The Ward Code for Global Integrated Ethics

Preamble: Global Responsibilities

Media ethics is the responsible use of the freedom to publish in any format, no matter who creates the content or who owns the means of publication.

News media are global in reach and impact. Global power entails global responsibilities.

Responsible freedom to publish is no longer a parochial responsibility owed to city, region, or nation. It is a global responsibility owed to a global public. The moral aim of media is no longer the parochial promotion of city, province or nation. It is the promotion of humanity.

 Creators, sharers, and consumers of media are part of a global public sphere linked by a web of ever-new communication channels. Networks offer information, analysis, and advocacy under conditions of social inequality, cultural difference, and imbalance in power. Formidable powers of communication can promote or damage prospects for peace, justice and the good.

The future of humanity on this blue planet depends in no small part on the emergence of a globally minded media dedicated to principles of human flourishing and global justice.

There is need to construct an ethics for global media and global news media.


Moral Roots


Globalmediaethicsarticulates andcritiquestheresponsibilitiesof anewsmedia that isglobal incontent, reach, and impact. Itisthe projectof developingaims,principles,andnormsof practicespecifically formulatedforaglobal,media-linked world.

Claim of Humanity

Advancing humanity through media requires agreement on common principles. The moral basis of global media ethics is the belief that all individuals as equally valuable moral agents of a single humanity. All deserve a flourishing, dignified life within the bounds of justice. This is the claim of humanity on all of us as fellow humans.

Unity in Difference

Working within their traditions, media practitioners should seek common ground in principles of human rights, human flourishing, and global justice. Global media ethics seeks unity among media approaches through overarching principles of the human good.

 Promote human flourishing

Global ethics, and global media ethics, promotes human flourishing. Flourishing is the significant development of one’s intellectual, emotional, and other capacities in a supportive social context. We should promote three levels of flourishing: individual, social and political.

Individual goods: These are goods that make possible the development of each individual’s capacities, such as food, health care, security, and education.

Social goods: These are goods that arise when individuals participate in society, such as freedom of association, economic benefits, love and friendship, mutual recognition and respect.

Political goods: Political goods accrue to citizens living in just political associations, such as basic liberties, rule of law, just institutions, and meaningful participation in democracy.

To flourish on each of the three levels is to achieve a corresponding form of human dignity: individual, social, and political dignity.

Promotion of the three levels is the ultimate aim of all media practitioners, as journalists, citizen creators of content, networks of information sharing, or conveners of public discussion.

Global democratic journalism

The best political association for realizing these goods is egalitarian democracy. Global media ethics seeks the development of strong egalitarian democracies around the world, and the creation of global democratic institutions for governance of transnational issues such as the violation of human rights.

Fundamental Concepts and Principles


The self-consciousness of globally minded journalists and other media workers is defined by the following moral imperatives:

Act as Global Agents: Journalists see themselves as agents of a global public sphere. The goal of their collective actions is a well-informed, diverse, and tolerant global info-sphere that challenges the distortions of tyrants, the abuse of human rights, and the manipulation of information by special interests.

Serve the Citizens of the World: The global journalists’ primary loyalty is to the informational needs of world citizens, even as they promote social reform or specific causes.

Promote Non-parochial Understandings: The global journalist frames issues broadly and uses a diversity of sources to promote a nuanced understanding of issues from an international perspective. Global journalists work against a narrow ethnocentrism or patriotism.


Principles of Integration

 The global as primary

Global media ethics regards parochial values, such as love of one’s kin or country, as legitimate but not primary values. Parochial values can be integrated into ethics so long as practitioners recognize the greater ethical weight of global values. Loyalty to humanity trumps other loyalties, where they conflict. Parochial values, such as promoting the welfare of one’s country, do not justify one-sided reporting on a nation’s actions, or uncritical support for war.

 Global and the local

Global media ethics recognizes that global principles are realized in different ways in different media cultures. The local and the global interact and define each other. Global principles are not imposed on all media cultures in the same way. Principles such as promoting human flourishing, democracy, a free press and social responsibility can be interpreted differently by different cultures.

 Multiple approaches

Global flourishing and democracy are best accomplished by public spheres characterized by diverse approaches to journalism and communication. Approaches include objective reporting, investigative and explanatory journalism, opinion journalism, and advocacy. Each has distinct purposes and norms. Global media ethics constructs overarching purposes and principles that allow a pluralism of approaches and purposes.

The guiding standard for integrating approaches is principled pluralism. Not all ways of doing journalism are acceptable. Approaches must have significant democratic value. They must fulfill important informational needs of the public, such as the need for accurate news, insightful explanation, important investigations, reasoned opinion and diverse public dialogue.


Norms of Practice

 Doing, participating, accounting

 At the foundation of global media ethics are general principles of promoting humanity. In addition, this ethics requires practitioners to follow more specific and familiar norms such as accuracy, truth-telling, verification of fact, and minimizing harm.

All norms should fall under three categories: right doing, allowing citizen participation, and being accountable to the public.

Norms of right doing direct journalists to report according to methods that enhance accuracy and truth, editorial independence, and the diversity of voices. Norms of citizen participation direct journalists to allow citizens meaningful participation in public discussion of issues and public discussion of media performance. Participatory norms also guide how citizens participate in constructing news stories by contributing images, eye-witness accounts and text. Norms of accountability include transparency on how stories were constructed and explaining controversial editorial decisions.

Dialogue across borders

Global media ethics emphasizes the role of media as a means of dialogue among different ethnic groups, cultures and religions. The fair representation of groups and traditions is vital, as is the creation of respectful exchanges among groups. A dialogic journalism structures the discussion of issues in news stories, broadcast programs and at web sites in such a way that participants search for common ground and for solutions to problems. It provides a format for tolerant sharing of views, while precluding intolerant, non-dialogic forms of communication.

Media ethics for everyone

Global media ethics must construct its principles with everyone in view. Principles and norms should apply not only to professional journalists but also to citizens creating media. Moreover, media ethics needs to deals with issues beyond journalism, such as cyberbullying, digital media and privacy, online pornography and the use of mobile devices to spread rumors.