Undercover Africa is an online media boutique that runs UndercoverAfrica.com and Undercover TV on YouTube from Nairobi, Kenya. It was established to consistently provide timely, high quality information and analysis on a tradition of bold journalism in a digital age and to live up to its motto: ‘Truth in a world of lies.’
This Editorial Policy Guidelines & Practices outlines the policy framework within which the UndercoverAfrica.com will operate.
The broad objectives of our Editorial Policy are:-
- To produce on a sustainable basis; credible, accurate and timely news coverage, opinion and analysis with the aim of informing, educating, entertaining and providing surveillance to our audiences.
- To maximize commercial potential in digital media space.
- To support the best interests of the Kenyan people and nation and other countries we will invest in.
These guidelines apply to the Editorial Warriors with influence on broadcast and digital content. They include correspondents, contributors (of spiked stories), writers, editors, columnists, photographers, art directors, graphic designers, anchors, presenters, researchers and whistle-blowers.
1) The role of the Press is to protect and uphold public interest. Therefore, through its media platforms, UndercoverAfrica.com will uncover and disclose or highlight matters that need to be subjected to public scrutiny and debate.
2) The editorial content will consistently reflect, in spirit and letter, the principles of factual accuracy, fairness and balance.
3) We will make deliberate effort to establish the truth, and will never knowingly publish or broadcast falsehoods or distorted facts. We will resist all forms of bias and censorship, and will endeavor to report every side of a story.
4) Our digital journalism will reflect the public interest. It will be based on universal standards of truth, accuracy and fairness and will be independent of religious, political, ethnic, commercial and other improper influences. Our selection and positioning of digital content and our headlining of stories will be driven by their news value and not the need to appease vested interests.
5) Politically, we will position ourselves as a responsible, mainstream, pro-democracy and pro-development media group. Our loyalty is to the public good, as reflected by changing issues and priorities of the time.
6) We will consistently support ethnic, religious, communal and racial harmony.
7) Our content must be diverse. It will appeal to wide audiences and must not be dominated by the interests of any one sector, community, profession or objective.
8) We will advocate and defend the responsible enjoyment of freedom of the Press and will not refrain from criticizing any party where such criticism is well founded and in the public interest.
9) We will advocate and defend the rights and interests of the underprivileged and disadvantaged and those of rural, working, gender and the minority.
10) We will support a free enterprise, market-driven approach to economic development but will encourage discussion and debate of any range of policies and decisions which shape our national destiny.
11) Our news stories will be driven by verifiable facts and will be separated from our opinions.
12) The opinions, commentaries, reviews and analyses we publish or air will reflect a broad spectrum of viewpoints and will clearly identify views and not present them as facts.
13) We will promptly publish corrections and clarifications of our stories, and grant the right of reply to parties affected by our coverage.
14) The content and presentation of our editorial coverage must consistently prioritize the need to maximize value-for-time and value-for-money for our readers, website visitors, viewers and advertisers.
15) We will consistently maintain high literary, grammatical and presentation standards.
16) It is our policy to recruit professionals with relevant education and experience but exceptions will be made to talented Kenyans.
17) We will maintain, to the greatest extent possible, ethnic, religious and gender balance among the Editorial Warriors.
20) Overall, our products must be credible, authoritative and high quality and all times, UndercoverAfrica.com will adhere to the Trinity of Journalistic Virtues: factually correct, well thought-out and elegantly expressed.
Editorial Independence and accountability
Accountable to Kenya’s Media Law & Ethics and the Media Council of Kenya’s Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism, the Creative Director at Creative Asylum will be the custodian and will oversee of this Editorial Policy.
Media content is our lifeline and therefore, all Editorial Warriors will enjoy editorial independence free of vested interested from all quarters and will be maintained in exercise and pursuit of public interest but with strict deference to the law.
In this, the Constitution recognizes the need in a democratic society for a free exchange of ideas and the duty to hold power to account. It has, therefore, sanctified the media’s right to exist.
But this freedom comes with responsibilities defined in the law, our Editorial Policy and Guidelines and the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya.
