Friday, Sep 24, 2021 06:45 [IST]

Last Update: Friday, Sep 24, 2021 01:06 [IST]

Ethics and Journalism

Bhupendra Pokhrel (Advocate)

Ethics is the application of moral principles that guide decision-making in our personal and professional lives. Ethics refers to conduct or behavior within societal expectations. Ethics generally does not become a concern until a unique situation arises and we are asked to apply our beliefs of what is correct or incorrect, right or wrong. For the journalist, this may happen when they are asked to reveal their sources in open court after promising confidentiality to the informant. In fact, this is one of the most frequent ethical dilemmas the journalist can face. Another troubling aspect of journalism is when the professional may be required to invade privacy in order to investigate allegations of unethical behavior on behalf of a public or private individual. Of course, your response to the issue will probably depend on which side you represent. If you are the person whose privacy has been invaded, you may believe a journalist behaved unethically. However, if you are on the side of the wronged public, you may be very thankful that the journalist investigated the matter. You may even be all for the invasion of privacy for the public good – unless, and until, it happens to you; and then the morality of the behavior could again be called into question.
Journalistic ethics is the application of the professional standards of this industry. These principles are filtered through the broader parameters of philosophy, itself, as well as acceptable social and political assumptions. For example, the journalistic function of keeping the public informed about governmental wrongdoing falls under the commitment of the press to a free and open democracy. (The concept of journalistic ethics is likely to look very different in closed societies where the press is government-run).
The student of journalism or a practicing journalist should realize that there are principles that guide this profession. The prerequisite is to have an understanding of the public function of journalism and the standards by which its aims are met. In other words, what are the duties of a journalist?
It would seem there is no question the journalist has a duty to honesty and integrity, to keeping a promise and actively serving the public good, while avoiding undue harm. Journalists are expected to meet their socially imposed obligation to their skills to offer fair and unbiased reporting, ensuring that a diverse and comprehensive presentation of a story is offered. Journalists are also reminded of their potential to influence readers, the subject of their reporting, and the greater society they serve, and not to
The journalist must therefore have a deep understanding of the ethical functions of the profession, always be looking to improve and reform standards and construct new ones as necessary, and to promote ethical behavior – in part by acting as a role model, but also by having the willingness to point out the abuse of ethics in this, and other, industries.
The journalist's functions include keeping the public honestly informed and acting as a watchdog for abuse of power in public and private practices, and maintaining an open forum for free expression. The journalist must actively seek out truth, independent of influence, while avoiding undue harm. The journalist must also be willing to be held accountable for his or her actions.
Ethical Duties of the Journalist
- The journalist must offer the reader a fair, unbiased presentation of facts.
- The journalist must not allow personal relationships with sources to tarnish the truth.
- The journalist must obey the law in pursuit of the news.
- The journalist must not allow competition to taint their professional responsibilities.
- The journalist must participate in public life.
- Journalists must not represent themselves as a mouthpiece for a news source, unless permitted.
- The journalist must also disclose potential conflicts.
- The journalist must be cognizant of their obligations to their employer.
As a journalist, the following questions should guide your news gathering, writing, editing, and any other aspect of dispensing your duties.
1. Are there any ethical problems that exist in my pursuit or writing of this story? If so, can they be neutralized, or should the story be turned over to another journalist?
2. What are the ethical issues of this story? What are the conflicting values and relevant facts?
3. What are all of the options as I approach this story? What are my duties and responsibilities to myself, my employer, the parties involved, and the public? What will be the consequences to each? What will be the consequences to my character?
4. Can I formulate an ethical justification for pursuit of this story? Can I justify my actions ethically, morally, professionally?
5. Am I able to draw similarities to past situations that will help guide my decision-making? Is my behavior representative of the profession?
The study of ethics and its application to the field of journalism begs the learner to review the information contained within the article more than once. In fact, this is a article that should be printed, and a copy kept close at hand throughout your career. That is just how important journalistic ethics is to the practice on an individual level, as well as to the industry as a whole.
Journalistic ethics is more than a gut feeling of right and wrong. It encompasses a broad set of standards that are under constant review, and you, as a practitioner, must take the ethical responsibilities of the profession seriously at all times, in that way you will bring honor to journalism and see to it that you have helped to maintain the integrity of its practice for future generations.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi