About Fanack - Chronicle of the middle east and north africa
Code of Ethics
This Fanack Code of Ethics (‘Code’) is about what we as as journalists working for Fanack do, as a reporter, editor-in-chief, editor, publisher, freelancer, photo editor, designer, manager or in any other position.
The Fanack Code intends to establish the character and core values of Fanack journalism for the benefit of among others editors, employees, subscribers and readers.
Fanack requires that all cooperating journalistic organisations and journalists recognise, acknowledge and accept the departure points formulated in our code. Fanack invites everyone else engaged with us to adopt it as departure point for cooperation with us.
The rules contained in this code apply to full-time and part-time editors, as well as to freelance employees – unless stated otherwise (for ancillary activities, for example). The rules apply to all Fanack journalism we publish.
Fanack respects the Guidelines of the Netherlands Press Council.
The core task of the Netherlands Press Council is to provide a framework for self-regulation: when and why is journalism prudent and when not?
The Council works on the basis of the Guidelines which describe which requirements journalism must meet and as such clarify to all – both inside and outside of the profession – what can be expected of proper journalists and proper journalism.
Fanack shares the believe that proper journalism can only be performed in full freedom and independence. We consider the freedom of the press as vital and this comes with obligations and responsibilities.
The idea of freedom that we advocate cannot be tolerated with belief in any dogma, does not accept any authority in advance. That means relentless vigilance, constant investigation. Also vigilance towards ourselves and self-examination.
The idea of freedom that we advocate also means tolerance towards those who think differently, for the freedom that we claim for ourselves, by virtue of that idea, we cannot deny others. However, the limit of that tolerance lies where others threaten to affect our freedom.
Proper journalism is truthful and meticulous, impartial and fair, verifiable and trustworthy, and ethical. It allows itself to be inspected and is transparent when dealing with comments, responses and complaints. For Fanack journalism this means:
- Our journalism revolves around truth-finding and, on that basis, opinion formation (news and opinion) for our global audience.
- The concepts of ‘reason’ and ‘freedom’ determine Fanack journalism. We stand against irrationalism, accept skepticism, against dogma and put facts against empty speculation. We maintain a separation between facts and comments. Facts are central in the reporting, not the opinion or personal preference of the author. Opinions are about personal points of view.
- Fanack journalism is factual and objective, but not necessarily socially neutral. Fanack publications are edited with respect for the individual and the principles of tolerance, reasonableness and openness.
- We are committed to fundamental and civil rights: freedom of expression, association and assembly and religion, and the principle of anti-discrimination. Sacred principles protected by Dutch and international law.
For the day-to-day activities of Fanack editors / employees, these principles can be formulated in a number of core values:
- Independence: We are guided by truth-finding, not by political, economic or social interests.
- Integrity: We do our work honestly, openly and carefully, in accordance with the rules of this code.
- Transparency: We are willing and able to account for how and why we do or have done our work.
We adhere to our – oral and written – agreements:
- When we commit to this, we submit interviews / content to our sources before publication.
- If we agree on times for meetings / contact, we will honor those agreements.
- If we have agreed that we have borrowed documents or products (review copies), we will return them.
About some aspects of our work we do not make agreements. We never guarantee that a production (article, photo, infographic) will be published on a specific day, in a specific place. There can always be reasons which prevent us from keeping that promise.
- We do not accept gifts or other material favors because they can lead to (the appearance of) bias and a conflict of interest.
- It is acceptable to accept small gifts, of a reasonable value, which does not suggest the intention of a bribe.
- Fanack can make separate service supplements for sponsors / advertisers, separate from the editorial staff. It is explicitly and clearly stated on these specials on whose behalf they were made and that they are outside of the responsibility of the editors.
2.3. Sponsored journalism
- The editorial team determines the selection, nature and content of Fanack productions and publications. The editors are not looking for sponsors to charge for articles or supplements.
- Participation in (paid) press trips is permitted in certain cases and only after consultation with management. The sponsor must be clearly stated with the article.
2.4. Internal information
- All meetings and information internal to Fanack are confidential. This applies to journalist and commercial meetings, including: internal e-mails, debriefings, work meetings with colleagues.
