Editorial: Journalism Charter is a living pledge of accountability

Saturday July 20, 2019 Written by Published in Opinion
The needle, towering over Rarotonga and reflecting in the waters of the Cook Islands. The needle, towering over Rarotonga and reflecting in the waters of the Cook Islands.

The new Cook Islands News journalism charter will be a living document. That means we welcome your suggestions – and we invite you to hold us accountable to it.

COMMENT: The Cook Islands News seeks to report stories fairly, accurately and independently. Our news articles don’t argue a position one way or the other. Not on chlorination. Not on whether Rocketman should have been banned. Not on whether the name Kuki Airani should be changed.

But sometimes our reporting or our editorial positions will upset or anger people. The decision to stop publishing letters under non de plumes is an example – some people say that removes a safety valve for people to blow off steam without being “victimised” by those in power.

READ MORE:
Cook Islands News Journalism Charter

And we’re human: sometimes we’ll get it wrong. As an example, this week we reported on Facebook that the Ui Ariki would be meeting to consider the Kuki Airani name change. In fact, the meeting won’t take place until later. When we discovered that, we took responsibility and corrected our mistake.

It’s important that the community have confidence in our journalistic standards; that they know the principles underlying our reporting and decision-making.

That’s why we have spent the past six weeks drafting and consulting widely on a unique Journalism Charter. This charter started with workshops involving the staff and contributors of the Cook Islands News; this was followed by consulting with respected members of the community, from government to church to traditional leadership to experts and grassroots commentators.

The next step will be to design accountability mechanisms so you can call us on it, if we don't meet the ambitious standards you've set us.

We’ve created this charter as a group of people who believe in providing the community with the information needed to make the Cook Islands a better place for our children.

It begins with respect for our culture, acknowledging civil society is founded on the three pillars of Cook Islands community: Enua (traditional leaders), Evangelia (church) and Ture (government). We pledge to respect the Cook Islands Constitution and the rule of law, while recognising the importance of robust criticism and the right to peaceful protest.

We continued with a promise to respect human dignity, recognising the impact of our words and images on the lives of others; and to engage with our community because our role is not just to speak; equally, we must empower others to speak, express their views and opinions, and we must listen.

"The kupu (words) may be ours but te au tata’anga (information) belongs to our community. We are accountable not just to Cook Islands News but to the public for using that information for the public interest and social good."

Headline principles include trust and integrity; accuracy and accountability, fairness and balance; simplicity, courage and independence, and freedom of expression.

The Journalism Charter concludes with the principle of humility and open-mindedness: "A journalist wields a pen like a koke rua mata (two-edged sword)," it says. "We must use it sharply against those who abuse their power, we must use it with compassion to defend those who are vulnerable – and we must know when it’s best to not use it at all."

Today we publish the Journalism Charter for the first time. It will be a living document; as society changes, it may need to be updated. We welcome your suggestions on how that should be done. Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Read the charter: Cook Islands News Journalism Charter

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