Revista Latina

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DOI: 10.4185/RLCS-65-2010-879-001-013-Eng
– ISSN 1138 - 5820 – RLCS # 65 - 2010

A profession termed "Journalism"

Manuel Fernández Areal, Ph. D. [C.V.] Chair of Journalism - Professor Emeritus - Vigo University

Abstract: New technologies can foster the impression that journalism, as a profession, will become extinct  in a short term. The fact that anybody can have access to any information sources and can also transmit – through Internet- all sorts of messages at an unusual speed,  seems to support the idea that no technical training will be needed in the future, not even an specific cultural background will be required, much less an university degree or qualification that ensures a responsible and appropriate practice of the modern social communication. The Federation of Associations of Journalists of Spain (FAPE) in its Professional Statute Draft is in favour of a profession qualified  by a university degree, and its Commission for Complaints has been developing a successful work in favour of the professional self-regulation and self-control for the benefit of society. Therefore, there are good reasons for being optimist. Journalism, as a profession, is not going to disappear, and maybe it is time for it to really become a university-qualified profession

Keywords: journalism; journalistic profession; journalist qualification; journalist.

Summary:1. Introduction. 2. It is time to regulate the practice of Journalism? 3. What is a journalist? 4. The role of the State. 5. The limits. 6. The right of the Public. 7. A timid step forward. 8. Conclusion. 9. Notes. 10. Bibliography.

Translation made by Professor Marta Masera,
National University of Córdoba (Argentina)

1. Introduction

Through 2009, the Vigo’s Press Association joyfully celebrated the centenary of its creation and in order to remember its history, it invited some professional journalists, including myself, to participate in a series of conferences, in which I contributed once again with my ideas and beliefs about what a journalist is, should be, or can be, within the current definition of Journalism, independent from the support of the various forms of direct intervention in modern social communication, either reporting events or giving opinions.

Along with my participation as a journalist for over half a century –I have actually just celebrated with my graduating classmates getting the degree from the monopolistic and governmental School of Journalism of Madrid, whose director was none other than the General Director of the Press of a ministry in charge of controlling the professionals and directing the information nationwide using compulsory censure standards– the Journalists Association from Galicia, of which I am also a member, in charge by statute of thoroughly studying journalism, gave me the latest version of the draft of the Journalist Statute which was written by the Federation of Associations of Journalists of Spain (FAPE) -of which I am also a member. This draft, which differs a lot from the text that some unions wanted to pass as law, made me  testify as an expert (by the end of 2005) before the corresponding parliamentary committee, and  rejected it flatly.

As just another experienced journalist in his noble profession, I gave the parliamentary committee a very different point of view from that of some “liberated” unionists: that the draft statute they were trying to pass into law failed in many aspects, for example, the initial presentation of reasons confuses a professional journalist with a reporter. In other words, it is based on the identification between journalist and reporter of current affairs and public interest issues, as if all the tasks of a journalist were just to inform. This simplification is, over the articles proposed in the bill, detrimental to professional journalism, a profession which is much broader than that considered in the bill.

Journalism involves many other tasks and it can be exercised not only in mainstream newspapers, but also in magazines, radio, television, etc.

In the Statement of motives, it was affirmed that there is a constitutional basis for enacting a Statute of the Professional Journalist. However, the Constitution does not indicates that the statute must be written following the guidelines set by the 1967 Statute, imposed on the profession of journalism of that time, drawn away from it and in accordance with the 1966 Press Law that in some way came to partly soften, without replacing the freedom of the Press, the rigid precepts of the 1938 law, Decree Serrano Súñer, whose first article designated the State as responsible for the “the organization, supervision and control of the national institution of the daily press”.

As we examine the bill, the single reference to the consideration of the figure of the director “as a hinge between the editorial barons and the editorial staff”, the assignment to the Information Councils of the “control of an ethical code”, also imposed on and not developed by the profession itself, among other things, clearly show which was its source of inspiration: a statute and a law written by a dictatorial government, whose principles are also clearly in flagrant contrast with the principles and the text of our democratic constitution of 1978. Regarding the bill and its articles, it is worth saying that, as I already mentioned, the proposed definition of the profession of journalism in the article 1 is not accurate just like the one in the article 4, entitled ‘Journalists in pieces’, for the same reasons, or the one in the article 5 ‘the definition of a journalist’, as a professional devoted to current news, because that is now completely inadequate.

Furthermore, it is not understood why the “public interest” is to be defined by those who are not professionals –according to the text– of the production of the information of public interest. The definition of such interests by the governmental authority grants the latter virtually infinite powers in its restrictive capacity towards the activity it allegedly protects in favour and in recognition of citizens’ right to receive information according to the article 20th of the constitution.