- We report news about our own company according to common journalistic rules. The editors-in-chief supervise it, but always exercise restraint.
- Productions from the own media are not provided for inspection by third parties in other media before publication, unless with the permission of the chief-editor.
- Fanack editors generally do not sit on juries when it comes to subjects or areas they report on as reporters. This is to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest or bias.
- Exceptions are only possible with the permission of the chief-editor.
- The advantages and disadvantages of participating in a jury are weighed up against each other by the chiefs and chief-editors per request, in consultation with supervisors and editors.
- As a rule, participation in professional journalistic juries is in general considered not a problem.
2.6. Additional activities and positions
- Fanack editors do not (also) work for competing media. This does not apply or applies less to freelance journalists and employees.
- Occasional ancillary activities related to the work (a one-off article in a non-competing publication; lectures; participation in forums or debates) are in principle allowed, as long as they do not harm the Fanack interest.
- Non-journalistic complementary activities and roles in the private sphere, such as membership of the board of an association, sports club or school, editors are allowed, as long as they do not conflict with the journalistic interests of Fanack.
- Fanack editors do not do paid (consultancy) work for governments, companies or other bodies about which we publish as Fanack editors.
- Fanack editors do not advise political parties, companies and other bodies about their media strategy.
- Fanack editors do not associate their names with campaign groups, advertising campaigns or fundraisers.
- Fanack editors refrain from complementary political positions or activities. Like any citizen, they can be members of a political party.
- We report secondary activities and positions related to work to the chief and chief-editor. Permission is required for appearances in other media and at organizations (lectures, courses) on behalf of Fanack.
- Chiefs and editors-in-chief can address editors about all ancillary activities if they believe these are at the expense of the work for Fanack.
- Fanack can occasionally link the name of the company to a social purpose, but strictly monitors the separation between commercial and editorial tasks.
2.7. Performing outside Fanack
- Plagiarism relates to copying someone else’s work in order to present it as your own, without proper acknowledgment of the source. This is a serious journalistic offense, which can lead to dismissal or termination of the collaboration with Fanack (in the case of freelancers).
- Chiefs and chief-editors can ask editors before and after publication to confidentially identify anonymous sources to them.
2.7.2. Political activities
- We do not hold any complementary political positions. Of course, we can be a member of a political party.
- Lectures about one’s own work or incidental participation in forums of political parties are in principle allowed, with the permission of the editor-in-chief.
- We do not advise political parties on media strategies.
- Fanack journalists respect the separation of the public space, in which people can be held accountable for their behavior and opinions, and the private space.
- In principle, the rule for suspects and perpetrators is that we abbreviate their surname to an initial. There are many exceptions to this, depending on distance (in time and space), social position and public reputation of the person concerned.
- For victims of crime and accidents, we respect their privacy.
- As a rule, we do not accept offers from interested parties for free travel, accommodation and / or overnight stays.
- Participation in organized press trips is only permitted after permission from the chief or chief-editor. In the case of publications arising from press trips, it is clearly stated which organization (s) (co-) financed the trip.
- For travel journalism we pay any expenses ourselves. The goal, forming a judgment about the journey, must be established independently.
- Among journalistic travel reports that are (partly) paid for by the organizers, we use the following wording: “The realization of this story was (partly) financed by (name).” Where necessary, we specify that: “It concerns (flight, hotel or other costs).”
2.7.5. Social media
- We use social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to tap sources, check facts, involve readers with Fanack, and draw attention to and explain our work.
- We apply the journalistic rules from this code and general decency standards: the tone may be informal on social media, but never offensive, hateful or rude.
- We are cautious to publish about private information (e.g. hobbies, personal preferences) on public social media. It can lead to unpleasant situations and create vulnerability or even situations leading to blackmail.
- Popularity of a topic on Twitter or other social media can be a news factor, but it is not necessarily an argument for publishing a story.
- All provisions of this code also apply to trainees, with exceptions where stated (for example for ancillary positions).
- At the start of an internship, the internship coordinator points out the existence of this code and where it can be consulted, with the recommendation to read the code carefully before starting the work.