UndercoverAfrica.com and Undercover TV will refrain from stories which could trigger ethnic conflicts and war between Kenya and other countries.
Responsibility of Editorial Warriors
Journalists are accountable for their actions, and should at all times abide by professional ethics and standards which are part of this Editorial Policy Guidelines.
Every Editorial Warrior is expected to be fluent with this policy and apply their common sense.
For news gathering efficiency, Editorial meetings will be held once a week but continuous review of docket will be ongoing.
- Anonymous Quotations
As far as possible, the Editorial Warriors should make use of anonymous sources if the information provided may enormously add context and value to the story.
- Anonymous Contributions
Commissioned articles maybe published anonymously or pseudonymously, when the author’s safety, privacy or livelihood is at risk or when it is deemed to be in the best interest of our journalism.
Material sourced externally for publication in our platforms should be attributed and acknowledged. Credit will be given to news agencies for their copy unless the copy contains significant material from the by-lined journalist.
Acts of Violence
In covering terrorism and hostage-taking, Editorial Warriors will be careful to avoid action which would further endanger the lives of those caught up in it. There will be no live or recorded broadcast of a statement by or interview with a terrorist/hostage-taker. Acts of violence, armed robberies, banditry and terrorist activities should not be presented or re-enacted in a manner that promotes anti-social behaviour in society.
Bribery and Facilitation Payments
Payments, gifts, services or other special considerations offered to Editorial Warriors to influence or appear to influence a decision must be refused. Editorial Warriors may only accept gifts offered on traditional holidays if they are of nominal value or modest hospitality offered as a general courtesy during the conduct of normal business. Acceptance of such offers must be free of obligation on the part of the company and must not influence or appear to influence subsequent editorial decisions.
Special care should be taken when dealing with children. Avoid articles and material that intrude into children’s private lives without the consent of a guardian, unless they carry a strong public interest justification. Editorial Warriors have a responsibility to protect children, especially those involved in sex offences, whether as victims, witnesses or defendants.
As a general rule, journalism should be conducted in the open. Covert methods of gathering news should only be used with due regard to their legality and overwhelming public interest, and only in the event that such information being sought is unavailable by other means.
Stories by freelancers or external persons like writers whose stories have been spiked from other media outlets, shall be commissioned with the permission of the Creative Director.
No one outside the Editorial team has the right to approve copy for publishing. Only in special circumstances, and with the permission of the Creative Director, will external sources of information be allowed to see a story.
At all times, Editorial Warriors should avoid using content (pictures, copy or other material) from non-authorized third party sources without authorization from the Creative Director.
These should not be changed to alter their meaning or alter their context.
Editorial Warriors will promote the financial or corporate interests of any subject (through copy, photography and footnotes) or their sponsors as a means of securing access and feathering Native Advertising.
UndercoverAfrica.com will take the earliest opportunity to correct and clarify any errors in its digital media.
We will engage the pro-bono or paid services of an external non-journalistic agent in developing content in as far the end results adheres to Media Law & Ethics, Editorial Policy Guidelines and Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism.
We will publish only what is true, fair and accurate. The more serious the criticism or allegations are against a subject, the greater the obligation to allow the subject the opportunity to respond.
Grief and Shock
Treat Kenyans with sensitivity during periods of grief or shock.
News pictures or videos will be used to carry direct advertising in news content and will not avoid exposure of advertising signs or other forms of commercial identification in news material.
Investigative journalism must be practiced within the discipline imposed by journalistic principles and policies. Investigative warriors should bear in mind the relative importance of the issue under and should not be exclusively concerned with the revelation of errors, injustice or wrongdoing. Owing to its sensitivity and powerful effect on audiences, and consequently upon the livelihood and well-being of individuals and viability of institutions, both public and private, it calls for heightened skill and strict standards of accuracy. Because of its very nature, investigative journalism will frequently involve legal considerations then legal angles should be sought.
Language and Taste
Avoid using offending language or that which belittles others. In general, avoid publishing or broadcasting obscene, vulgar or other offensive material unless there is clear news value or public interest. Use swearwords only when necessary and in quotes.
