Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 12/2011

Media Codes of Ethics: The Difficulty of Defining Standards

Eugene L. Meyer

November 2011

National Endowment for Democracy


CIMA is pleased to release a new report, Media Codes of Ethics: The Difficulty of Defining Standards, by Eugene L. Meyer, a veteran journalist. Profession-wide codes of ethics for reporters and editors have long been established and are widespread in Western democracies, where they are typically voluntary and are often issued and adopted by leading organizations of journalists. They incorporate best practices that may go beyond the laws of libel, defamation, and privacy. In the not-so-free world, these codes are not always the products of a self-regulating free press. They may represent a cultural and political compromise with a society or government that holds a more restrictive view of what journalists should and should not report. This report examines the different types of media codes of ethics and offers recommendations for making them more robust and useful in efforts to raise standards of journalism.