Media Accountability Systems








This RJI Global Journalist resource, which was conceived by Claude-Jean Bertrand in 2002, is dedicated to media ethics and media accountability systems (MAS), first among which are press councils. It contains the largest collection of press codes of conduct in the world.

Its basic principle is that news media, in order to serve the public well, must be free from distorting pressure exerted by political or economic forces. To obtain, keep and increase their freedom, media need to be trusted and protected by the general public. To gain that support, media need to inform readers, listeners and viewers properly as well as to listen and render accounts to them.

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What is a media accountability system?

A media accountability system is any nongovernmental way that encourages media organizations and journalists to respect the ethical rules set by the profession. All media accountability systems (MAS) aim at improving news media, but they are extremely diverse: codes of conduct; ombudsmen and media-oriented non-governmental organizations; processes, academic research and ethical audits. Some are born within the media (like a correction box); others develop outside (like a journalism review); and then some involve the cooperation of media and public (like a press council).

What is a press council?

A press council is the best-known MAS, and it can be multifunctional because it is capable of adapting to various cultural contexts at various levels of society. All press councils differ from one another. In its ideal shape, it  gathers and represents all three major actors of social communication: the people who own the power to inform, those who possess the talent to inform and those who have the right to be informed.

Because a council has no power to force anyone to do anything, its efficiency depends on the cooperation of all groups involved — proprietors, reporters and public. That association is as important by what it implies as by what it can achieve. It implies that it is not acceptable for someone to use a news medium as he/she wants just because she/he owns it or possesses political power. By setting up a tripartite council, owners acknowledge that their employees are entitled to a major word in the process, and journalists acknowledge that media users also have a function. That is a great step for civic engagement and democracy.