Athena Institute


Journalistic Guidelines

  1. Investigative journalists who have a working relationship with the Athena Institute are to follow the Journalistic Guidelines. The Guidelines have been created in order to facilitate the work of investigative journalists by setting the basic ethical rules. The Guidelines are not meant to be comprehensive and therefore journalists are encouraged to seek the advice of their supervisor or the director of the Institute when in doubt.
  2. The Athena Institute recognizes that these Guidelines will appear quite familiar to those working for commercial media outlets, doing investigative work. Many of these are based simply on common sense. Nonetheless we believe it is necessary to create this type of guidelines as a part of the cooperation with the investigative journalists who are working with us. Of course no set of guidelines can guarantee by itself a high standard of investigative work, but a good faith effort is expected to abide by the Guidelines. A deliberate violation of the Athena Institute's Journalistic Guidelines could result in the termination of any and all relationship with the Institute.
  3. Where the term “journalist” is used we mean to include, apart from the investigative journalists, the entire staff working for the Institute and responsible for any of the projects. The Guidelines equally apply to the permanent staff of the Institute as well as to contracted journalists who are employed to cover a certain topic. It is possible that the Guidelines will need to be modified from time to time, and relevant comments are always welcome.


  1. The fact finding activities of the Athena Institute are based on the expectation that the journalists employed by the Institute are handling the matter at hand with honesty, with open minds, without regard to their political views and with the intention of conveying accurate information to the readers. If a journalist employed by the Institute is proven to have deliberately mislead the readers, or have tampered with the facts, he or she will face the severest legal consequences.
  2. In the pursuit of truthful information the journalist must be sensitive to issues of fairness, as our main goal is credibility. Based on this we ask for the readers' trust and in turn we do our best in order to treat the people in our projects always as fairly as possible within the boundaries of law.
  3. Fairness means that journalists
    • will approach cases with a determination to acquaint themselves with all relevant facts and pieces of information and a wide range of viewpoints through extensive research
    • will try to keep personal opinions and convictions from unprofessionally influencing his or her work
    • will carefully check the accuracy and reliability of information, especially when statements are formed about persons or organizations
    • will present fairly the conditions and actions portrayed by the interviewees
    • will underline the significance of facts, so that the readers can understand what they read and will provide sufficient information to place the story in context
    • will always be prepared to assists in correcting errors.
  4. The Athena Institute is dealing with hate groups. This expression has a potential to stigmatize people, therefore it has to be used with extreme care. Therefore such a decision will always be made by the management of the Institute and such a decision will have to be respected by the journalists who are in contact with the Institute. It is the responsibility of each journalist to apply this term in each project with the utmost care and after considering all the facts and only if these facts can be proven.