- Trainee supervisors judge whether the behaviour of trainees may become at odds with the provisions of this code. They are available for consultation and provide timely warnings.
- Journalistic stories need (hard) substantiation. Factual claims without proper substantiation are at odds with finding the truth.
- Possible sources can include personal observations of the journalist, statements by persons, documents, data files.
- Correct use and mention of sources is part of reliable journalism. It makes information transparent, traceable and therefore verifiable.
- When in doubt, we prefer to mention a source abundantly rather than too little.
3.1.2. Anonymous sources and citations
- Anonymous sources are sometimes inescapable (for example in political reporting or sensitive legal files). It is crucial whether information obtained in this way can be checked before publication or can be supported with ‘on the record’ sources.
- We are very cautious with anonymous quotes. In principle, statements that are quoted literally must be accompanied with a name. We use anonymous quotes only in exceptional cases (risk of personal or professional harm) and only if it is justified by the importance of the information.
- Anonymous quotes should not act as a license for defamation, insults or unsubstantiated accusations.
- Factual claims from anonymous sources can often be paraphrased, or we account for them ourselves after they have been checked.
- We express opinions or interpretations by anonymous sources as much as possible in their own words, where necessary with a proper comment.
- Factual allegations oblige rebuttal and we only quote with an ‘on the record’ attribution.
- Chiefs and chief-editors can ask editors before and after publication to confidentially identify anonymous sources to them.
3.1.3. Online resources
- A growing number of documents are available on the internet, either for or without a fee. We are aware of the wealth, but also of the possible unreliability of sources on the Internet. We are able to make our own assessment of the quality of these sources and further verification.
- We check the identity of people who register online as a source, or who, for example, offer an opinion piece for publication.
- We check identity on the basis of contact details; we do not usually request copies of identity papers.
3.1.4. On and off record
- We attribute information and claims as much as possible to ‘on the record’ sources. This increases the reliability and verifiability of our work.
- ‘On the record’ are all public sources that we use, as well as any information that we obtain from persons knowing that we can publish the information provided and with a reference to the source.
- ‘Off the record’ means that the information obtained can be used (for publication or further checking), but without being attributed to the source. Also known as the “Chatham House Rules”.
- Conversations with sources for a publication are generally ‘on the record’, unless otherwise agreed in advance.
- Information provided by a source ‘off the record’ can still become ‘on the record’ with the permission of the source.
- Information which a source has provided ‘on the record’ cannot be unilaterally labeled by the source as ‘off the record’ afterwards.
- Sometimes a source speaks of ‘off the record’ for information that may not be published at all, even without attribution. So make sure that the status of the information is clear in contact with the source. Starting point: information obtained ‘off the record’ may always be used.
3.1.5. Public sources
- In our reporting we always (also) consult the available public sources.
- Much more information is (and will be) publicly available than journalists sometimes think.
- We always check whether more public sources are available than previously described.
3.1.6. (Confidential) documents
- Documents can provide solid support for factual claims. In addition to personal sources, we are always looking for complementary documentation.
- Governments, companies and other agencies have the right to designate internal documents as ‘confidential’.
- If we manage to obtain such information, it does not automatically mean that we will also publish; it depends on the public interest of the information.
- Before publishing (parts of) confidential documents, it is always necessary to consult with management and / or editor-in-chief. All guidelines for validation remain in effect.
3.1.7. Family members and friends
- Tips from family members, partners and friends can serve as a resource for articles, as can tips from outsiders, readers, and others.
- If we want to use family members or other loved ones as a source for our own article, we report this to our supervisor. He or she may instruct us to hand over the subject to a colleague in order to avoid (the appearance of) a conflict of interest.
- Personal relationships must be made clear in the article.
3.1.8. Checking (hoaxes)
- We support factual information that is not ‘on the record’ as much as possible with a second or third, written or oral source.
- We assume that people generally want to tell the truth or would like to tell the truth, but always take into account bias of information and lies. This also includes: propaganda, disinformation, spin and counter-spin.
- When in doubt about the credibility of an initiative or action, we carry out extra checks, such as requesting (and having assessed) further documentation. Meticulousness – especially with questionable stories – is more important than speed.