It is not explained why every media should have an editorial committee.

It is even less understood the role of the National Board of Information –which is also reminiscent of the 1968 Law– and its definition as “a public body independent from the executive power, which should accounts for its actions to the legislative power” (article 25), and its composition according to article 26, and the powers attributed to it, from the licensing of the professional card –which takes us back to the previous regime’s tradition of controlling the profession through cards– to its sanctioning power.

The situation is different, for instance, in the case of the ethics jury which publicity agents and advertisers voluntarily and privately established and submitted themselves to its sanctioning role. The fact that is the bill is “economically funded through the General State Budget” says little about the alleged independence from the executive power by the National and regional Councils of Information.

It is the responsibility of the profession itself to develop an ethical code and organize a monitoring system for the application of its precepts. A definition of the profession cannot be impose on the profession of journalism, the same way it is not imposed on associations of physicians, lawyers, etc, because it is the professionals, be they journalists, doctors, or lawyers, who through their associations define and defend their rights.

At least in democratic systems, it is the profession, not the government, the one that brings professionals together, develops a code of ethics, set the procedures to enforce it, and so on.

2. Is it time to regulate the practice of Journalism?

A lot of years of professionally practicing and teaching journalism allow me to venture, as a result of my experience, to consider that maybe it is time to seriously consider what the article 1 from Chapter 1 –General Principles– of the above mentioned Bill prepared by FAPE, states openly whether it is liked or not by to those who might confuse freedom of speech with lack of professional quality requirement to precisely guarantee the same civic freedom:

“Under the provisions of the article 36 of the Spanish Constitution and system of law, the present statute aims to regulate and harmonize the practice of Journalism, which, as a university-qualified profession, is entitled to be the instrument for the responsible formation of a plural public opinion.”

A Journalist, according to the article 2nd of this draft, is the person “who is in possession of a degree in Journalism (be it a bachelor degree or another qualification required for such purposes) awarded by any Spanish university.” (I believe that today it is necessary and more practical, even more realistic, to refer to any of the existing academic qualifications in Communication, without trying to affect the requirement for the specialization in Journalism, but without closing the access gate to the profession to everyone who is graduated in any of the other fields of communication which have a suitable technical capacity and the required deontological commitment.)

Article 21 of the Chapter V of the Draft, devoted to the Associations and Colleges of Journalists, proposes:

“Under the protection of the article 26 of the Constitution, the safeguarding of the function of journalism and the warranty of the independence of journalists, as belonging to a degree or entitled profession, is the matter of the Press Associations and Colleges of Journalists, who in turn may federate, without detriment to the inherent authority of the unions concerning the labor issues.”

All this reminds me of something I also referred to, though superficially , in my lecture in Vigo about “The freedom and responsibility of the journalists”, and which somehow asserted what was said by other speakers in the conference, like Fernando G. Urbaneja, then the president of FAPE himself and today president of the Press Association of Madrid. I am talking about the “Proposal regarding the codes of conduct of the Spanish journalists”, which I submitted in 1996 to the FAPE, in its Meeting in Cádiz, as a journalist included in its professional registry with the number 3.336.

I stated then that, as it is common sense and it is the existing law, the deontological codes –in any profession– have a reason to exist when there is a member association body (like the professional association of lawyers in Spain) that integrates graduates who practice the profession in question.

With reference to the Spanish journalists, the strength of the Code of Ethics of FAPE to enforce its operation is no stronger than the force that each professional journalist wishes to assign to it. Therefore, my proposal was that the FAPE developed a private agreement text to be signed between the professional body and those journalists who, being qualified in any branch of Communication, committed  to respect the deontological code and accept the resolutions which, according to the precepts of that code, may affect them in the future.

The proposal was not aiming to demand, in order to exercise the profession, a university degree, but to commit, in the future, those qualified university graduates to what is stated in this agreement, and eventually being able to form a real professional College, similar to other professions, since without a degree one cannot speak of a proper professional college.

