint, i.e. a list of all editors and responsible persons, so that the public knows who is responsible for what.
All contents on all platforms are signed with the author's first and last name or initials, or the agency's signature. The editor-in-chief is responsible for unsigned content. Authors do not sign pseudonyms except in extremely exceptional cases, if there is a strong justification for this, which is decided and borne by the editor-in-chief.
Reporting from the newsroom
It is not allowed to suggest that a journalist is reporting from the scene if it is not true. It is not fair that the content created by gathering information from the newsroom is equipped in such a way as to create the impression that it is information from the field and first hand.
Commenting can only be done after the readers/users have been given the necessary information about the specific content. In commentary forms, it is necessary to clearly show how the author has carefully analyzed all positions, those with which he agrees as well as those with which he does not. As a rule, comments, opinions and views are published on separate pages and in exceptional cases elsewhere under a clear such title. The views expressed in comment forms are the responsibility of the author and are not treated as the opinion of the editors. The views of the editorial staff are conveyed exclusively in unsigned editorial comments or editorials signed by the editor-in-chief.
Content equipment must be true. This means that titles, subtitles, leads, signatures, announcements, frames and all other types of equipment must be an accurate reflection of the essential content of the information. The equipment and method of presentation of its content is proposed by the journalist, and the final version is approved by the editor. The journalist who worked on the content is the deepest in the specific content and therefore his participation in the furnishing is essential. The journalist is invited to alert the editor if he notices errors or inaccuracies in the final version of the content. The editors are responsible for distorting the content and sensationalizing tension in the provision of information.
The content of announcements delivered by media relations services on behalf of authorities, political parties, institutions, organizations, companies or individuals are published to the extent that they are of interest to the public. No one has the right to demand that their statement be published as it is a matter of independent editorial decision. The content of the announcement cannot be considered the truth until the statements presented have been verified in the journalistic procedure.
A clear fence from the content of official announcements is necessary because spokespersons and media relations services are engaged to convey to the public the best possible image of the one who pays them, and it may or may not be true. They are loyal to their employer, not the public.
We therefore treat unverified announcements as propaganda.
Informational and marketing content must be strictly separated. It is necessary that the marketing contents are clearly marked with the supertitle "Advertisement", "Paid advertisement" and the like, so that there would be no dilemma in the presentation that it is a matter of space leased by external entities for advertisements or advertisements. No open or covert advertising of companies, products or services is allowed within the information content. Journalists may not participate in the creation of marketing content, nor marketing sector associates in the production of informational content.
Information is collected openly, using fair methods. The actions of journalists should be clear and ethically justified.
A journalist is obliged to present himself truthfully to a person or institution, except in exceptional cases (see Disguise). Upon request, he is required to show a journalist's ID issued by the editorial office.
Openness towards the interlocutor
As a rule, the journalist will ask persons or institutions for consent to cooperation. It is not correct to ask consent for cooperation from persons who are not capable of giving it, for example from children, persons who do not know the language well or persons with intellectual disabilities.
Relations in the editorial office
Members of the editorial staff and others treat each other with respect, nurture collegial relationships and encourage a spirit of cooperation and solidarity. Superiors manage and coordinate work so that colleagues do not expose their health, life and safety to their families. Disputes must be resolved peacefully and in the prescribed procedure.
News on all platforms competes with other media harshly but fairly. This means that it is not allowed to fight for a better position in the market by setting up obstacles or undermining the business of competitors.
Opportunity to respond to charges
Anyone against whom accusations will be made in the News on any platform, especially those affecting honor and reputation, must be given an opportunity to respond to them before the text is published. It is necessary to explain to that person exactly and in detail what the content of the accusations are. It is necessary to make the greatest efforts to publish - at the same time as the accusations - the statement of the accused party. In the event of the transmission of an official announcement by a state authority about charges against someone who is initialed, every effort should be made to contact the accused person or their legal representative before publishing the accused person's name.