- We do not sign contracts that impose general restrictions on our freedom to publish information.
- We use the same journalistic rules for freelancers as for editors. Their work and method must meet the criteria of Fanack.
- Work of new freelancers is always edited by an experienced editor, who tests it against the quality rules of Fanack.
- News (firsts) offered by freelancers is reviewed by a columnist or member of the board but preferably by the editor-in-chief and verified before publication again by a board member of Fanack.
3.1.11. Hearing and rebuttal
- Hearing back is asking for comment on a claim from the person or agency about whom the claim was made.
- A rebuttal is not always necessary, but is absolutely mandatory for factual accusations against a person or body.
- In addition, the rebuttal serves to obtain a balanced picture of events by giving more involved parties the opportunity to tell their story.
- Hearing back is not a formality after gathering information, but is part of the journalistic investigation.
- Hearing again does not relieve us of the obligation to form our own judgment with further investigation (additional sources, documentation) about the factual correctness or plausibility of statements about a person or body.
3.1.12. Inspection and previews
- Inspection serves primarily to prevent factual inaccuracies in the text.
- It can also be used to correct ambiguities or mistakes, but not to change opinions or omit relevant facts.
- Access is no excuse for the author’s mistakes; we should do our job thoroughly and correctly. The result remains at the expense of the author / Fanack.
- Granting access is different from having a production ‘approved’ or ‘authorized’. Only Fanack ‘authorizes’ an Fanack publication.
- We do not participate in productions where sources make ‘authorization’ a condition. This also applies to photos.
- For any proposed change to the text of a production, sources should make clear why it should be made.
- The editor decides whether to make the proposed changes. In case of doubt, the final editor, chief or chief-editor is consulted.
3.1.13. Presenting ourselves
- Journalists serve the public domain; it is appropriate that they themselves also offer the greatest possible openness about their work.
- When contacting sources with the intention of publishing their statements, we will identify ourselves as a journalist in advance and state the purpose of this contact.
- You can attend public gatherings (meetings, demonstrations) without identifying yourself as a journalist; we do this again when we speak to other visitors with the intention of (possibly) publishing their statements. This also applies to other public places and contacts.
3.1.14. Opinion articles from editors
- We are reluctant to publish articles by our own editors on the opinion page.
- The expertise of editors is also welcome there on occasion, but publication should not undermine the independence and authority of the reporting.
- This means that in any case, editors will not write opinion pieces about a case they are reporting on as a reporter at the time.
- Freelancers are free to publish opinion pieces elsewhere; they are asked to offer them to Fanack first.
3.1.15. Recording of conversations
- Journalists, like all people, are allowed to record their own (telephone) conversations, even without informing their conversation partners.
- However, recordings of such conversations should generally not be broadcast without the knowledge or consent of those involved. Consumer programs often do this, appealing to the public interest.
- For Fanack journalists, recordings of (telephone) conversations may be used to check notes made, to check quotations before publication, or as evidence in possible disputes or proceedings about a publication.
- Our discussion partners (sources, information officers, etc.) are also free to record conversations with us in turn.
4.1. Source references
- We attribute statements to sources, cited by name as much as possible. This is part of the transparency and verifiability of the information.
- We only bring news from anonymous sources if the information is highly relevant, reliable and cannot be obtained ‘on the record’ in any other way.
- Well-known facts need not be attributed to a source; for facts and figures that are disputed, the source must be cited.
- Assignment of statements to sources is done by stating their name, their function or position in an organisation and, where necessary, their age or place of residence.
- We describe anonymous source(s) as accurately as possible (position, rank, expertise) without endangering their anonymity.
- A correspondent or reporter abroad will not always have to state the source of a fact or quotation when using local media, but should never give the false impression that he himself was present or that he had a first-hand statement heard.
- When copying from, or continuing on, firsts from other media, the source is always stated.
- We use quotations (between double quotation marks) to express the interviewee’s words as literally as possible.
- Speaking language may be slightly adjusted (‘eh’ and ‘uh’), no one speaks in perfect sentences. But without changing the speaker’s choice of words.
