What is a Press Council?

A Press Council is a body that investigates complaints from members of the public against the press and also engages in protection of press freedom.  It could be described as the watchdog of watchdogs, since its primary function is to monitor activities of the mass media. Through its efforts, it fosters a sense of professionalism in the media by setting and ensuring adherence to standards that should be met by practitioners in the media industry.

As aipce.net, a press council has two basic roles. First is the first is the administration of an agreed Code of Practice and the investigation of complaints from members of the public about editorial content in the media. The second is the defence of press freedom. However, some Press Councils tend to focus on the first function but in doing so must balance the rights of the individual and the rights of the press to freedom of expression.

Press Councils are self-regulatory bodies set up by the media themselves – although they are normally given a high degree of operational independence in order to maintain public confidence. They oversee Codes of Practice which set out both professional standards for journalists, and a set of rules under which people featured in the news media can complain if something is inaccurate or intrusive (aipce.net).

These Codes generally contain ethical rules that are over and above legal requirements. Press Councils represent a form of corporate responsibility which allow people to complain for free and without legal representation, and can help generate trust in the quality of news (aipce.net).

Press Councils are very essential in the society because they promote responsible journalism. They ensure that the mass media play their social responsibility to the public.

According UNESCO, a press council stands for good, responsible and reliable journalism. It promotes an ethical code for journalists and investigates complaints about a breach of this code. When abiding to a press council, media professionals declare their dedication to the values of objectivity, plurality and democracy.

A press council is crucial in ensuring ethical, responsible and responsive journalism in any society.

 

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

He is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, COOU, (formerly Anambra State University), Igbariam Campus.

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