I agree with the common sense assertion of the director of the Media Program Unit and the Media Literacy Programme of the European Commission, Aviva Silver, when she claims that “technological changes make it possible for almost anyone to become not only consumers but also the creators of media content.” [1]

But I also agree with what the current president of FAPE, Magis Iglesias, stated when she took office and was interviewed by Blanca Bertrand: “...It is possible to see a modern journalism, adapted to the audiovisual and multimedia market, maintaining the demands of good practice, seriousness, and depth in the treatment of issues. The search for quality is necessary to dignify the profession because it is our obligation, imposed by the right of citizens to receive reliable information." [2]

I believe my proposal presented many years ago might be still feasible. What does not seem feasible or desirable for the profession, much less for the citizens, the holders of the constitutional right to receive truthful information, is the constitution from the supervision of a college of colleges in line with another professional Statute that the government also try to impose on us with the excuse of a more efficient regulation of the profession. Us professionals know what we want; however, some politicians and paid union leaders are taking another direction that does not benefit our own interests, nor the right to receive truthful information, uncontaminated from partisan political biased interests. The approval of the bill drafted ignoring the profession would repeat the sad spectacle of the 1967 Statute of the journalistic profession, approved and promulgated by the Spanish Ministry of Information as a complement of the repressive 1966 Press law of Fraga which undoubtedly marked a step forward towards the freedom of information, but not the freedom of information itself.

3. What is a journalist?

I have always argued that the journalist’s principal mission is to inform; however, he is not just a photographer of reality, as I argued in a controversial article precisely entitled "What is a journalist?" [3], published in the Diario Regional (Regional Newspaper) from Valladolid half a century ago and which would have to be clarify today, given the sociological changes affecting the profession and the advances in intellectual and technical training of journalists and communicators in general, thanks to the admirable work of the B.A. programmes in Journalism, Advertising and Public Relations, and Audiovisual Communication.
Yet, no matter how spectacular the changes are, and how much they might change the public’s demands, what the public is still expecting from the journalists is the truth when informing and the honesty when commenting. And to make this happen, as I will try to show, we need freedom, which is essential to develop and transmit news, ideas, and thoughts. Without freedom there is no information nor there can be honest opinion.

This is why I have always declared myself enemy of the specific laws of Publishing, Press, Communication or whatever they want to call them, because, although they programmatically declare in their articles that they come to favour the freedom, what they do in practice is to shackle it, to the detriment of everyone, not only of the journalists in charge of making a bridge between “what happens” and those who want to know what happens, and tacitly delegate in the professionals their right to have reliable and objective news about what happens in their environment or beyond it.

Not few of my fellow journalists meekly accept the dogmatic assertion, usually spread by non- journalists but general broadcasters (who lack the desire to search for truthful information that characterized and still characterizes the journalist all over the world), that in the era of “post journalism”, the “old and outdated” distinction between the three classic communicative modes of information, propaganda, advertising, and the traditional vision of media -newspapers, radio, television- can no longer be maintained because the Internet has come to modify and overcome all these “outdated” conceptions, which must be banished from our modern Schools of Communication, which are in turn better than over the primitive  professional schools.
It is usually successful TV and radio presenters and bloggers who more or less occasional propose to entirely ignore the training of communicators up to the disappearance of the journalist profession as such, since they believe that today anyone, thanks to Internet, can be a journalist, just for having the physical and material ability to introduce news, rumours, advertising, programmes of all types, among other things, on the Web and keep interesting blogs without any previous academic, technical and much less ethical training.

It is a mistaken belief based on apparently strong foundations of experience and reliable statistics. Today, the conclusion would be that no journalists are needed and that they have no specific function, nor society needs them for nothing, therefore, the academic institutions in charge of training and grant  the qualifications to people who, when competing for a job, will find that what was learned at the University is not going to be useful. The world, they say, moves towards the other side. Freedom is the supreme good that guarantees that anyone, on their own, can perform the tasks that until now only professional journalists were performing. We have reached the end of the species and we can speak quite properly, about post-journalism, in the same way as the term post-modernism is accepted.

However, we are still a large number of people who defend the true idea that the journalist can and should continue to be in the era of postmodernism, in the internet era or any other era that may take place, because journalism is based on the search for the truth to spread it and transmit it to others and that will remain valid whatever the channels chosen. Thus we can correctly name journalists all those who report events, not those who do advertising or ideological propaganda disguised as information by the silver paper of news that tricks the recipient of the message, who is not receiving information, though it is called information -certainly there will be communication but persuasive and disguised communication. The same apply to those who honestly comment on reality, based on true facts. Furthermore, whatever those considered themselves experts in journalism in particular and experts in communication in general (without being journalists but desiring to be named journalists) say about the Internet, it is not a medium. The airwaves are neither a medium, it is the radio and television which are the media. The paper is not a medium, it is the editorial staff and directives using the paper who are the medium. Radio, television, and newspapers can use and exploit the Internet by adapting themselves to the new specifications and requirements that the Internet offers and imposes, but this does not stop them from being what they are.