- We use anonymous quotes as little as possible; sometimes there is no other option, but as a rule, a quoted pronunciation must include the name or a recognisable description of the speaker.
- We prefer to use one ‘on the record’ quote that is confirmed by anonymous sources, rather than just anonymous quotes.
- Statements submitted before publication can only be changed if the quotation is found to be factually inaccurate (based on notes or recording), the speaker is demonstrably mistaken (on a fact of minor importance), or the quotation needs clarification.
- We may adapt quotes for an interview or report for publication if the source can clarify why this is necessary. The editor decides, not the source.
- We correct errors and generously supplement incomplete information. This can happen in follow-up reports but also in corrections in the website or online.
- We actively distribute our stories on social media. If we have to correct an error in a piece, we can choose to report it via social media as well. In principle, if we distribute a factually incorrect tweet or Facebook message, we will not delete these messages. We choose to post a new tweet or Facebook post in response to the incorrect post correcting the error (with the word ‘Correction’ in it).
4.4. Ethnic background
- We approach people as individuals and do not specify the ethnic origin or skin color of individuals as standard. This also applies to short police reports.
- Mention of ethnic origin can be relevant in stories about certain topics (employment, crime, culture, etc.). The article must then make it as clear as possible why (a statement of) origin may be relevant.
- In more personal pieces, such as portraits and interviews, mentioning someone’s ethnic origin can also be useful.
- We avoid the terms “immigrant” and “native”, these are social sciences container concepts that have become vague colloquialisms. Of course they can occur in quotations (from speakers or from documents) and sometimes when they explicitly apply (for example in documents about population screening). When describing individuals or groups in our own reporting, however, we prefer to be more concrete and – if relevant – to speak of “background” and/or “descent ”.
4.5. Factual inaccuracies
- Factual inaccuracies primarily include hard data. Think of: spelling of names, years, numbers, placeholders, chronologies.
- Factual inaccuracies explicitly exclude: the interpretation or context of an argument or event.
- This is for our account and, if in doubt, can be discussed with the source (s) before publication on the basis of arguments.
4.6. Photo editing
- Photo editing is allowed, but just as text editing should not lead to a misleading representation of reality.
- Photos are not mechanical reproductions of reality, but can be used in many ways: as news, illustrative, or commentary.
- Truthfulness should come first. Example: In a photo from a press conference of the head of state, his spokesman has been cut out in the corner of the room to make the photo portrait. This is allowed unless the site intentionally wants to give the impression that the spokesperson was not present.
- The extent to which editing is allowed therefore also depends on the context of placement.
4.7. Photo captions and infographics
- In the caption for photos and infographics, we state the source (photographer, press agency or agency, another medium) correctly and completely.
- We state this in the caption for photos or other illustrations that have been edited by the editors or by the supplier.
- In the case of an ‘illustrative’ photo (a photo that is not necessarily up-to-date that is placed with an article, often from stock), we will indicate when it was taken.
- We adhere to the rules of portrait law and case law on privacy, unless there are compelling reasons (of public interest) to deviate from this.
- Photography in public space is allowed, but portrait rights impose limits on the use of photos of random, recognisable people.
- For this reason, we try not to place photos of recognisable persons who do not appear in the article in articles on controversial topics.
- Under photos for articles on controversial or non-controversial topics, we state whether the people depicted appear in the article. This also applies to photos of foreign agencies.
4.9. Fake names
- We do not use fictitious names. Journalism stands or falls with the reliability and verifiability of information; that includes naming names.
- If it is necessary to protect the identity of a source or person, we usually do so by omitting his or her (last) name.
- The use of fictitious (full) names makes journalism unreliable, but it is also dangerous: there is often another, uninvolved person who is really called that.
- The story must clearly state, in a separate explanation, why we do not mention the name of the person concerned.
- Fanack does not present rumours as facts. Rumours can have news value, but should be labeled as such.
- It must be rumours that are relevant to the public debate or to understand the actions of officials (politics, companies).
- We do not publish rumours that may be incriminating, harmful or defamatory for persons without rebuttal.
- Rumours (about an alleged fact) are not the same as speculation (expectations based on arguments).
