The freedom of the media – electronic, print, internet and others is guaranteed in the international acts to which the Republic of Bulgaria is a party, in the Constitution and in the sector legislation, which lays the groundwork for free expression, distribution and receiving information.
We, the members of the Bulgarian Media Union, are aware of the great responsibility to society which the media owe to every citizen of the Republic of Bulgaria. Believing that we fulfil our duty honestly, in compliance with applicable law, and taking into consideration the need of editorial independence, we adopt these rules as an opportunity and duty for efficient self-regulation through adopting uniform standards, compiled in this Code of Professional Ethics of the Bulgarian Media.
І. Provision of Information
1.1. The media shall provide to society only reliable and verified information without distorting and concealing facts and circumstances, without manipulating public opinion, using misleading or deceptive information and shall require from journalists and editors to observe these rules.
1.2. In their practice and work the media shall be guided by the fundamental principles for protection of the lawful and inalienable rights of citizens and the right of society to be informed, seeking and finding a balance between these rights and requiring the observance of the ethical norms of the journalistic profession.
1.3. The media shall be responsible for their work before society, the law and the professional organisations.
1.4. The work of the media is subject to public judgment – they shall be obliged to consider carefully any recommendations, comments and/or criticisms addressed to them.
1.5. The media shall observe the ethics of public expression and civilised dialogue and adhere to good manners and decency in their work.
1.6. In their work the media shall differentiate between facts and judgments, comments and/or conjectures, they shall strive to present different opinions and positions in search of truth, communicate and/or report accurately and professionally on events with a view of creating an objective public opinion.
1.7. In their efforts to obtain and/or reach information (photos, documents or other materials) the media shall be obliged not to use unfair or illegal means, nor to use threats or whatever form of coercion.
1.8. In their work the media shall respect and protect the privacy of individuals against unreasonable and sensational disclosures. Journalists and editors shall be obliged to respect every person’s right to privacy, health, family and social status, inviolability of home and personal correspondence. Publishing of information infringing upon someone’s personal and/or family life without permission shall be justified only in case of particularly important, overwhelming public interest.
1.9. In their work the media shall refrain from using means for photographing people from afar, on their private property or in the surrounding environment as well as from using hidden cameras or microphones as well as from publishing photographs and/or other materials which do not comply with these rules, except when there is no other way to secure information which is important for the public interest. Derogation from this rule may be justified only by the presence of particularly important, overwhelming public interest.
1.10. The media shall pay special attention and display responsibility when reporting and/or covering accidents, family tragedies, diseases and other tragic incidents respecting the wish of the distressed by the tragedy or the misfortunate persons not to be disturbed in their grief.
1.11. The media shall display caution when disclosing information on the identity of victims and/or witnesses of crimes, of victims of sexual abuse and of victims of other tragic incidents, except with their express agreement.
1.12. In the event of political or civil conflicts the media shall respect the civil rights and freedom of expression of all participants in the conflict and shall strive to remain impartial.
1.13. The media shall be obliged to respect the right of every individual to live in a secure and safe environment, undertaking not to publish materials inciting hate, violence and/or any form of discrimination. The media shall refrain from publishing details on the race, skin colour, religion, gender or sexual orientation or on any other physical or mental differences, defects or diseases if these facts have no any significance and are unrelated to the substance of the information.
1.14. The media shall be obliged to respect the constitutionally proclaimed presumption of innocence, refraining from the qualification “criminal” or any similar one in relation to individuals accused and/or defendants before the court has issued a verdict which has become effective.
1.15. The media shall be obliged to display special responsibility towards children and their rights. They shall not photograph and interview children concerning their personal life without the presence of a parent or a guardian responsible for the child, except where this is of significant public interest and cannot harm them. In cases of sexual or other crimes against a child the media shall not be entitled to disclose the identity of the child regardless of whether he/she is a victim or a witness.
1.16. The media shall not be liable for disclosing information or for its content when it is obtained officially, represents quotes from official documents or is an accurate reproduction of public statements.
ІІ. Sources of Information
2.1. It is a responsibility and an obligation of the media to protect the flow of information and the right of the public to be informed opportunely and accurately.