It is necessary to continue talking about information, propaganda and advertising as parts of the same sociological phenomenon, the Communication, but without confusion. We must go on talking about the communicative genres and journalistic genres in particular and continue to highlight the importance of not urging the viewer to buy a product while information is offered by taking advantage of the reputation that can be transmitted by an objective and truthful reporter, in order to inject a plus in the message that the viewer did not expect.

Let's remember that information, as Desantes states, is the subject of a right “that was first described in the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations in its Article 19, and the Decree Cum Mirifica promulgated by the Second Vatican Council nominated as the right to information." [4] And that right is, in turn, a duty for professionals; implying deontological, legal and ethical values, it is a duty embodied in an act of justice, giving the citizen its right to receive truthful information.

As Simon argues, the right to information is now universally accepted as natural or characteristic of the human being, as it is a part of that “bundle of rights rooted in the essence of humankind”. [5] The recognition of such natural or fundamental human rights is what gives rise to the Rule of Law. Historically, only the Rule of Law has allowed a sincere protection of such rights and a rational regulation of its use. And it is worth remembering that a Rule of Law only exists when there is an enacted Constitution that guarantees basic rights, when the principle of lawfulness is recognized and there is submission of the Administration to the law and there are truly independent courts capable of judging even the Administration itself.

I understand that what is truly definite to the journalist, what constitutes the essence of his or her profession is precisely the duty to strive for truth, a trend born of course of a general duty as a person to say things as they are, without distorting reality, besides, the professional duty to provide the public, composed of individuals, with the reality as objectively as possible. As Tomas de Aquino already enunciated, men are born to live in society, but it would be impossible to do so if they did not tell the truth to each other. [6] And Gomis points out that we must be careful with the “making” of facts according to some interests, because some events could become news events in spite of the fact that they have not happened as some sources present them or show them to the journalist. “The right to news –Gomis says– is the right to know what happens, getting inside what is happening, what matters the most to most people, but it is also the right to know what we need to know to avoid being deceived. [7]

4. The role of the State

We cannot speak of responsibility -in the realm of ethics, morals, and deontology- if we do not act freely. Though, the term responsibility is also applied in cases where the Communication professionals work under government pressure, psychological coercion or threat of sanctions of various types if there is disobedience to a illegitimate political mandate, which denies citizens their constitutionally recognized right to receive the truth: "You will be responsible for what happens to your company or you will be responsible for closure of the newspaper or the broadcasting or publishing company”. This vulgar blackmail has nothing to do with the sense of moral responsibility that leads to a proper self-regulation and self-control in order to achieve a real product and granting the public, the receptor of the message, the right they have: the truth.

Viewed from the field of the professional duties of the journalist or communicator in general, we can only talk about “duties” and the consequent liability when there is freedom to act. [8]

"The notion of" right to information,  Delrieux says -is, in this specific field of information and communication, the new concept of" welfare state" or "interventionist state” and the international solidarity forged progressively after the  World War II, or at least partially implemented, sometimes without even knowing or being unable to link it with a real theoretical reflection (which has been far less prepared even in the case of the right to information than  in other concepts of rights and freedoms) This notion also implies specific rights and obligations for information professionals, on behalf of the public's right to information, while, at the same time certain duties may arise from it." [9]

Such claims must be tempered so that they can be understood in their fair terms. Properly, it is incumbent on the State effectively resolving technical and infrastructure problems that hamper the efficiency of the communicative process as well as removing obstacles to free flow of messages, but always having a respect for the right of citizens to receive such messages -especially the truth when dealing with facts- and the right of professionals to investigate, to handle –in the best grammatical sense of the word– all the informational materials to develop the message, distribute it and send it to the public with a guarantee of respect for that truth which may not be the “official” or  political one. And there is exactly where we can speak of self-regulation –as we will- as preferable to everyone –public and professionals- instead of meticulous legislation casuistically ruling the practice of the communicator’s profession.

Of course, as Sanchez-Cámara recalls - the exercise of any right is subject to limits:

"The right to information, too. It is important to raise the issue of the limits on freedom of information and, in general, the limits on freedom of expression. The problem has got, if I am not mistaken, at least three dimensions: ethical, legal and cultural ... Legal constraints can rest on moral grounds, and they can advise limitations in favor of education and culture of young people or of all citizens. Certainly, legal constraints are imposed coercively, but it is not so for moral and cultural ones." [10]

The article 20 of our current Constitution of 1978 clearly states the right to receive and distribute information is limited by other rights related to people and recognized in concomitant articles. But it is clear that the law is not enough to always obtain a good quality communicative product, that is, truthful and respectful of other natural or fundamental rights of the person, etc. Experience shows that the effectiveness of self-regulatory systems to clean up the communication process, to ensure the public good and  to guarantee good relationships between professionals and recipients of messages, without having to go to court, which is always an expensive and slower system and in the long run, even troublesome.