Libel and defamation cases are expensive and the Editorial Warriors should familiarize themselves with the libel laws.
Obeying the Law
Editorial Warriors must obey the law in the pursuit of news. They may not break into a house or an office. They may not tap telephones, invade computer files or otherwise illegally eavesdrop on a news source.
Media generally does not pay news sources, but we will in exceptional cases.
Judgments against us by the courts or the Media Council of Kenya should promptly be reported to our lawyers and the Creative Director.
Considering how overtaxed Kenyans are, our Editorial Warriors may moonlight for other news organizations. But they are discouraged from giving out commissioned work to the competition. We also encourage journalists from other media houses to bring to us for publications full stories which adhere to all tenets of journalism, but which have been spiked by their editors due to conflict of interest, media ownership, political affiliations, fear or outright bribery to kill them.
Our Editorial Warriors may not engage in activities that are likely to bring us into disrepute like taking stands on public controversies if doing so will compromise our integrity.
Digitally enhanced or altered images and montages should be clearly labeled as such, otherwise avoid them. Pictures should not be flipped, unless there is a compelling reason to do so. In which case, consult with the Creative Director. Undercover is at liberty to use wire photos and others found on the Internet and on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and other social media channels if they have no watermarks or are not copyrighted.
Privacy is a human right and our Editorial Warriors must adhere to The Omand Principles on privacy intrusion:
- There must be sufficient cause. The scale of potential harm that might result must justify the intrusion.
- There must be integrity of motive: It must be justified in terms of the public good that would follow from publication.
- The methods used must be in proportion to the seriousness of story and its public interest. Use the least intrusive method.
- There must be proper authority: Any intrusion must be authorized and supervised at a sufficiently senior level.
The race or tribe of a person should not be published unless the information is pertinent to the story.
Undercover Africa’s content will invariably be of high standard in research and we will interrogate external surveys or opinion polls for methods used, interpretation as well as the main results besides comparing the interpretation with the opinions of other experts in the field.
We strongly uphold the principle of freedom of information and will protect at all costs thus the confidentiality of our news sources. However, we will avoid being manipulated into using inaccurate or biased information and whose reliability will be checked through corroborative evidence from other sources.
Our Editorial Warriors will be called upon to verify all material facts with at least two sources considering we are living in the era of Fake News.
Opportunity to Reply
Those covered will be given a right-of-reply to correct any inaccuracies in a story. The decision on whether or not to publish a correction in full or use an edited version remains the discretion of the editor and the Creative Director. Nevertheless, the important portions of the rejoinder/reply must not be left out.
Except in rare and justifiable cases, Editorial Warriors should not tape a subject in the course of an interview without their knowledge and consent. An exception will be considered if this is meant to protect the journalist against future legal action.
In cases where a column/analysis elicits debate from the public, the concerned editor may decide to open up comments and publish all or some so long as he gives equal space to the protagonists and the antagonists in the situation. The editor will also reserve the right on when to close the matter.
Personal Behaviour and Conflicts of Interest
Editorial Warriors may endorse any commercial product and will be involved in producing advertising features for our clients as part of Native Advertising.
Conflict of Interest
Activities outside the workplace could conflict with the integrity of our journalism. Editorial Warriors should declare any personal, philosophical or financial interest that might conflict with their journalistic work, or could be perceived to have a bearing on their professional performance.
Hidden Cameras and Microphones
Hidden cameras and microphones will be used to gather information during undercover investigations and in the public interest.
Declaration of Interest
Declare any interest whenever you are writing on/about something that you have significant connection. This connection does not have to be a formal one for it to warrant declaration.
Interaction with Readers
Our most important relationship is with our readers and listeners and civility must always apply when dealing with them. Their emails, Facebook, Twitter and feedback posts should not be ignored.
Interaction with Sources
Editorial Warriors should maintain a decent distance with their sources to avoid professional bias. Occasionally, step back and ponder whether you have drifted too close to a source as to undermine your professional independence.