Oregon's Bill of Rights provides both for fair trials and for
freedom of the press. These are basic and unqualified. They are
not ends in themselves but are necessary guarantors of freedom
for the individual and the public's rights to be informed. The
necessity of preserving both the right to fair trial and the freedom
to disseminate the news is of concern to responsible members of
the legal and journalistic professions and is of equal concern
to the public. At times these two rights appear to be in conflict
with each other.
In an effort to mitigate this conflict, the Oregon State Bar,
the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and the Oregon Association
of Broadcasters have adopted the following statement of principles
to keep the public fully informed without violating the rights
of any individual.
- The news media have the right and the responsibility to print
and to broadcast the truth.
- However, the demands of accuracy and objectivity in news reporting
should be balanced with the demands of fair play. The public has
a right to be informed. The accused has the right to be judged
in an atmosphere free from undue prejudice.
- Good taste should prevail in the selection, printing and broadcasting
of the news. Morbid or sensational details of criminal behavior
should not be exploited.
- The right of decision about the news rests with the editor or
news director. In the exercise of judgment, the editor or news
director should consider that:
- an accused person is presumed innocent until proved guilty;
- readers and listeners are potential jurors;
- no person's reputation should be injured needlessly.
- The public is entitled to know how justice is being administered.
However, it is unprofessional for any lawyer to exploit any medium
of public information to enhance one side of a pending case. It
follows that the public prosecutor should avoid taking unfair
advantage of any position as an important source of news; this
shall not be construed to limit any obligation to make available
information to which the public is entitled.
In recognition of these principles, the undersigned hereby testify
to their continuing desire to achieve the best possible accommodation
of the rights of the individual and the rights of the public when
these two fundamental precepts appear to be in conflict in the
administration of justice.
Oregon State Bar
Oregon Newspaper Publisher's Association
Oregon Association of Broadcasters:
GUIDELINES FOR DISCLOSURE AND REPORTING OF INFORMATION ON CRIMINAL
It is generally appropriate to disclose or report the following:
- The arrested person's name, age, residence, employment, marital
status and relevant biographical information.
- The charge.
- The amount of bail and/or release conditions.
- The identity of and biographical information concerning both complaining
party and victim. Specific information about sexual assault or
hate crime victims should be disclosed only when the public's
right to know clearly outweighs the victim's or the complaining
party's right to privacy or safety.
- The identity of the investigating and arresting agency and the
length of the investigation.
- The circumstances of arrest, including time, place, resistance,
pursuit and weapons used.
It is rarely appropriate to disclose for publication or to report
prior to the trial the following:
- The contents of any admission or confession, or the fact that an admission or confession has been made.
- Opinions about an arrested person's character, guilt or innocence.
- Opinions concerning evidence or argument in the case.
- Statements concerning anticipated testimony or the truthfulness
of prospective witnesses.
- The results of fingerprints, polygraph or mental health examinations,
ballistic tests or laboratory tests.
- Precise descriptions of items seized or discovered during investigation.
- Prior criminal charges and convictions.
- Evidentiary details that were excluded in prior judicial proceedings
in the same case.
- Photographs of a suspect may be released by law enforcement personnel
provided a valid law enforcement function is served. It is proper
to disclose such information as may be necessary to enlist public
assistance in apprehending fugitives from justice. Such disclosure
may include photographs as well as records of prior arrests and
- Law enforcement and court personnel should not prevent the photographing
of defendants when they are in public places outside the courtroom.
However, they should not pose the defendant.
- The above Guidelines are supplemental to and should be interpreted
with the "Oregon Bar-Press-Broadcasters Joint statement of Principles"
adopted in 1962 and revised in 1993.
- The Guidelines are cautionary, not mandatory. They do not prohibit
release of, or publication of, information needed to identify
or aid in the capture of a suspect or information required in
the vital public interest after arrest. Neither do they proscribe
publication of information which is already in the public domain.
- These Guidelines were adopted in 1968 and revised in 1993.