2.2. The media shall apply the required efforts, using any sources – preferably identified ones, to verify the reliability of information prior to its publication.
2.3. The media shall be entitled to equal access to various sources of information. In case a medium is refused the right of access to information it shall be entitled to inform the public thereof.
2.4. The media shall be entitled not to disclose the source of information used but in this case they shall be responsible for the published information and its authenticity.
ІІІ. Protection of Copyright and Related Rights
3.1. The media shall respect the authorship of the used and/or published materials as well as the authorship of other journalists and participants in the media environment.
3.2. Abridged and amended texts, which change the main substance of the original text, may be published only with the approval of their authors. Texts without an author’s name or texts signed with a pen-name shall be considered editorial.
3.3. Plagiarism shall be incompatible with the professional norms of journalism.
ІV. Right of Reply
4.1. The media shall ensure right of reply to natural and/or legal persons affected by publications as a result of false, inaccurate and/or misleading facts or other information.
4.2. The affected person shall be entitled within three days from the release of the information to request in writing from the respective medium a right of reply. The request shall contain contact details of the affected person, the challenged allegations, arguments and facts that are the cause for the challenge.
4.3. The medium shall be obliged to publish/release the right of reply or a sufficiently clear and unequivocal correction in case it is proven that the medium has used and published false, inaccurate and/or misleading information and to apologise about that.
4.4. The publication of a right of reply shall be free of charge. It shall not exceed the duration of the challenged portion of the broadcast or of the volume of the originally published text.
V. Editorial Independence
5.1. The media shall differentiate their business policy from the editorial one and shall not place editorial decision-making into dependence from personal, political and/or financial circumstances that might influence the objective and truthful reporting of the information.
5.2. Journalists and editors shall not be involved in business and/or financial affairs which threaten freedom of judgment and reduce the objectivity of the published information, neither shall they use their access to information for personal gain or for the benefit of third persons regardless of the way this is done.
5.3. The media shall not use their influence for exercising political or economic pressure to achieve personal favours, neither shall they succumb to political and/or economic pressure which might threaten the freedom of judgment or the objectivity of information.
5.4. Advertising and any other paid information shall be clearly differentiated from the editorial content, allowing the public to distinguish the business messages.
5.5. The media shall respect the rights of journalists to protect the reputation, dignity and decency of the journalist profession.
5.6. Journalists and editors shall avoid situations which might lead to a conflict of interests – direct or indirect, so as not to compromise themselves and the profession.
5.7. Every journalist and editor shall be entitled to refuse to participate in the preparation of materials and publications the content of which contradicts his/her convictions or principles.
VІ. Relations within the Media, Between the Different Media and the Distributors of Print Publications or Distributors of Content
6.1. The media, in the course of their work, shall establish relations of professionalism, mutual respect and fair competition. In their relations with other media they shall display propriety and good faith, shall not violate the principles of fair competition and shall not take action which would damage (or might damage) the good name and reputation of competitive media.
6.2. Short excerpts of stories or reports published in other media may be used without permission but it is obligatory to specify the media they were taken from. Whole materials from other media may be used and/or published only with the prior agreement of the media and the source, from which the material originated, as well as its author must be specified.
6.3. All members of the Bulgarian Media Union reaffirm their position that the public shall know who owns and controls the respective media. Therefore they, in compliance with the legal requirements, publish detailed information on the genuine owners and inform the Minister of Culture annually in the event of changes in the ownership. With a view of creating maximum transparency the Bulgarian Media Union maintains on its web page a detailed register of the ownership of its members.
6.4. Every distributor of printed publications or distributor of content shall contribute in his work to the establishment of proper and good-faith relations between the media and the distributors of printed publications or distributors of content and assist in preventing any actions or practices favouring or restricting the distribution of individual media.
VІІ. Concluding Provisions
7.1. Violations of the provisions herein may be justified only in the event it is proven unequivocally that they are in the public interest.
7.2. An action or a publication is “in the public interest” in the meaning herein only when they are protecting the health, safety and security of citizens, contribute to preventing and detecting serious crimes and abuse of power and protect the public from being seriously misled.