Editorial Guidelines

Átlátszó Erdély is an investigative journalism project aiming to increase the transparency of the public life of the Hungarian community of Transylvania, Romania. 

We’d like to gain and maintain the confidence of our readers by observing the values of journalism, which are universally accepted by the professional community: robust evidence, critical analysis, accuracy and fairness.

Transparency is another value that defines our work. We lay out in the following paragraphs a set of rules we observe, offering an opportunity to our readers to check our activity and to decide whether we live up to our principles at each stage of our work.

These rules do not cover every possible situation. Whenever we have to ponder the answers, we take into consideration the Ethical Principles of the Editor-in-Chief’s Forum (Főszerkesztők Fóruma) and The Guardian editorial guidelines in addition to our procedures.

All staff members, and also freelancers working for Átlátszó Erdély are required to follow the guidelines below.

The editor-in-chief, Zoltán Sipos is responsible for enforcing and updating the guidelines. Questions, complaints or comments? Please contact the editor-in chief: sipos@atlatszo.ro or you can file a complaint with Corrector.

1. Topics

1.1. Átlátszó Erdély covers topics related to the Hungarian community in Transylvania which are of public interest. 

1.2. We prioritize topics that are underreported, or not reported at all.

1.3. Our editorial staff, and also the individual journalists have the freedom to choose the stories they cover.

2. Public interest

2.1. Our responsibility is to provide information that is relevant and beneficial to the general public: serves the welfare of society, fosters transparency, and holds those in power accountable.

2.2. Public interest issues are those issues that affect everyone, even if many people are not aware of it or even if they don’t appear to care.

2.3. Serving the public interest involves presenting unbiased and accurate information that enables individuals to make informed decisions and participate in the democratic process.

3. Privacy

3.1. Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.

3.2. We avoid invading people’s privacy unless there is a clear permission of the person involved, or there is a strong public interest in doing so.

3.3. In cases where the public’s right to know conflicts with an individual’s right to privacy, we always carefully balance privacy and public interest when making editorial decisions.

3.4. The degree of intrusion into one’s personal life must be justified by the seriousness of the story and the public good that is likely to follow from its publication.

4. Public figures

4.1. Public figures are people with a certain degree of prominence and recognition within society, typically as a result of their accomplishments, positions, or visibility in the public sphere. They often hold positions of authority, influence, or celebrity status, and their actions, statements, and behavior can have a significant impact on the public or on specific communities. 

4.2. Public figures have a diminished expectation of privacy due to the nature of their public roles and their influence on society. This is primarily because their actions and decisions can significantly impact the public.

4.3. We publish information about the private lives of public figures, including their wealth, their conduct, their hobbies, health or family only in cases when this information pertains to their public roles.

4.4. We don’t consider public figures people that accidentally find themselves in a situation of public interest (eg., the survivors of an accident or are the relatives of a politician).

5. Public information

5.1. A large part of the information we use in our reporting is based on public information. 

5.2. Public information refers to any data, records, or knowledge that is accessible to the general public. It typically includes information that is not confidential or restricted and can be obtained through various means, such as FOI requests, official publications, or publicly available databases. Public information plays a crucial role in promoting transparency, accountability, and the functioning of democratic societies.

5.3. We always clearly attribute the source of our information, and insert a link to the original document, when possible.

5.4. Our assumption is that public information we obtained from official sources is accurate, unless we have well-grounded reasons to think otherwise.

6. Sources

6.1. Another important information source is information coming from private individuals.

6.2. People often speak more freely if they are allowed to speak anonymously. This is the reason why working with human sources is vital for uncovering corruption, wrongdoing, or other matters of public interest.

6.3. We grant the possibility of anonymity only in situations when there is a danger that the source or people close to him/her will face reprisals, legal actions, or other forms of retaliation. 

6.4. The anonymous sources of information should be identified as specifically as possible by publishing their connection to the information (eg. “a person who says that was a witness to the event”, “a public servant with a direct overview of the issue”).

6.5. Our journalists will assess every situation, and consult with the editor before granting anonymity to a source. The decision will be communicated with the source. We are in no position to grant anonymity to people who are in positions of authority.

6.6. When we guarantee the anonymity of our sources, we make every possible effort to ensure that their identity will not be revealed. 

6.7. Our efforts to ensure the anonymity of our sources include, but are not limited to following strict digital security procedures in communication with our journalist. These procedures are clearly explained by our reporter at the beginning of the work. We ask our sources to strictly observe these procedures, otherwise we can not guarantee their anonimity.