If the accused party is unavailable for some reason, publication should be delayed whenever possible. If there are strong reasons to publish the allegations without a response from the other party, the response should be published in the next edition of the print edition and on digital platforms immediately.
If a person or institution refuses to respond to the allegations, this should be stated in the published content. If the other party does not respond within a reasonable time of 12 hours after the query, the content is released with an adequate explanation.
The interview is done in agreement with the other party. The journalist should inform the person to be interviewed in advance how and where the answers will be used. No one is obliged to agree to be interviewed, but consent implies that the actors will adhere to the conditions they have agreed upon.
Topics and questions
Interview questions are not submitted in advance, but it is correct that the person is informed about the topics they want to talk about. It is important that the journalist does not settle for just any answers, but insists, persistently but politely, precisely on the answers to the questions posed. Whenever possible, the interview should be recorded.
The content of the interview can be published in the form of questions and answers, retelling in informal speech or only using certain quotes.
It does not have to be published
The interview does not have to be published if it does not contain quality informative content. If a decision is made that the interview will not be published, the interviewee should be informed about it and the reason explained to him.
If the person from whom the interview is requested conditions the consent by setting certain restrictions, it should be carefully considered whether such cooperation should be accepted. Some interlocutors, for example, ask to be provided with an exact list of questions and do not allow sub-questions. Others request that certain topics not be opened at all or that certain questions not be asked. Others demand that everything they say be published, including content that is not of interest to the public. Conditionality can be accepted only exceptionally and only in cases where the circumstances are such that it is more important to get any interview from a particular person than none at all. Since an interview conducted with restrictions can be flawed, the public should be informed in the introduction about the circumstances under which it was conducted. Let's say: The interlocutor refused to talk about A and only agreed to questions about C, D and E.
It is correct that the final version of the interview, i.e. the statements used in the content, should be shown to the interviewee so that he can check whether his words have been conveyed correctly. Only answers are subject to this authorization, not journalistic questions, comments, introductions and conclusions. That's why only questions and answers, or quoted or paraphrased statements are sent for authorization. The person authorizing the interview should not be allowed to distort answers, throw out questions, or make statements. All this should be made clear to the interviewee before the interview. The editors have the full right not to publish an interview that was significantly changed during authorization.
Publication of an unauthorized interview
If a person before or after authorization decides to withdraw an interview he has already given, the editors will evaluate the arguments and make a decision whether to publish that interview anyway.
Details from private life are not published without the consent of the person in question, except when there are justified reasons for this, i.e. when details from private life or private behavior are an essential part of the content of unequivocal public interest. In all controversial situations, journalists and editors need to balance the public interest with the right to privacy.
The news will treat information from other media with extreme caution, or when writing about institutions that have violated professional rules and legal norms of the right to privacy, trying not to encourage the public's demand for such data. For example, when the Government publishes a list of people in self-isolation, you should not post links to it. Or, if a journalist discovers that the court on its website and bulletin board publishes decisions on the referral of persons to psychiatric institutions, verdicts on juvenile offenders, with full identity, or other data that violates the privacy protected by law, the journalist will wait for such decisions to be made before publishing the story. contents removed.
Protected private contents are personal data, private conversations, telephone conversations, private mail and emails, private photos and medical records.
Protected private places are apartments or houses, domestic premises such as gardens and yards, hotel rooms, parts of hospitals where patients are treated, spas, rehabilitation centers, homes for the elderly, schools, places where private celebrations, private funerals and the like are held. In private places, information can only be collected with the owner's consent. A journalist should leave private places when told to leave.
Recording with a telephoto lens and hidden microphones is not permitted, but the editor may in exceptional cases authorize it when there is an unequivocal public interest in the disclosure of certain private information. Secret recording may only be permitted as a last resort.
Citizens and public figures
Citizens who are not normally present in the public have significantly greater rights to privacy protection than government officials, and public figures involved in entertainment, art, business, etc. The level of the right to privacy protection depends to a considerable extent on the behavior of a certain person: those who constantly seek and provoke media attention have less rights to protection than those who protect their privacy themselves.