Information Gathering and Security

  1. Neither the Athena Institute, nor the journalists employed will pay for information or accept gifts from the members of the organizations examined in the projects or from people in contact with them.
  2. Based on best practices, a statement used in a project needs to be verified by at least two independent sources (one of which can be a document). In cases where this is not possible, the project can only be published if readers are informed about the reasons which made the use of multiple sources impossible.
  3. The Athena Institute shall not plagiarize. When writing a project it is appropriate to rely on pieces which have been published by other authors and media, as long as a proper citation is given. If a journalist is using in a project a complete publication (report, interview, video, etc), then the author of the publication will need to be indicated in the project, the work needs to be remunerated or if possible, the right of publication needs to be purchased.
  4. Journalists are committed to protecting their sources. A source asking for anonymity will only be disclosed to a third party if the journalist is legally obliged to do so. The Athena Institute will only share materials before publication to have the facts checked. It is definitely to be avoided that the entire material should be seen by any of the concerned parties before publication. Without prior consent of the director of the Institute none of the journalists are to disclose the details of any project to any organization.
  5. Journalists are to avoid misrepresentation. It is recommended that the concerned parties in a project are accurately informed about why their cooperation is being sought. The information gathered by a journalist under a false identity may be very different from the information he or she would otherwise be provided, and this decreases the credibility of the resulting information. In a case where the journalist needs to conceal his or her identity in order to accurately carry out his or her tasks, this can only happen with the prior consent of the director of the Institute unless this is made impossible by clear and present danger (a need to protect one's self or others).
  6. Journalists are to obey the laws of the Republic of Hungary. In cases where people's health or property may be at risk, the journalist is to immediately inform relevant authorities and the director of the Athena Institute.
  7. Journalists shall not expose themselves, a community or their colleagues to unnecessary risks. In case of confrontation the journalists are to obey the law and are to refrain from any form of violence.
  8. The Athena Institute shall not publish any material before the information contained therein is verified. Verification is carried out by the journalist and the staff of the Athena Institute. Upon completion of a research, the facts of every project need to be verified, during which the accuracy and credibility of every detail is being checked.
  9. The Athena Institute will provide legal representation to its journalists, but reserves the right to determine, based on the relevant laws and regulations, whether a given piece of information should be removed from a publication before it is presented to the public. This, on the other hand, does not relieve the journalists of the obligation to respect laws and regulations. The legal review will especially look at cases where personal or data protection rights may be breached and where statements are made which can be interpreted as defamation. Every project in which the journalist is accusing others with breaking the law will be subject to rigorous and repeated rounds of verification, not only from a legal point of view, but also to determine whether the relevant Guidelines of the Athena Institute have been observed.
  10. The use of certain devices as part of the fact finding activities, especially audio recording devices and hidden cameras, may be illegal, and therefore should not be undertaken without the consent of the director of the Athena Institute. The decision will be made based on the opinion of the lawyers of the Institute. This guideline does not apply to situations where a conversation is recorded with the consent of both parties for purposes of accuracy.

Independence and Integrity

  1. The Athena Institute is a non-partisan institution. The Institute does not monitor directly the activities of political parties that have been registered by the Court and therefore fall under the supervision of the Prosecution Service. The journalists contracted by the Institute are also expected to comply with this rule.
  2. During the projects the journalists shall do everything in their power to preserve the integrity (compliance with the law, good faith, credibility, professionalism) of the Athena Institute.
  3. Best practice dictates that journalists should be distanced from funders to the greatest extent possible. Fund raising and liaising with donor organizations should be the responsibility of the Institute's management. This, on the other hand, does not mean that the journalists cannot contribute to the fund raising activities of the Institute with their knowledge and experience in the project development phase. Upon completion of this phase the journalists should try to avoid contact with persons or organizations which provide funding to the Athena Institute.
  4. The working relationship with the journalists contracted by the Institute is based on the expectation that it is in their interest to carry out the research in an honest fashion, and and also on that they will not – as a result of outside pressure – alter the facts, include or exclude information. Any attempt of exerting influence should be disclosed to the management of the Institute.
  5. The results of research can only be disclosed when published. The journalists, after finishing the research, and before the material is published are not allowed to share the facts they gathered, the articles produced or parts thereof with a third party. The negotiations with the media which are aimed at making the publication possible are considered an exception. However these negotiations are conducted by the management of the Institute. This rule is also not applicable when the Institute is sharing information to comply with its contractual or legal obligations.
  6. Any journalist who has a material interest – financial, family, political or other personal stake – in a research project must indicate this to the management of the Institute. It is also the journalist's responsibility to monitor any interest of those who are helping him or her to carry out the research.
  7. In cases where a journalist or other staff members may gather information, acting on which could lead to personal gain, they are to inform the management of the Institute and seek their guidance.
  8. The Athena Institute expects the contracted journalists to provide accurate information about the Institute, its mission and goals when speaking about their job (in interviews, or at press briefings, seminars and conferences.). On such occasions the journalists can freely discuss their work for the Institute provided that by doing so they do not cause any harm to the Institute. The Athena Institute expects the journalists to make it clear in such cases, that carrying out the given research was made possible within the framework of the Athena Institute.