6.8. Our journalists will always check and corroborate the information obtained from human sources. 

6.9. We always proceed with extra care with leaked information, documents or data coming from anonymous sources. We will make efforts to check the veracity of the documents and information.

6.10. If it is not possible to fully check the information obtained from a human (anonymous) source, we will clearly state this in our material (eg., “we were unable independently to verify the facts”). Sometimes we might decide not to use the information that can not be corroborated from other sources.

6.11. A human source has the right to know when and exactly how the information he/she provided will be used, and we will provide the quotes we plan to use when requested. However, the source has no right to review or edit the entire story.

6.12. We don’t pay our sources, and we don’t offer anything in exchange for information.

6.13. We work with extra diligence and consideration if we have reasons to believe our sources are traumatized, grieving, or are underage. In these cases we usually consult with experts, and consider every case individually to make sure that our work doesn’t cause further harm. 

6.14. Some of the information we obtain in the context of meetings, events, or discussions are subject to Chatham House rules. This rule encourages open dialogue and the sharing of information while maintaining the confidentiality of the speaker’s identity and affiliation.

6.15.  Checking of externally sourced material undergoes the same principles as that created entirely by our own journalists.

7. Interviews

7.1. We usually don’t send our questions in advance to our interviewees. However, we do disclose the general topic of the interview, and we do give details regarding how the information obtained will be used.

7.2. We always clearly indicate when we start recording, and make sure that the interviewee is aware that we may publish the information disclosed to us. We don’t allow our interviewees to ask some of their answers to be off the record after the interview has been recorded.

7.3. Our interviewees can ask to review the entire copy of the interview, in the form it will be published. 

7.4. However, they can only check if their answers were recorded and transcribed accurately. They cannot withdraw the interview and cannot make editing suggestions. If we only use a quote of a few sentences, we only show them the quote, not the entire story.

7.5. In case of a review by the interviewee, we usually set a deadline for sending back the reviewed material. If we don’t receive a reply by the deadline, we assume the material is accepted in its entirety by the interviewee and proceed with publication.

7.6. Word-for-word quotations of what has been said are placed between quotation marks, or published in the form of an interview. We may summarize or paraphrase declarations or longer discussions. In this case we try to formulate and render the main statements of the declaration.

8. Undercover work

8.1. We don’t use hidden voice recorders or cameras, or other illegal or “gray hat” techniques to gather information. 

8.2. We do undercover work only in exceptional circumstances, only if there is a clear public interest, but it is impossible to access the information otherwise. These situations are carefully assessed and approved by the editorial board.

8.3. As a rule, our journalists always introduce themselves clearly, stating their full names and the employer, Átlátszó Erdély.

9. Right to reply

9.1. We always confront the person, company or institution involved with the criticism or allegations involving them before publishing, and offer them the opportunity to present their point of view.

9.2. As a rule, the more serious the criticism or allegations is, the more efforts we make to contact the involved parties and offer them an opportunity to have their say on the matter.

9.3. Usually we will ask for an in-person interview; if that is not possible, we will offer to set up an on-line interview. If that is not successful either, we will send our questions in written form.

9.4. If we have good reasons to believe that the person/company/institution received our request, but there is no reply within a reasonable time, we may proceed with publication, stating that we contacted the involved parties, but they did not respond.

9.5. If the person/company/institution in their reply declines to answer our question, we will publish that.

9.6. If we receive a very detailed and lengthy response, we don’t guarantee that we publish it in its entirety as part of the story. However, we will include the main points of their arguments in our story, and link to a document with the entire response. Alternatively, we might consider publishing the reply as a separate story.

9.7. The parties involved have the right to reply after the publication of the article.

9.8. If the involved parties turned down our initial request to comment, but send a right of reply after the publication our editorial board will decide whether we publish their response.

10. Corrections

10.1. We strive for accuracy in our work, but sometimes we do make mistakes.

10.2. If we discover small errors in the published material (typos etc.) we will correct those without making a note of the correction.

10.3. If we discover any factual mistakes in our published article, we correct it, leaving the date of the correction and a short note about the type of the mistake in the text.

10.4. If we receive new information after the article was published, then we either insert it into the original text as an update and mark the date of the addition, or publish it as a new article.

