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‘Ethics in Media: A Thing of the Past?’

  • Category
    Ethics
  • Published
    23rd Dec, 2020

Democracy cannot be successful without free press or media, which is very essential, as it is the voice of the people. But media shall not fall as a victim to some monetary or any other temptations, and shall keep on honestly serve the people.

Context

Democracy cannot be successful without free press or media, which is very essential, as it is the voice of the people. But media shall not fall as a victim to some monetary or any other temptations, and shall keep on honestly serve the people.

Background

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a Government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

--Thomas Jefferson

  • Media is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy and as such, it plays a great role in the overall development of the country. It is considered as the backbone of a country as it provides overall information regarding different aspects like political, economic, and social.
  • Ethics is a branch of philosophy that deals with what is right and what is wrong based on moral values.
  • If we talk of media, ethics have forms the basis of journalism as people form perceptions based on the things which they see over media.
  • With technological developments, ethical practices in Indian media are facing continues challenges. It has become common things of denoting media companies as one belonging to the left-wing or the right-wing.
  • Media trials have also evolved as one of the greatest challenges faced in this country directly affecting the judicial system of the country.

Analysis

How India media expanded?

  • The Bengal Gazettewas the first news paper which was started by James Augustus Hickley in year 1780 in India.
  • This was followed by the publication of newspapers like The India, The Calcutta Gazette, The Madras Gazette Courier and Bombay Herald in the coming years.
  • But after the first freedom struggle of 1857, the number of newspapers that appeared in different languages of India continued to grow.
  • At the time of this freedom struggle, the media expansion in India was not so much that its news could reach the corners of the country through newspapers.
    • But some UK newspapers had published detailed reports on this first war of independence.
    • However, the news was first delivered to Bombay via Telegraph and then transported to London and it used to take several weeks.
  • Since then the media has been emerging in various forms.

Media and ethics:

With the evolving time, the ways through which media shares its views, opinions, facts and information is also increasing. Now information is shared in many ways – through websites, WhatsApp groups, YouTube channels, television channels, newspapers, magazines, mobile & computer applications etc. India has evolved to be one of the biggest media markets in the world. However, major issues remain to be solved:

  • Low standards of coverage: The particular elements of news composing are exactness, accuracy, absence of prejudice, objectivity and open responsibility. Yet these "standards of news coverage" has gone under genuine dangers lately.
  • Ignored code of ethics: The news associations and the journalists and telecasters neglect and infrequently ignore the "code of ethics" in the procurement of newsworthy data and its consequent spread to general society.
    • Most journalistic code of ethics contains the rule of “limitation of harm".
      • This includes the withholding of specific points of interest from news reports like the names of minor kids, wrongdoing casualties or data not applicable to specific news reports, the arrival of which may damage somebody's notoriety or life or obstruct the capacity of the organization.

What are the Ethical Principles of Journalism?

  1. Obligated to deliver the truth:
  • It depends on the citizens of a democratic nation to have correct facts on which they can rely. The so called journalistic truth starts off with gathering and testing the facts.
  • Journalists should try their best convey the news without any bias and without subjecting it to their personal opinion.
  1. Answerable to the public:
  • In the field of journalism, the primary answerability is to the citizens, not to the sponsors, the shareholders etc, because this is what makes it the medium of public interest.
  • Following this commitment make the news channel more credible and certainly adds to its good will.
  1. Verification is a necessity:
  • What news is to be presented to a large extent is based on how verified it is.
  • Without verification, there will always be hint of personal opinion of the journalist in the news article.
  1. Independence:
  • Independence is the corner stone of the trust in Journalism. Independence is what provides a sense of impartiality.
  1. Present significant and relevant news:
  • Journalism is not just a piece of story; it is a story with a meaningful motive. It is beyond attracting audience.
  • It should constantly scrutinize itself and decide what is meaningful enough to be presented.

What are the Ethical Issues with Indian media?

  • Paid news: It is one of the biggest threats to journalism. The origins of the unethical practice of paid news can be trace back to the liberalisation of the Indian economy in 1991. With market forces at play and public investment in private companies, journalists found it sometimes lucrative to write only partially true stories of companies waiting to list on the stock exchanges.
  • Media Trail: Media trial can be defined as a trial parallel to the court of law in which the media house declares a person innocent or guilty before the final judgment of the court based on debates and discussions.
  • Sidelined real issues: The media often portray non-issues as real issues, while the real issues are sidelined. The real issues in India are economic, that is, the terrible economic conditions in which 80 per cent of our people are living, the poverty, and unemployment, lack of housing and medical care and so on. Instead of addressing these real issues, the media often try to divert the attention of people to non-issues.
  • Lack of transparency: India is one of the biggest media markets. Only a few people control the ownership. The transparency in the inner structure of media organizations is dwindling, putting the credibility of media at stake.
  • Opaque private treaties: There has been growing nexus of politicians and corporate entities in the news media through such schemes. Indian media today are trapped by power centres, business tycoons and Indian state authorities converting their role of watchdog to lapdog.
  • Widening legal regulatory gap: The Press Council of India has dragged its feet on addressing paid news and other unethical practices. There have been growing practices of advertisements being published as news for a fee. This has severely affected their credibility.
  • Flawed measurements of audience reach and readership: The yardsticks to measure the reach and impact of the Indian media are dubious. Television ratings also fail to tell the real picture.

What measures should be adopted to reform Indian media?

  • Bringing responsibility in media: The government should strive to establish a working environment in which journalists understand their responsibility as people who work in the industry and as citizens in democracy, applying judgment and ethical standards in their reporting, and self-scrutinize and self-control their activities.
  • Transparency in the functioning: The Press Council should publicize itself, its powers, its work and its adjudication so as to make itself known to the public and to gain its trust.
  • Adopting code practices: Freelance journalists should make themselves familiar with the respective code for practice of the newspaper for which they are writing.
  • Undertaking oath: Journalists should adopt their own Journalist oath, in the same manner as the Hippocratic Oath in medicine.

Conclusion:

Media is the most common mode of carrying forward the public opinion and also keeping the public informed. It is thus important that media acts with a sense of responsibility. The media should keep its opinion objective, free from and prejudice or bias. It should try and explore all the possibilities and point of views. Undoubtedly free media is a pillar of democracy. One of its roles is to watch what the Government does; the media will not be able to perform this duty if it is under the government’s control. But it is essential for the media to take some concrete measures to improve their conduct.

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