For Martínez Albertos, the right to communicate or receive truthful information referred to in the article 20 of our Constitution should be interpreted in the sense of “an information technically developed in accordance with the principles underlying the correct professional behaviour of journalists, i.e. an action that can pass the test for quality control in products of the cultural industry of our time.” [11]

Nowadays, it is still necessary for the professional to reflect about his or her task and being honest when analyzing the mental process by which he or she gets to regard as “event" any fact that he or she faces at work. Is that event which comes to the newsroom, whatever the procedure might be, really important for the public? Has it got sufficient quality –and by quality we must also understand the respect for the dignity of a person– and does it deserve being published or broadcast, in response to public interest?

As Stuart Mill made clear, “the reason of human freedom comprises, first, the internal domain of consciousness; demanding liberty of conscience in the most comprehensive of its senses, freedom of thought and feeling, absolute freedom of thought and sentiment, on all the speculative or practical subject matters, scientific, moral, or theological ones... the freedom of expressing and publishing opinions may seem to fall under a different principle belonging to that part of the conduct of an individual who gets acquainted with the others; but almost as important as having the same freedom of thought and resting largely on the same reasons, is practically inseparable from it”. [12]

5. The limits

A model of balance between the natural right to information and, in general, to free expression in all its aspects, on the one hand, and the right of others to be respected in their dignity and beliefs, which entails rational limits to the exercise of the right to communicate in a broad sense, which will lead to a responsible self-regulation, and a control of the quality of the communicative product, is the note published by the Information Office of the Holy See on 4th February 2006 in connection with the conflict situation raised internationally by the publication in a Danish newspaper and later in papers from other European nationalities, of certain cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, including one particularly contentious, as he was presented with a bomb in the turban, in allusion, no doubt, to Islamic terrorism.
The Vatican Information Office stated:

"In response to several requests for clarification on the position of the Holy See to recent offensive depictions of religious sentiments of people and entire communities, the Information Office of the Holy See may declare:

1.- The right to freedom of thought and expression, enacted by the Declaration of Human Rights can not imply the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers. This principle applies obviously to any religion.

2.- The coexistence also requires a climate of mutual respect to favor peace among men and nations. Moreover, these forms of exasperated criticism or derision from others manifest a lack of human sensitivity and can be an "unacceptable provocation" in some cases. The reading of history teaches that through this path, wounds already existing in people´s lives will not be healed.

3.- However, it must be said immediately that the offenses caused by an individual or  printing media can not be attributed to public institutions in the country concerned, whose authorities can and should, eventually, intervene according to the principles of the national law. So, violent protest actions are equally regrettable. The reaction to an offense can not fail the true spirit or essence of any religion. Real or verbal intolerance, wherever it comes from, as action or reaction, is always a serious threat to peace."

In view of this simple but clear-sighted note, it is necessary to conclude, taking into account the experience of many years of searching for a system to ensure -as far as possible- the quality of the information products, that the Law is not enough guarantee, that the law is narrow in order to avoid professional misconducts or less suitable conducts from an ethical point of view –except from the extreme case of offenses under the ordinary criminal code. Because, as noted by Ollero, “Every law is self-presented as an ethical “minimum”. [13]

And here we are dealing with quality, i.e. maximums. Even when taking into account human weakness, the Spanish law is satisfied when professional people, instead of the whole truth and the accurate reflection of reality, can offer the veracity of the facts, i.e. when they exhaust their possibilities of a diligent exercise of their profession in search of truth, following what the Constitution itself recognizes as the right of every Spanish citizen: a truthful information.

When our Constitution of 1978 recognizes and protects, in its art. 20, the rights to freely express and spread thoughts, ideas and opinions through the spoken word, the printing media or any other  reproduction media, as well as the literary, artistic, scientific and technical production and freely communicate or receive truthful information by any mass media... at the same time, it warns that, as with any other law, this one has its own frame that, when it is outlined, points out its possible conflicting rights, that is, other equally natural rights, belonging to every human being as a person, to be observed in recognition that “the others” have got a personality which is equally and legally protected. What the constitution cannot make, nor any law of development of its precepts, is to foresee casuistically all the cases of potential conflict between some and other rights. This is a matter left to the judge who, according to D’Ors, is the person to tell who is wrong and will proclaim the right and so, D’Ors says, Law is what the judges consider as law, of course following the current law in force.

