Cultivation of Professional Ethics
Over the past few years, many measures have been adopted for regulating journalistic practices on the news front, resolving serious problems, promoting the cultivation of journalistic ethics, and endeavoring to build a lasting self-regulatory mechanism for the news industry. These measures advocate the ethics of preserving the Party spirit in journalistic work, focusing on serving the central task of economic development and the overall interests of the country, keeping in mind the professional principle of serving the people, maintaining the correct orientation of public opinion, safeguarding the truthfulness of news, improving the journalistic working and writing style, upholding the Party’s leadership in running newspapers and periodicals, radio and TV stations, and news portals, making active efforts to fulfill the social responsibility of the news media as part of the code of ethics, and exploring a lasting framework for self-regulation of the news industry. The measures are as follows:
1. Carrying out a wide range of long-term campaigns for cultivating journalistic ethics. The campaign to study the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, Marxist view of news, and journalistic professionalism and ethics has been in full swing across the country since 2003. The year 2011 saw the wide implementation of the campaign to eliminate false reports, enhance the sense of social responsibility among journalists and strengthen the cultivation of journalistic ethics. In the same year, the news circles launched a nationwide campaign to encourage news media and journalists to give greater coverage to grassroots life, improve the journalistic working and writing style, and enhance the standards of journalists and news items. Since then, journalists across the country have warmly responded to this campaign, going to the plateaus, mines, rural villages, urban communities and other places with little coverage before to talk to ordinary people and reflect their views. A large number of news products covering grassroots life have been published, including CCTV’s footage filmed in the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, reporting on the hardships for children in an impoverished mountainous village getting to school and arousing high public concern about the poverty-stricken areas in China. A report on the difficulties of primary and middle school students in mountainous western China in having lunch at school drew great attention from the relevant authorities, and prompted the central and local governments to fund the Free Lunch for Children program there. With their field reports from Lishui, Taizhou, Wenzhou and many other cities and counties of Zhejiang Province, journalists writing in the Zhejiang Daily helped local farmers solve their problems, such as finding channels to sell their fruit and selecting a site for a drinking water project.
2. Intensifying efforts to address major journalistic problems. In response to strong public concern, a campaign was launched in March 2014 to crack down on those engaged in blackmail journalism and false reporting. Since then a number of media companies, illegal online public relations companies, and news workers who committed frequent acts of blackmail journalism or false reporting and caused pernicious effects on society, were investigated and dealt with, with their illegal acts disclosed to the public. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television revoked the licenses of the newspaper China’s Specialties and its journalists involved in seeking illegal profits in the course of conducting interviews. The state authorities closed the Henan office of China Economic Times for the same reason, and sentenced the chief offender to imprisonment of six years and six months.
3. Improving the code of ethics. On November 27, 2009 the ACJA issued the third amended version of the Code of Ethics for Chinese Journalists, which was first adopted in 1991. The latest version introduced the following critical amendments: first, identifying the people as the subjects of reports and the objects of journalistic services for the first time compared with previous versions; second, elaborating on the principle of “reporting mainly in positive, inspiring ways to reinforce solidarity and stability”; third, specifying the principle of truthfulness of news; and fourth, enriching the notion of developing fine traditions. The 2009 version is now the guideline of professionalism and ethics for Chinese journalists.
4. Setting up pilot committees of journalistic ethics. Journalistic ethics committees aim at intensifying the cultivation of journalistic ethics and news professionals, providing a new comprehensive platform combining the forces of law-based management, government administration, self-regulation and public supervision. They serve as effective channels for solving major problems in journalistic circles as well as a key move of the news front to practice the Party’s mass line and voluntarily accept public supervision. In 2013 pilot committees of journalistic ethics were set up in Hebei, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Shandong and Hubei. Since late April 2014, another 14 pilot committees have been added to the program, including 13 provincial-level committees and one committee for industrial newspapers. The journalistic ethics committees involve a broad participation of all sectors of society and give full play to their role of supervision of the news industry. The provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and units incorporated in the pilot program follow the guideline of focusing on hearing public reports and tip-offs to bring to heel news workers breaking journalistic ethics, and paying attention to both punishment and guidance. Because of their conscientious efforts in receiving public reports and tip-offs, conducting reviews of major misdeeds, disclosing cases of misdeeds to the public and promoting positive models, these committees have been widely acclaimed for their initial success in strengthening self-regulation of the news industry and accepting public supervision.
5. Implementing the pilot program of the media social responsibility report system. In 2014 a pilot program was launched to explore the media social responsibility report system, aimed at spurring the initiative of the news media to fulfill their social responsibility. The program requires news media to publish an annual report on the fulfillment of their social responsibility to receive public supervision. The first 11 news media participating in the pilot program are five state news media — Economic Daily, China Youth Daily, CCTV, people.com.cn and xinhuanet.com — and six local news media — Hebei Daily, Jiefang Daily, Qilu Evening News, Hubei Daily Media Group, Hubei TV and Zhejiang Satellite TV. Each report will be reviewed by the ACJA and the local journalistic ethics committee and checked by the relevant administrative authorities before being published. On June 9, 2014 the 11 reports were published on the ACJA’s website, and received wide recognition and praise from the public.