Public Interest in Facing Ethical Dilemmas

Submitted by admin on Mon, 05/28/2012 - 15:25

Dr. Venkat Iyer, a Law Barrister in Northern Ireland, says ethics is as important as law and media practitioners should be careful in carrying out their journalistic work to inform the public that can violate ethical standards and do harm to individuals and organizations who may be the subject of broadcasts and articles in newspaper and social media.

He said they must determine relevance, the public interest angle and extent of harm a proposed story will inflict in dealing with ethical dilemmas. They must also ensure they have exhausted all avenues and provided individuals and organizations who are subject of publications an opportunity to respond to allegation before publishing a proposed story.

These conditions are applicable, for instance, in the use of subterfuge journalism or posing as someone other than a journalist.

He said the use of clandestine recording devices is considered unethical generally, however, public interest defence may permit such recording. “Less clear-cut when recording is made by a reporter solely as an aide memoire for himself,” he said.

Dr. Iyer served as consultant and speaker for the AIBD/workshop on “ Ethics in the Age of Social Media,” organized and supported by AIBD, FES and UNESCO. Some 33 journalists, heads of news departments, producers and academics from 19 countries in Asia Pacific attended the one-day workshop that started today.

In approaching people for interviews in public places, journalists should be careful of intrusive and harassing behaviour. Harassment may not always be physical, he said, and if they engage in persistent badgering such as repeated telephone calls or refusal to leave the premises, such can amount to harassment and constitute unethical behaviour.

In his presentation, he also dealt with other ethical issues such as acceptance of bribes or other inducements which are clearly unacceptable. On chequebook journalism or payment or offers of payment for stories or information to witnesses or potential witnesses in criminal proceedings or to convicted or confessed criminals , he said, overwhelmingly public interest may justify such payments.