When encroaching on privacy is necessary and justified, care should be taken not to cross the line where the need to inform the public turns into tasteless curiosity and sensationalism. In cases of disclosure of privacy, it is especially important to avoid collateral victims, i.e. do not reveal the privacy of people who are close to the actor of the story.
Innocence and guilt
In reporting on all content that includes raising suspicions and accusations, it is necessary to adhere to the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. That is why, before and until the end of the court proceedings, reporting must be done impartially and terminology must be carefully used so as not to violate the rights of persons who are connected with criminal acts. At the same time, the positions of the prosecution and the defense should be conveyed equally, and it should be borne in mind that the information provided by the police may sometimes not be correct.
Suspicion, accusation, proven guilt
In content about accusations and judicial processes, it is necessary to clearly distinguish between unconfirmed suspicions, accusations and proven guilt. When accusations against a certain person are made in public, and neither the police nor the judiciary have yet initiated legal proceedings, it is necessary to clearly attribute the accusations to the person making them, while performing all the checks required by journalistic procedures.
Private criminal complaint
When a private person submits a report to the police or prosecutor's office, it is necessary to clearly emphasize that it is a report by a private person. This is important because the validity of the private report has not (yet) been tested by the procedures of the competent authorities, the accusations have not yet been verified in any way, and this situation calls for caution from journalists.
In cases handled by the police, it is necessary to state exactly what the police are doing and why. It should be said that "the police took certain actions due to the existence of grounds for suspicion...", that "the police filed a criminal complaint due to the existence of grounds for suspicion..." etc. In the phase of actions taken by the competent authorities (police, etc.), until the eventual issuance of an order to conduct an investigation by the prosecutor's office, we refer to the person as a "suspect".
A defendant is a person against whom an order to conduct an investigation has been issued or against whom an indictment, indictment or private lawsuit has been filed. The term defendant can be used in criminal proceedings as a general name for the defendant, the accused and the convicted.
After the competent court confirms the indictment, it enters into legal force and the person becomes the "accused". Then we state that this person is "accused of...". When recounting the contents of accusations or indictments and witness statements, we should use expressions such as "allegedly", "as claimed", "the witness believes", "the indictment charges that..." etc. This is necessary because the charges have not yet been proven in court.
By passing a first-instance, or non-final verdict, a person can be "declared guilty" and thus become "convicted". Only then can it be said that that person "committed" a certain criminal offense, that he is "responsible" for the crime, etc. However, it should be emphasized at every opportunity that it is a non-final judgment.
In principle, the identity of the accused person should not be revealed before the start of the investigation, unless it is a serious crime, a person who is a public figure, if the crime was committed in a public place, or if the journalist personally witnessed the crime or has no doubts about who the perpetrator is. The name and surname and photo of a person who is suspected of a criminal offense or misdemeanor is published if those persons are of legal age, and before that only the initials of the name and surname are used, except in the cases previously mentioned.
As long as we protect a person's name, we must be careful not to publish any other content that could identify the person in question, for example photos of the house or building where they live, address, place of employment, etc. Names and photographs of victims of sexual offenses, as well as the identity of perpetrators of criminal offenses who are under 18 years of age. If they are in photos or videos that will be used for publication, their faces must be covered to the point of unrecognizability.
Relatives and friends
As part of content about criminal acts, care should also be taken that the identity of persons not connected to the criminal act is not published without their consent. This especially applies to innocent relatives and friends of suspected, accused or convicted perpetrators.
Criticizing the authorities
The news can and should criticize the actions of the police, the prosecutor's office, the way the court proceedings are conducted, the evidence presented, the persuasiveness of the witnesses, and even the verdict, but for that you need very solid evidence and arguments and the necessary knowledge.
People who are not used to contacts with the media
In the process of obtaining information, journalists often talk to people who are not used to contacts with the media, so they do not know their rights and do not consider the possible consequences of their statements. To protect the dignity of such inexperienced persons and their privacy, our journalists should carefully use their statements and be careful not to abuse their trust.
