Private Initiative
Participation of Journalists and Media Companies
Participation of External Members
Importance of Mediation

The Council for Journalism was recently launched as a self-regulatory body for the Flemish media with regard to media ethics. On October 17 2002 its bylaws were published and the website ( launched. The council's first decisions are yet to be made.

The Council for Journalism has the following characteristics:

  • It is a private initiative;

  • Both journalists and media companies participate;

  • The council includes external members from outside the profession; and

  • Preliminary mediation is key.

Private Initiative

The Council for Journalism is incorporated as a private not-for-profit association. Its members include:

  • professional associations of journalists;

  • individual journalists;

  • professional associations of media companies (eg, newspapers and magazines); and

  • broadcasters and electronic media.

Media ethics can be regulated by governmental initiatives or by statute. The media generally prefers self-regulation.

Following political pressure for an regulatory initiative, the media decided to promote self-regulation and widen the scope of such regulation. If the sector had failed to take the initiative, the public authorities may have acted on broad concerns about the relationship between politics, society and the media.

Participation of Journalists and Media Companies

The forerunner of the Council for Journalism was the Council for Journalistic Ethics, which was only organized within the professional association of journalists.

Media companies were included in the new initiative in order to obtain a wider spectrum of views. This will help media companies to understand the ethical challenges that journalists face. Reporting news is the collective responsibility of journalists and media companies, and goes beyond the individual responsibility of journalists.

The media companies have commited themselves to publishing decisions of the Council for Journalism that concern them, thus giving such decisions more weight and impact.

Participation of External Members

Six representatives of journalists and six representatives of media companies will participate in the Council for Journalism, as well as six additional external members. These external members will be selected from outside the profession and have an academic or judicial background (eg, professors and judges).

The participation of external members is designed to enhance the council's credibility and lend weight to its decisions.

Importance of Mediation

Anyone who considers that media ethics are at stake, and who is directly involved in or concerned by a publication or broadcast, can lodge a complaint with the secretariat of the council. Compulsory mediation is undertaken by the secretary general before the complaint is considered by the Council for Journalism. If mediation ends the dispute, the complaint will no longer be pursued.

The complaints procedure is well organized. A reporting committee is set up for every complaint that the Council for Journalism decides to consider. All parties can be heard. The council may decide not to deal with a certain complaint if it considers the complaint irrelevant.

Finally, the council will also be instrumental in drafting an industry code, taking into consideration existing international codes and company codes.

For further information on this topic please contact Herman Croux or Peter Marx at Marx Van Ranst Vermeersch & Partners by telephone (+32 2 285 01 00) or by fax (+32 2 230 33 39) or by email ([email protected] or [email protected]).