- The question of who will become a minister in a new cabinet, or the next director of a museum, may be the subject of speculation in publications.
- This includes: checking or requesting a response from the person (s) involved.
4.11. Me Journalism
- Journalists write about others, not about themselves. Fanack editors generally leave themselves out of the story.
- Sometimes an article can be written in the I form to bring readers closer to an experience or event. We are reluctant to do so.
- Columnists and opinion authors can generally involve themselves and their experiences in their articles; they practice a genre that is by definition personal.
- We are reluctant to use I journalism because it can give readers the impression of vanity and distraction from the subject.
- Exceptionally, the I-form can be used when it comes to describing an experience or event that is unknown and unique to the reader (for example, coming under attack in a war situation), or that is known and exemplary.
- Even in such exceptional stories, the person of the journalist must remain subordinate to the story.
4.12. Use of initials
- Fanack traditionally follows an ‘initials rule’ when naming suspects and perpetrators of criminal offenses (first name and first letter of the last name).
- That is not a legal requirement, but a journalistic agreement. It is not a dogma. Mentioning names is part of journalism, and the initials rule can be deviated from in certain cases.
- This may be the case with senior public officials (politicians, judges, top civil servants, doctors, professors, public administrators, top business executives).
- The use of initials is superfluous with people who were well known before they were suspected. The protection of their identity, which the rule must serve, no longer plays a role.
In addition to the argument of ‘ridiculousness’ for public persons, the following exceptions apply to the initials rule:
- With suspects or perpetrators who have rebutted Fanack journalists and who do not object to their names being mentioned. Argument: free choice.
- Victims of crime or disasters are not identified by initials as this criminalises them; they are described or mentioned by name.
4.13. Unpublishing and archive management
- The integrity of the archive is paramount. This means that requests to make changes are generally not honoured.
- An exception can only be made with the permission of the chief-editor and after consultation with the author of the article and his superior.
4.14. Sexual orientation
- The way in which people describe themselves in terms of sexuality and gender is the subject of public debate. Reference is often made to terminology from the LGBTI community, especially when it comes to transgender or gender-fluid people.
- The basic principle at Fanack is that we take into account the way in which people want to be addressed, while observing journalistic requirements for concrete, clear and verifiable language use and without confusing the reader.
- Only mention someone’s sexual orientation if it is relevant to a story and its relevance is also clear to the reader. Use ‘sexual orientation’ rather than ‘sexual preference’, which implies a choice.
- We prefer ‘transgender’, ‘trans man’ and ‘trans woman’ over the older ‘transsexual’. A trans man is a man with the female birth gender, a trans woman is a woman with the male birth gender. Dead-naming refers to the old name of a transgender person. We only use the old name if it is relevant to the story.
- In interviews or reports with transgender people, we take into account the personal (he / she) and possessive (his / her) pronouns that someone uses. If the preference of a person is not clear, or if it does not fit in the current grammar, we use the person’s name and descriptions that fit with how the person concerned manifests himself publicly. If necessary, we explain this in or with the piece.
4.15. On terrorism
- When do we speak of “terror” or “terrorism”? When is a perpetrator of violence a “terrorist”? Various answers are given to these questions. For example, the EU defines terrorism as violent crimes “with a view to intimidating a population or a government” or “destabilising social order.”
- The concept of terrorism and terrorist is therefore highly politically charged and often depends on the perspective of governments or organisations.
- Many international media have therefore started to avoid the terms. The BBC and Reuters use “terrorism” or “terrorist” in concrete attacks and persons only in quotations. They prefer more concrete descriptive terms such as “bomb attack”, “shooter”, “hijacker” or “militant”.
4.16. (Mention of) suicide
- We mention suicide (or ‘suicide’) as the cause of death, but are reluctant to give details about circumstances and method. We do not romanticise suicide as a solution to life’s problems.
- Scientific research has shown that extensive and detailed media attention for (methods of) suicide can promote copying behaviour. See the media code of the World Health Organisation.
- In short, these guidelines boil down to this: do not give details of method or means; do not romanticise; if necessary, quote the sites for on- and/of offline help. Research shows that this helps.