A group of 60 visual journalists are speaking out in favor of responsible use of infographics — in the wake of some of the bin Laden work last week — and citing a checklist of six rules that editors might follow to produce graphics that adhere to “basic, ethical journalism standards.”

The article — constructed by Innovation consulting group president Juan Antonio Giner and Alberto Cairo, graphics director of Epoca, a weekly news magazine in Brazil — was endorsed over the weekend by 58 visual journalists, including yours truly. The resulting document was posted this morning by the Nieman Watchdog web site of Harvard University.

Juan Antonio and Alberto’s letter references some of the bin Laden graphics from around the world last week that included glaring errors, guesses, conjecture and, in some cases — this is my language, not theirs — out-and-out bullshit.

Juan Antonio and Alberto write:

Some publications presented as facts what was just fiction. Sometimes there was no factual support whatsoever. It’s as though William Randolph Hearst was back with us, saying once again, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

A lot of this was covered thoroughly last week by Alberto Cuadra of the Washington Post and by Gert Nielsen of the Visual Journalism blog. Here are three examples — from the Daily Mail of London…

El Mundo of Madrid…

…and O Dia of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The document continues:

This kind of thing has happened before, so the misuse of infographics was not totally unexpected… In this non-stop, 24/7 news world, editors need to practice restraint and not rush with images when the facts are not there.

And then they go into their six rules. As an example, here is rule number six:

Infographics are neither illustrations nor “art”. Infographics are visual journalism and must be governed by the same ethical standards that apply to other areas of the profession.

Wonderful stuff. Read it right now at the Nieman Watchdog site.