Children and young people
The protection and preservation of the dignity of children and young people requires that identification be avoided in humiliating circumstances that could publicly mark young people, such as poverty, a dysfunctional family, illness, suicide, drug abuse, school violence, eating disorders, etc.
In some situations, when we want to avoid revealing the child's identity, we can, for the purposes of the content, call him by another name, whereby the public should be told that the name is fictitious.
In Vijesti, expressions with negative and discriminatory connotations are not added to children and young people, for example "young criminal", "handicapped", "illegitimate child", etc.
In principle, children with developmental disabilities are not portrayed as lonely, isolated and helpless, but as an integral part of society, and their successes and progress are pointed out, unless the focus of the story is precisely on the problems that cause these children to find themselves in such situations.
The public should be alerted to attempts to use children for propaganda purposes in political or marketing campaigns. The aforementioned principles of identity protection are strictly observed even in cases where parents or guardians approve the publication of the names and photos of children and young people, because there are parents who do not know how to assess what is in the best interest of their children.
All information related to illness and treatment can only be made public with the consent of the person concerned. Health information can be released without consent only when it comes to a government official or a person who occupies a prominent position within the community. Such exceptions must be based on a strong and justifiable public interest and explained to the public.
When details about the state of health, such as the contents of health records, diagnoses, hospital discharge lists, etc., are presented due to legitimate public interest, it is necessary to show tact in intonation, equipment and image and eliminate possible sensationalist elements.
It is rarely justified to publish photos of seriously ill people in sick rooms, especially patients undergoing difficult and painful therapies, or on life support machines.
In order not to discourage patients from treatment, it is not allowed to suggest a different treatment in the content, and especially to predict a tragic outcome.
The news generally does not report on suicides unless there is a clear and justifiable public interest to do otherwise. A suicide can only be reported if a public figure is involved, and if the suicide is related to crime, a crime or some other event that deserves public attention.
When reporting a suicide, care should be taken not to describe the circumstances in detail so that others do not take the scenario as a model. Content about suicides should always include expert opinions on how to help people who have suicidal tendencies in time and how to prevent tragedies.
First to help, then to report
The members of the editorial staff are guided in their work by the conviction that - if a choice has to be made - saving human lives in accidents and disasters is preferable to informing the public about these events. If one has to choose between helping the victims and continuing to report, the choice is always the former.
The news covers religious topics according to the rules of these Guidelines, but taking care not to offend the feelings of believers. Content that could offend members of a religious community will be adequately presented only if there is a justified public interest in it.
We consider content in which a certain belief system is spoken of with disparagement and ridicule as a violation of religious feelings.
Criticism of religious communities
Expressing opinions that are not in agreement with the views of a certain religious community, nor presenting a based criticism of the actions of representatives of church hierarchies, as well as activities outside of religious needs (paying taxes, political activity, child abuse, alleged healing, etc.) cannot be considered a violation of religious feelings. .
The journalist does not interfere with doctrines and dogmas and does not suggest which faith is correct, better or greater than others.
The editor-in-chief can form an Ethics Council made up of experts, former and active experienced journalists and editors, who will give advice on the situation in question in situations where the editorial board cannot resolve an ethical dilemma. If necessary, that Council can meet and propose amendments to these Guidelines, at least once every six months.
There is no compensation for work and membership in the Ethics Council.
Legal advice and executive director
The editor-in-chief will, in all situations where it is possible to predict that a lawsuit for damages against the publisher will follow due to the text ready for publication, consult the company's lawyer and the publisher's executive director before publication.
The previous experience and practice of Vijesti, material prepared for the purposes of this Manual by journalist Sanja Modrić, as well as solutions from ethical codes or similar documents for journalists from the Guardian, Reuters, New York Times, Mondo, Corriere del Sera and others were used to create these Guidelines.
Podgorica, August 2020