An Areopagitic oath for journalism

An Areopagitic oath for journalism

A first attempt by Niraj Lal, July 2016

Borrowing from:

  1. L. Lasagna, “The modern Hippocratic oath”, 1964, Tufts University, USA.
  2. G. Monbiot “A Hippocratic oath for journalists”, 2011,
  3. J. Milton “Areopagitica”, 1644, A speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing to the Parliament of England. London.
  4. W. Williams, “A Creed for My Profession”, 1914, Missouri University

  5. Watchdog City Journalism Code of Ethics,

First page of the 1644 version of The Areopagitica, John Milton (public domain)

“This is true Liberty when free born men

Having to advise the public may speak free,

Which he who can, and will, deserves high praise,

Who neither can nor will, may hold his peace.

What can be juster in a state then this?”

Euripides of Salamis, 428 BC.

quoted from J. Milton, Areopagitica, 1644.


The draft oath

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, the following:

I will apply, for the benefit of all, to inform, educate, expose and enlighten, without telling falsehood nor promoting paid opinion.

I will respect the hard-won gains of those journalists in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge with those who are to follow.

I will speak truth to power.

I will not favour dominant groups of politics and economics by withholding scrutiny of their affairs, or twist stories to suit their interests.  I will stand up to the interests of the businesses we ourselves work for and the advertisers which fund them.

I will write that which I have the courage to speak.

I recognise that bribery by one’s own pocketbook is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another’s instructions or another’s dividends.  I pledge to disclose any potential conflicts of interest to my audience.

I will respect the power of my profession and be conscious of its capacity to do harm as well as good.  I will challenge my own perception of the world as much others’ and when I turn out to be wrong, I will say so.

I will remember that there is art to journalism as well as analysis, and that compassion and sympathy are necessary companions to investigation.

I will cite reference where possible, and will not publish another’s work as my own.

I will respect the privacy of my sources, protecting those under persecution to the fullest extent. I will challenge censorship with the knowledge that the prohibition of the press misdoubts the strength of Truth.  I will strive for the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those of all backgrounds and educations.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of journalism and the freedom afforded by a strong fourth estate.



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