Code of Journalistic Ethics

At the very core of RFA’s mission is strict adherence to the highest standards of journalism. RFA is funded by the U.S. Congress but retains full editorial independence from the U.S. Government. All RFA editorial staff must conduct themselves professionally and ethically and promote the highest standards of journalism, in accordance with the following basic principles: 1

  • RFA editorial staff are expected to be responsible for the accuracy of their work. Reports and programs must be accurate, balanced and objective. Information must be verified before it is released, with priority placed on use of original sources, when possible. Information must be collected, updated, and corrected throughout the life of a news story. 
  • RFA journalists must maintain a calm, dispassionate tone in their professional conduct and reporting, and avoid polemics, propaganda, or slurs directed against any persons, groups, or governments. RFA journalists must represent all points of view without bias and avoid engaging in advocacy or commentary that advances an opinion or position over fact-based, responsible journalism. 
  • RFA journalists must not encourage acts of violence, rebellion or emigration. When reporting on terrorism, extremism, or threats of violence, RFA journalists must: be alert to and guard against potential harm to themselves and others; and not allow RFA to be used as a platform for extremist propaganda or violent threats. RFA journalists/editors must consult with the Managing Editor for East Asia or Southeast Asia, or the Executive Editor, before publishing any material that could potentially place RFA at risk of being used as a platform for such a purpose. 

  • RFA journalists must not include rumor, misinformation, or unsubstantiated information and conspiracy theories in any report or program without referring to it as such. Whenever possible, they must seek and obtain more than one source for a story. Sources should be identified, when possible, or enough information provided so consumers of RFA content may decide for themselves about the veracity of information and perspectives shared through these sources. However, when needed, RFA journalists must take precautions to protect/not endanger news sources and respect wishes for anonymity. 
  • If an RFA journalist makes a material error in a broadcast or published RFA news story, commentary, or shared content, the journalist and language service must promptly acknowledge the error and issue a correction, typically via the same communication medium in which the error was disseminated.  
  • RFA journalists must give full credit, with attribution, when using any part of another news organization’s or media source’s interviews, reports, or materials.  
  • Any photos, videos, or other visual material that RFA journalists publish must adhere to RFA’s editorial guidelines.  
  • RFA journalists must remain independent of any political party, opposition group, exile organization, or religious body in the countries to which RFA news and information are disseminated, and must not advocate any political viewpoint potentially compromising or being perceived as compromising RFA’s objectivity or impartiality. RFA journalists are expected to also maintain political neutrality on social media regardless of the region they are commenting on.  
  • RFA journalists must clearly identify outside contributors and, in any commentary, include a disclaimer that the opinions expressed are not necessarily those of RFA. Advocacy and commentary also must be clearly labeled as such. In each case, RFA retains the right to edit the work of outside contributors and make the final decision as to what goes into a report or program. 
  • RFA journalists must not accept anything of value such as gifts, favors, or other inducements from news sources or others who might be – or perceived to be – in a position to influence RFA’s reports and programs. Gifts of token value ($20.00 or less) may be accepted but must be disclosed to supervisors and, if deemed inappropriate, returned with a polite explanation. 

  • RFA journalists must not take on work or activities outside of RFA that would infringe on their responsibilities to RFA. Anyone who wants to pursue such an outside responsibility or activity, including the making of speeches or other public appearances that could affect perceptions of RFA, must obtain prior approval as provided in the Conflict of Interests policy. 
  • In their work for RFA, journalists must not identify or hold themselves out as representing any other entity or media organization, government body, or nongovernmental organization.

  • Any breach of RFA’s Code of Journalistic Ethics and editorial guidelines may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.  

1 Though journalistic matters are primarily the responsibility of the Editorial Division, all employees should be knowledgeable and supportive of this Code of Journalistic Ethics.


Links to Related RFA Policies and Information:

Conflict of Interests

RFA Editorial Guidelines

Social Media