The Pontifical Council for Communications insists on the principle of truth “because truth is always essential to individual freedom and to authentic communion among persons.” [14] The duty of truthfulness is ethical, but it is also legal in nature because, for example, our 1988 General Advertising Act, in its 3rd article, prohibits the misleading advertising and its 4th article classifies as deceitful every advertising that, “whatever the way is presented, may persuade or is likely to mislead its recipients and consequently may affect their economic behaviour or may damage a competitor”.

And all this for a reason that can not be overlooked: the Law if regarded as such, it is not just mere collection or set of more or less fair rules, more or less arbitrary, but a form of social life, which translates a view on Justice, delineating the areas of right and wrong, of what is lawful and what is prohibited. As Professor Legaz Lacambra explained in his lectures, the Law has its foundation on Morality, its original source is the natural law, though, over the centuries, the perception of that law has been different depending on the characteristics and culture of human beings, and this fact explains for example, the difference of opinion between Europeans and citizens from countries with a fundamentalist mentality. [15]

However, it is commonly accepted that the principles of respect for truth and freedom and dignity of all human beings are universally applicable and are the basis of ethical behaviour required for any professional in Communication in any country. Without respect for truth, indeed, without the sincere search for truth and without love for freedom and respect for others in consideration of their individual dignity, Social Communication would become something different other than communication. It is what the Pontifical Council warns when it advises that one must “always be in favour of freedom”, but “there are obvious cases in which there is no right to communicate, for example, in case of defamation and the slander, or the messages that are designed to foster hatred and conflict among individuals and groups, obscenity and pornography, and lurid or nasty descriptions of violence. It is also clear that free speech should always be attached to principles such as truth, honesty and respect for privacy.”

6. The right of the public

For Legaz, the basic right, we could say the most fundamental of fundamentals, is “the right to be forever recognized as human beings.” The life of the person goes “in permanent relationship to others, but in this relationship the person should respect and can demand others the respect of what is “his” or “hers”, namely, his or her own existence as a person, which in turn cannot be separated from the recognition of a sphere of freedom and some basic requirements of “dignity” in its way of being in the world.”

It is clear that what the public “owns”, or rather that “owned” by those who constitute the more or less wide public (people worthy of respect for their human dignity), but not an undifferentiated mass with no rights, is truthful information and messages that meet the applied requirements. There are so many people who think, in the particular field of informative communication, that a message distributed in the form of news, is not really news if it is false, if it does not reveals reality, especially if it is meant to deceive.

All that anyone can communicate must proceed from either his inner world (ideas) or from his external world (facts) and that is why it is necessary to distinguish between the transmission or communication of ideas, on the one hand, and facts –information- on the other. If the transmission of facts is not true, it is not made with the intention of telling the truth and the news does not contain real facts, communication has indeed been produced, in the broad sense, between the promoter of the message and the receiver of it, but that is no proper information, then the news stops being news to become a story, a rumour, a hoax, whatever was intended, but not news because it lacks of the essential definite element: the truth.

In 1987, Pope Juan Pablo II visited the Mecca of American cinema. It was the first time in history that a Pope entered Hollywood. On that occasion, he delivered a speech to “the celebrities in the business world working in the field of social communications in the United States.” And he said: “It is a reality that your small decisions may have a global impact... All the popular cultural media that you represent can build or destroy, raise or lower. And you have unlimited possibilities for making a good action and powerful possibilities for destruction... The obligation to the truth and the fullness is applied not only to the spread of news, but to all your work... Your industry not only speaks to people and for people, also makes it possible to communicate with each other... I beg you to choose the common benefit. That means honouring the dignity of every human being.”

A journalist who is aware of the dignity of the profession and the importance of its role in informing, and always seeking the truth, will understand the need of self-regulation and self-control and will be prepared to correct or rectify voluntarily when he or she is wrong, but, of course, will avoid certain practices considered by some as professional skills, which are nothing but false arguments unworthy of a high level professional.

At the same time, journalists will remain steadfast in defending their freedom, which is necessary to report news truthfully. Because freedom is an essential prerequisite in order to practice the profession with dignity for the benefit of citizens who, somehow, put their trust in those who practice it. In the same way that everyone has the right to health, but when we are sick we call the doctor and not to any friend, even if he is a close friend because he does not know medicine, to obtain accurate information, to be aware of what happens, we go to the mass media which are developed by professionals who live to find, develop and provide information, comment on news, etc… “Our commitment,” said a veteran American journalist, is remarkable: we belong to the public. There is no other argument to justify the constitutional protection that we enjoy [16]

It is absolutely necessary to settle the difference and opposition between the self-control -referring to the quality, really a quality control- and censorship and even self-censorship, which are nothing more than an obstacle to the normal functioning of the communicative process.

