The Standards Code

The Impress Standards Code exists to support journalists and protect the public from unethical reporting and practices. It applies to all forms of news delivery, including print publications, news websites and social media.

The Standards Code reflects international best practice in the gathering and publishing of news content and is regularly updated to remain relevant in an ever-changing digital world.

The purpose of The Standards Code is to help journalists create high-quality work in the public interest and to protect freedom of expression, balanced with respect for the rights and interests of everyone involved.

Standards CodeQuick Guide


  • Publishers must take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy.
  • Publishers must distinguish clearly between statements of fact and opinion.
  • Whilst free to be partisan, publishers must not misrepresent or distort the facts.
  • Publishers must correct any significant inaccuracy with prominence equal to the original article at the earliest opportunity.
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Attributionand Plagiarism

  • Publishers must take all reasonable steps to identify and credit the originator of any third-party content.
  • Publishers must correct any failure to credit the originator of any third-party content with equal prominence at the earliest opportunity.
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  • Publishers must only engage with a child or report on an identifiable child under 18 when this will not cause them harm. Reporting must have the child’s consent and, where necessary, the consent of an appropriate adult. The only exception is when there is an extremely high level of public interest. While children are entitled to hold and express their views, journalists are responsible for considering the child’s age and capacity to give their informed consent. This clause does not apply to the publication of images of general scenes unless this would put a child at risk of harm.
  • Publishers must not identify a child under 18 without their consent or the consent of an appropriate adult. Identification of a child can only be made where it is relevant to the story. It must not cause harm to the child or place the child at risk of harm. This clause is not breached if there is an overwhelming public interest in identifying the child.
  • Publishers must reasonably consider a child’s request to remain anonymous.
  • If a person was under 18 when identified in a piece of news content and later requests to be anonymised in that content, publishers must consider the request (see Clause 7.3: Privacy).
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  • Publishers must not make prejudicial or derogatory reference to anybody based on the following characteristics:
    (a) Age
    (b) Disability
    (c) Health
    (d) Gender identity or reassignment
    (e) Marital or civil partnership status
    (f) Pregnancy
    (g) Race
    (h) Religion
    (i) Sex or sexual orientation
    ( j) Any other characteristic that puts a person at risk of discrimination
  • Publishers must not refer to a person’s disability, health, gender reassignment or identity, pregnancy, race, religion or sexual orientation unless this characteristic is relevant to the story.
  • Publishers must not encourage hatred or abuse against any group based on their characteristics, as detailed in Clause 4.1.
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  • Publishers must ensure that journalists do not engage in intimidation or harassment.
  • Except where justified by the public interest, publishers must ensure that journalists:
    (a) do not engage in deception;
    (b) identify themselves as journalists and provide the name of their publication when making contact;
    (c) comply immediately with any reasonable request to desist from contacting, following, communicating with or photographing a person.
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  • Publishers must not knowingly or negligently obstruct any criminal investigations or prejudice any criminal proceedings.
  • Publishers must not directly or indirectly identify people under 18 who are, or have been, involved in criminal, immigration and asylum, or family proceedings, except as permitted by law.
  • Publishers should not directly or indirectly identify any people under criminal
    investigation before being charged, unless in cases where the police have released someone’s name or other identifying information. This is subject to a public interest exception.
  • Publishers must preserve the anonymity of victims of sexual offences, except as permitted by law or with the person’s express consent.
  • Publishers must not make or offer payments to witnesses or defendants in criminal proceedings, except as permitted by law.
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  • Except where justified by the public interest, publishers must respect people’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Such an expectation may be determined by factors that include, but are not limited to:
    (a) the nature of the information concerned, whether it is sensitive and relates to intimate, family, health or medical matters or personal finances;
    (b) the nature of the place concerned, such as a home, school or hospital;
    (c) how the information concerned was held or communicated, such as in private correspondence or a personal diary;
    (d) the relevant attributes of the person, such as their age, occupation or public profile; and
    (e) whether the person has voluntarily courted publicity on a relevant aspect of their private life.
  • Except where justified by the public interest, publishers must:
    (a) not use covert means to gain or record information;
    (b) give due consideration to online privacy settings when determining the privacy status of the information;
    (c) take all reasonable steps not to exacerbate grief or distress through intrusive news
    gathering or reporting.
  • Publishers must give reasonable consideration to the request of a person who:
    (a) has been identified in news content and subsequently asks to be anonymised;
    (b) has previously been identified in news content when they were under 18 and now wishes to be anonymised. Normally, only the subjects themselves can make such requests, and the responsibility is on them to demonstrate why they should no longer be identified (see Clause 3.4: Children).
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  • Publishers must protect the anonymity of sources where confidentiality has been agreed and not waived by the source, except where the source has been manifestly dishonest.
  • Publishers must take reasonable steps to ensure that journalists do not fabricate sources.
  • Publishers should not pay public officials for information, except where an exceptional public interest justifies this.
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Self-Harm & Suicide

  • When reporting on self-harm and suicide, publishers must not provide excessive details of the method used, the specific location or speculate on the motives.
  • Publishers must signpost sources of support when reporting on self-harm and suicide.
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  • Publishers must clearly identify content that appears to be editorial but has been paid for, financially or through a reciprocal arrangement, by a third party.
  • Publishers must ensure that significant conflicts of interest are disclosed.
  • Publishers must ensure that information about financial products is objectively presented and that an interests or conflicts of interest are effectively disclosed.
  • Publishers must correct any failure to disclose significant conflicts of interest with due prominence at the earliest opportunity.
  • Publishers must ensure human editorial oversight and clear labelling of AI generated content.
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Code Review 2020-2022

Learn more about our two year Code Review process to update the Impress Standards Code, to ensure it remains fit for purpose for the future of journalism.

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How to complain to Impress

If you believe an Impress-regulated publication has breached the Impress Standards Code, learn how you can make a complaint and how our complaints process works.

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