10.5. It may happen that an article is based entirely on a wrong assumption or that we make some other serious professional mistake. In this case we publish an editorial note explaining why we got the story wrong.

10.6. Published materials that have passed all the editorial filters are only removed in exceptional cases, if there is a final court decision to do so.

10.7. Mistakes can be signaled by our readers on the erdely@atlatszo.ro e-mail, or through our Facebook-page

10.8. We solve all error complaints in a fair, reasonable and timely manner.

11. Letters to the editor

11.1. Sometimes we do publish letters to the editor, if we consider the letter to be relevant, well written and documented.

11.2. These texts undergo the same editorial process as our other publications. 

12. Threats

12.1. We take extremely seriously every threat our journalists receive.

12.2. In case of a threat, we always file a complaint to the authorities, and involve the international journalism community.

12.3. A threat is unlikely to stop an ongoing investigation.

13. Referencing

13.1. We reference the information taken from other media sources by mentioning the name of the source and a link towards the original material.

13.2. Our content is under the Creative Commons license. We expect a clear attribution and a link from media outlets when they are referencing our findings.

13.3. Digitally enhanced or altered images, montages and illustrations are clearly labeled as such.

13.4. We ask for the necessary permissions before we use content from non-authorised third-party sources (pictures, text or other media).

14. Freelancers

14.1. The freelancers we work with are expected to hold the same editorial standards as our staff journalists do.

14.2. We always give a byline for our freelancers who had a significant contribution, treat them fairly, and also offer a fair pay for their work.

15. Revenue

15.1. Átlátszó Erdély is supported by international investigative journalism grants, smaller projects and readers’ donations.

15.2. We don’t apply to grants, and don’t accept donations from entities we reported on in the past, or might report on in the future (eg. local governments, political parties etc.).

15.3. We publish yearly reports about our income and expenses, where we list the funding received from international organizations.

15.4. We report the yearly total amount of donations from our readers, but we treat the names of our individual donors confidentially, unless they expressly ask for their names to be included into the report.

15.5. Queries from our individual donors should be directed to the e-mail address erdely@atlatszo.ro.

15.6. We accept company sponsorship, but for amounts higher than 500 EUR the funding agreement must contain a paragraph stating that the funder does not interfere in any way with our work or the content published on our website.

15.7. We publish paid content only after carefully considering whether the information is relevant to the public, is in line with our values, and if there is no risk of editorial interference from the customer. 

15.8. Paid content is always clearly marked as such, with a mention of the name of the customer.

16. Gifts

16.1. Our journalists should not use their position to obtain private benefit for themselves or others.

16.2. Our journalists are not allowed to accept any gift more expensive than a coffee (5 EUR or so) from people or organizations they report on, or might report on in the future.

16.3. All expenses of fieldwork (including travel costs, housing, meals, equipment, etc.) are supported by Átlátszó Erdély.

16.4. When we are invited to take part in a study tour (eg. conference invitation, or reporting trip) we clearly mention this fact when we publish an article about the tour.

17. Conflicts of interest

17.1. Our journalists should be transparent about any outside personal, philosophical or financial interests that might conflict with their professional performance, or could be perceived to do so.

17.2. Our journalists or their close family members can not be paid, own shares, or be active members of entities (companies, organizations, political parties) they report on, or might report on in the future.

17.3. When a conflict of interest arises, the journalist must let the editorial board know about this.

17.4. In a case of conflict of interest, the story is assigned to a different journalist.

18. Explicit content

18.1. We publish, or link explicit or disturbing content only if it has a clear public relevance.

18.2. Explicit or disturbing content is always marked as such.


19.1. We’d like the community pages of Átlátszó Erdély to be spaces for civilized debates.

19.2. Our comments are moderated post-publication.

19.3. We welcome any comment or criticism which adds new information, perspective or opinion to a given subject. 

19.4. We do not tolerate personal attacks, abuse, harassment, hate-speech and unwanted ads. These will be removed and those who regularly post such comments will be banned.

20. Diversity policy and staff welfare

20.1. We strive our staff to reflect the community we report on; when hiring, we take into consideration the gender balance of our team, but also age, social, cultural and geographical background of the candidates.

20.2. We are aware that journalists in this region are usually underpaid, and many employers have exploitative practices. This is the reason we always always pay a fair (meaning: at least average, if not better than average) pay for our staff and freelancers, and provide the benefits the law requires. We don’t expect any free work to be done for us.