There is no doubt, in defence of self-censorship, that it refers –the same as in the self-regulation– to a voluntary approach, the professional who is admonished or enjoined or ordered not to make certain information public or do it in a certain way or –which is even more humiliating– to provide information that is no more than political or ideological propaganda –for example, the so-called missions existing during a large period of the previous regime of censorship of the forty years of Franco's government– does not act freely but coerced.

Sinova argues that censorship is “an illegitimate interruption or limitation of the communicative process.” And he defines it as “any action that seeks to prevent foreign or unsuited messages from reaching the audience, who has the right to know them.” [17]

This is an action far away from the sociological process of communication and does not matter if that action-pressure is exerted directly on the informative message or any other form of communicative product, or indirectly on the professional to force him to self-censorship. This latter Machiavellian approach -under the name of delegated censorship, which turned the director of a mass medium into a censor of himself, accountable to the Ministry of any neglect or violation or breach of the missions- was used by the Ministers of Information of Spain during the Franco regime in what was then called “provinces”, while in Madrid and Barcelona, the Ministry had enough staff at its disposal to read all the contents of the daily newspaper prior to its publication on the page. The system changed, but not radically, with the promulgation of the Press Law in 1966, which, however, introduced the similar figure of the so-called “voluntary consult” defined as such by the law itself:

Article three.- Of censorship .-  The Administration office can not implement previous censorship or require mandatory consultation, except in emergency and war circumstances  expressly foreseen by law.

"Article Four.-  Voluntary Consultation.- One. The Administration may be consulted on the content of all kinds of forms of printing material by anyone who might be responsible for its publication. The response approving it or the silence of the Administration will exempt it from liability for the spread of printed material subject to consultation.

7. A timid step forward

The FAPE (Federation of Associations of Journalists of Spain) has taken a first step with the creation of its Deontological Council (or Board of Ethics). This decision was harshly criticized by some newspaper editors, who felt that this was a dangerous precedent in a way going back to potential censorship. Once more, self-regulation, self-control, quality control, and the commitment with oneself and with society were jumbled up together with self-censorship induced by government pressures.

Spanish journalists –FAPE brings together a considerable majority of those practicing the profession in Spain on a regular basis, comprising also those who belong to the College of Journalists of Catalunya, as part of FAPE– already had their ethical code, adopted at the General Assembly of the Associations of Press held in Sevilla in 1993. But it lacked of an appropriate body to oversee the observance of that code within the most important professional association of the country. [18]

In the General Assembly of Almeria in 2004, FAPE approved the Deontological Council, whose first president was the journalist and university professor, former Senate President, Antonio Fontán (who is now the president of the Complaints Commission. This council started working straight away despite the initial rejection from some media and therefore of its little scope of action or rather of its almost non-binding effect in terms of compliance with its resolutions, these resolutions have been certainly correct.

8. Conclusion

In the General Assembly of Almeria in 2004, FAPE approved the Deontological Council, whose first president was the journalist and university professor, former Senate President, Antonio Fontán (who is now the president of the Complaints Commission. This council started working straight away despite the initial rejection from some media and therefore of its little scope of action or rather of its almost non-binding effect in terms of compliance with its resolutions, these resolutions have been certainly correct." [19]

I absolutely agree with him. So, I still believe in the necessity, or at least the desirability of the importance of University as the place which teaches and trains the new professionals of the social communication field, for two reasons: first, by the importance that the job has gained over time and the requirements of today’s world, demanding educated and competent professionals –not only good technicians in words, but with a broad cultural and human background– and, second, because the University has been widening its scope in a gesture of fraternal welcome to all new knowledge and it does not seem logical that, when all that is learnt and discussed today has its place and its specific degree in the university, only a subject matter will stay out, which is so crucial to the coexistence of citizens as social communication is. [20]

9. Notes

[1] Vid. His work "European approach to media education: moving towards an inclusive knowledge society." in no. 32, XVI, Communicate magazine, March 2009, p.19.

[2] Journalists, year IV, num. 14, Autumn 2008, pp. 16. It is the consideration of this right, in response of which we are journalists, which led me to conclude-again-on my work Meaning and scope of Fraga Law (pp. 433 to 445 of Almuiña Reference Book, Celso - Sotillos, Eduardo (coordinators), From journalism to the Information Society, volume I, which, not to mention the crack that in the struggle for freedom that law started in 1966 , considered by some as implementer of the freedom of information, which was not so, but only a tiny step forward, the merit in that struggle was from the journalists themselves, who pioneered the advent of Spanish democracy.

