Do you wonder or ask what ethics govern the works of journalists? Perhaps you already know few? Journalism like any professional field has code of ethics that practitioners have to abide by. Journalism entails a high degree of public trust. Public trust can only be gained by the journalist when he or she abides by the code of conduct for journalism. The code enables the public to hold journalists accountable to social responsibilities and public expectations. In the exercise of duty, journalists should always have a healthy regard for public trust.
The codes of ethics for journalism are somewhat similar across many countries. The following are the core code of ethics for journalists
News reports should be factual, accurate, balanced and fair. To be factual means it should be based on the truth. There should be no fabrication of stories or details of the story. All sides or parties in the news report should have their say. The journalists should not favour a party in the news over the other.
A journalist can easily lose credibility with the public. In many state owned media establishments, due to poor media freedom, journalists that work in such establishments are often forced to tow the official line either directly or indirectly. In such media, issues involving opposition parties are rarely covered and stories involving them are often tilted in favour of the ruling party.
Where information has been inadvertently published, prompt correction should be made. In the course of duty, a journalist should strive to separate facts from conjecture and comment.
The privacy of individuals and their families should be respected. Journalists should not impinge on individual’s right to privacy. The journalist could impinge on the privacy of an individual if it is in the public interest. The journalist can impinge on this right if his efforts are aimed at exposing crime or serious misconduct, protecting public health, morality or safety. It can also be permitted if the journalist aims preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of the individual concerned.
The incidences of journalist violating the right of privacy of individual for self or organizational reasons are common. A recent case that comes to mind is the phone hacking scandals by reporters that worked with The News of the World Newspapers based in London. Such un-journalistic practices violate the ethics that a journalist is expected to works with. An individual whose right has being violated has the right to seek redress in court of law.

A journalist should work in the interest of all. He or she should not be a tool for discrimination against any person, ethic group, sex, and religion. Some journalists are guilty of racial profiling and spreading hate against individuals or groups. The goal of journalism is to improve the lots of people, giving them information that they can use to make informed decision on issues facing their everyday living.
The media, a sensitive tool, can be used for good or evil. In Rwanda the media was used to facilitate the killing of thousands during the genocide that took place in the 1990’s. Over the world, the media is still being used to fuel hatred or exclusion of groups and collective punishment of groups.

This is one of the ethics commonly abused by journalists in many countries. Journalistic ethics frown against the solicitation or acceptance of bribe, gratification or patronage to suppress or publish information. Can a journalist be fair to all parties when he or she has received a bribe from a party? When a journalist receives a bribe, he or she loses the moral right to act un-behalf of the public.
Many journalists have stood strong in the face of harassment and intimation from parties in the news when attempts to bribe such journalists fail. To demand payment for the broadcast or publication of news story, works against the values of fairness, accuracy and factual reporting of events.
A journalist is expected to comport himself or herself in a manner that conforms with public taste. The journalist is expected to dress in a professional manner. He must refrain from the use of abusive language and indecent behavior. He or she should respect the feelings of relatives of individuals affected by a terrible event. Decency requires that the journalist respect the culture of the people.
Journalists require information to write or package incisive or informative news reports. Without factual and accurate information, the journalists will not meet public expectations. The means by which a journalist gets information is important. A journalist should strive always to employ open and honest means in the gathering of information. Employing illegal means to obtain information could endanger the life of the journalist as he or she could be attacked or abused if discovered. As an individual, one can make the work of the journalists easier by volunteering information freely to journalists and assisting them in their journalistic works.
A journalist should not replicate in part or whole, other people’s work without attribution. However, where a journalist reproduces a work, it is very important the author of the work is properly acknowledged.
Journalists should have the right to make decision on the content of news. Censorship of content or publication is against journalistic ethics. Content should not be determined by owners of media or officials of government. Where this is the case, journalism seize to make positive impact in the lives of ordinary people. There this is the case; the media becomes just a megaphone for those in government and owners of media establishments. Today, interference with editorial independence is a challenge which many journalists are confronted with around the world. There is need for a global effort to preserve editorial independence.

Journalist entails a high degree of public trust. This cannot be achieved if journalists do not abide by code of ethics in journalistic practice. There is noticeable evidence of abuse of these ethics by journalists around the world. This calls for proper and strict enforcement of the codes by journalistic bodies in all countries. Journalism is a worthy profession that is essential for the survival of democracy, and the rule of law.

Sina Aina (2004). Intermediate News writing and Reporting. Julian Publishers, Abeokuta.

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  • […] Hold the Journalist to Account (odinakadotnet.wordpress.com) Share this:EmailPrintDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. April 13, 2012 by Media Laundry- Dhobitaloa Categories: Pakistan Media | Tags: Freedom of the press, India, Journalism, Journalist, Karachi, Karachi Press Club, News presenter, Pakistan, South Asia, Syed Saleem Shahzad | Leave a comment […]

  • […] Hold the Journalist to Account (odinakadotnet.wordpress.com) Share this:EmailPrintDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. April 13, 2012 by Media Laundry- Dhobitaloa Categories: Pakistan Media | Tags: Freedom of the press, India, Journalism, Journalist, Karachi, Karachi Press Club, News presenter, Pakistan, South Asia, Syed Saleem Shahzad | Leave a comment […]

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