Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice
Newspaper and magazine publishing in the U.K.
Editors' Code of Practice
This is the newspaper and periodical industry's Code
of Practice. It is framed and revised by the Editors' Code Committee
made up of independent editors of national, regional and local
newspapers and magazines. The Press Complaints Commission, which
has a majority of lay members, is charged with enforcing the Code,
using it to adjudicate complaints. It was ratified by the PCC
on the 1 August 2007. Clauses marked* are covered by exceptions
relating to the public interest.
All members of the press have a duty to maintain
the highest professional standards.
The Code, which includes this preamble and the public
interest exceptions below, sets the benchmark for those ethical
standards, protecting both the rights of the individual and the
public's right to know. It is the cornerstone of the system of
self-regulation to which the industry has made a binding commitment.
It is essential that an agreed code be honoured not
only to the letter but in the full spirit. It should not be interpreted
so narrowly as to compromise its commitment to respect the rights
of the individual, nor so broadly that it constitutes an unnecessary
interference with freedom of expression or prevents publication
in the public interest.
It is the responsibility of editors and publishers
to apply the Code to editorial material in both printed and online
versions of publications. They should take care to ensure it is
observed rigorously by all editorial staff and external contributors,
Editors should co-operate swiftly with the PCC in
the resolution of complaints. Any publication judged to have breached
the Code must print the adjudication in full and with due prominence,
including headline reference to the PCC.
i. The press must take care not to publish inaccurate,
misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii. A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement
or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and
with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published.
iii. The press, whilst free to be partisan, must
distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
iv. A publication must report fairly and accurately
the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a
party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed
statement is published.
Opportunity to reply
A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must
be given when reasonably called for.
i. Everyone is entitled to respect for his or
her private and family life, home, health and correspondence,
including digital communications. Editors will be expected to
justify intrusions into any individual's private life without
ii. It is unacceptable to photograph individuals
in a private place without their consent.
Note - Private places are public or private property
where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
i. Journalists must not engage in intimidation,
harassment or persistent pursuit.
ii. They must not persist in questioning, telephoning,
pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor
remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow
iii. Editors must ensure these principles are
observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant
material from other sources.
Intrusion into grief or shock
i. In cases involving personal grief or shock,
enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion
and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict
the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.
ii. * When reporting suicide, care should be
taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.
i. Young people should be free to complete their
time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
ii. A child under 16 must not be interviewed
or photographed on issues involving their own or another child's
welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult
iii. Pupils must not be approached or photographed
at school without the permission of the school authorities.
iv. Minors must not be paid for material involving
children's welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about
their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.
v. Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or
position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing
details of a child's private life.
Children in sex cases*
1. The press must not, even if legally free to do
so, identify children under 16 who
are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.
2. In any press report of a case involving a sexual
offence against a child -
i. The child must not be identified.
ii. The adult may be identified.
iii. The word "incest" must not be
used where a child victim might be identified.
iv. Care must be taken that nothing in the report
implies the relationship between the accused and the child.
i. Journalists must identify themselves and obtain
permission from a responsible executive before entering non-public
areas of hospitals or similar institutions to pursue enquiries.
ii. The restrictions on intruding into privacy
are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospitals
or similar institutions.
Reporting of Crime*
i. Relatives or friends of persons convicted
or accused of crime should not generally be identified without
their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.
ii. Particular regard should be paid to the potentially
vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of,
crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
Clandestine devices and subterfuge*
i. The press must not seek to obtain or publish
material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening
devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls,
messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents,
or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held private information
ii. Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge,
including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified
only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot
be obtained by other means.
Victims of sexual assault
The press must not identify victims of sexual assault
or publish material likely to contribute to such identification
unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free
to do so.
i. The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative
reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual
orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii. Details of an individual's race, colour,
religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability
must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
i. Even where the law does not prohibit it, journalists
must not use for their own profit financial information they receive
in advance of its general publication, nor should they pass such
information to others.
ii. They must not write about shares or securities
in whose performance they know that they or their close families
have a significant financial interest without disclosing the interest
to the editor or financial editor.
iii. They must not buy or sell, either directly
or through nominees or agents, shares or securities about which
they have written recently or about which they intend to write
in the near future.
Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential
sources of information.
Witness payments in criminal trials
i. No payment or offer of payment to a witness
- or any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as
a witness - should be made in any case once proceedings are active
as defined by the Contempt of Court Act 1981. This prohibition
lasts until the suspect has been freed unconditionally by police
without charge or bail or the proceedings are otherwise discontinued;
or has entered a guilty plea to the court; or, in the event of
a not guilty plea, the court has announced its verdict.
ii. * Where proceedings are not yet active but
are likely and foreseeable, editors must not make or offer payment
to any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a
witness, unless the information concerned ought demonstrably to
be published in the public interest and there is an over-riding
need to make or promise payment for this to be done; and all reasonable
steps have been taken to ensure no financial dealings influence
the evidence those witnesses give. In no circumstances should
such payment be conditional on the outcome of a trial.
iii. * Any payment or offer of payment made to
a person later cited to give evidence in proceedings must be disclosed
to the prosecution and defence. The witness must be advised of
Payment to criminals*
i. Payment or offers of payment for stories,
pictures or information, which seek to exploit a particular crime
or to glorify or glamorise crime in general, must not be made
directly or via agents to convicted or confessed criminals or
to their associates - who may include family, friends and colleagues.
ii. Editors invoking the public interest to justify
payment or offers would need to demonstrate that there was good
reason to believe the public interest would be served. If, despite
payment, no public interest emerged, then the material should
not be published.
PCC Guidance Notes
Court Reporting (1994)
Reporting of international sporting events (1998)
Prince William and privacy (1999)
On the reporting of cases involving paedophiles (2000)
The Judiciary and harassment (2003)
Refugees and Asylum Seekers (2003)
Lottery Guidance Note (2004)
On the reporting of people accused of crime (2004)
Data Protection Act, Journalism and the PCC Code (2005)
Editorial co-operation (2005)
Financial Journalism: Best Practice Note (2005)
On the reporting of mental health issues (2006)
The extension of the PCC's remit to include editorial
audio-visual material on websites (2007)
The public interest
There may be exceptions to the clauses marked * where
they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.
1. The public interest includes, but is not confined
i. Detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety.
ii. Protecting public health and safety.
iii. Preventing the public from being misled
by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.
2. There is a public interest in freedom of expression
3. Whenever the public interest is invoked, the PCC
will require editors to demonstrate fully how the public interest
4. The PCC will consider the extent to which material
is already in the public domain, or will become so.
5. In cases involving children under 16, editors
must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to over-ride the
normally paramount interest of the child.