[3] Diario Regional, Valladolid, 22.III.1959.

[4] Desantes Guanter, Jose Maria, The professional duty to inform, Fundación Universitaria San Pablo - CEU, Valencia 1988, pp. 9. In his encyclical Pacem in Terris, Pope Juan XXIII made it clear that every man is entitled to an "objective information".

[5] Simon, R., Moral, Editorial Herder, 1978, 3rd, pp. 392.

[6] Cf Fernández Areal, M. For freedom in practice. Journalistic self-regulation. In New Magazine, Vol. 103, January-February 2006, pp. 75 to 85.

[7] Gomis, Lorenzo, "Ethics and the right to the news," in Journalism Studies 2, papers and communications of the Second Congress of the Spanish Society of Journalism, Barcelona, 1994, pp. 30 to 46.

[8] Cf Fernández Areal, M., Basic concepts for a good decision, University of Vigo - Diputación de Pontevedra, 2000, pp. 143-148.

[9] Delrieuz, Emmanuel, "The Right to Information in the light of human rights" in the collective book information, freedom and human rights. Teaching Ethics and the Law of Information, Foundation COSO of the Valencian Community for the Development of Communication and Society, Valencia 2004, pp. 21 to 22.

[10] Sanchez Cámara, Ignacio, "Information and freedom" in the collective book information, freedom and human rights, op. cit. page 31

[11] Martínez Albertos, José Luis, "Rules and jurisprudence regarding the true information," in Journalism Studies 2, 1993, p.56. Vid also his work "The truth communicated: facticity and acuration" in the collective book Political Communication, University of Vigo - Diputación de Pontevedra, 1996, pp. 79-101.

[12] Stuart Mill, J., On Liberty. Alianza Editorial, Madrid 1993, pp. 68.

[13] Ollero, Andrew, From rigid rule to flaccid utopia. Constitutional Puenting in New Magazine, Vol. 103, January-February 2006, pp. 10-16.

[14] Ethics in social communications, document published on 4th June 2000, Jubilee year, to mark the jubilee of journalists.

[15] Legaz Lacambra, Luis, Notes from the Chair of Philosophy of Law. Notes collected by M. Fernández Areal 1952. Joseph Ratzinger recalls that States "should always have legal norms, which would be in vain" if they did not include internal inspiration, if people did not recognize from within the main demand for their lives, thus transforming the laws of mere external rules of behavior in a fair way of living "(God and the world. A Conversation with Peter Seewald, Galaxia Gutenberg, 2005, pp. 154.)

[16] Hills, Lee, in Merrill, John, Barney, Ralph D. (eds.), The media and ethics, Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires (Argentina) 1981, pp. 109.

[17] Sinova, Justino, "Details for a concept of censorship" in information freedoms in the world today. Acts of Congress commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Faculty of Information Sciences, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 1999, pp. 218-222. In his book XX, a century in 100 articles (The area of books, Madrid 2002, pp. 292), comments my article . A realistic project, published in Diario Regional, from Valladolid, in 1964, claiming that I was "an advanced man” who dearly paid for his independence of power.

[18] González Cortés, María Eugenia and Rojano  Paniagua, Francisco Javier, The Spanish Press Associations, a consolidated organizational model for professionals, in Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 63, 2008.

[19] González Urbaneja, Fernando, "Presentation", in Jon Lee Anderson The eye of the journalist, Press Association of Madrid, 2006, p. 7. Vid. also my work, "Deontology and the Complaints Commission of FAPE and beneficial to the profession of journalism!, in the collective work The right to judicial information, Foundation COSO of Valencia Community for the Development of Communication and Society, 2008, pp. 253 to 264.Vid also, that citizen journalism is in the collective book Estudios de Periodística XIV. Periodismo ciudadano: Posibilidades y riesgos para el discurso informativo, Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca, 2009.

[20] Vid. my paper "The educational qualifications of the new communicators" in the Sixth Congress of the Spanish Society of Journalism (SEP), in May 2000 at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, contained in the collective book IX Journalism Studies, Faculty of Humanities, Communication and Documentation, Carlos III University, Madrid 2001, pp. 63 to 87.

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Fernández Areal, Manuel (2010): "A proffesion termed “Journalism”, at Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 65, pages 1 to 13. La Laguna (Tenerife, Canary Islands): La Laguna University, retrieved on ___th of ____ of 2_______, from

DOI: 10.4185/RLCS-65-2010-879-001-013-Eng

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