Uploaded by Kosilisochukwu Okoli

Salient Issues in Media Ethics

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Pan-Atlantic University
School of Media and Communication
Undergraduate Year 3
Semester 1
Name: Kosilisochukwu Emmanuel Okoli
Course: Media Ethics
Matriculation Number: 16100310426
Facilitator: Dr. Josef Bel-Molokwu
Present an essay to show that you appreciate the issues involved in
media ethics. Examine these issues from the social, cultural and
professional perspective. Cover every aspect of ethical issue and
discuss it, applying it to real life situation.
1
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT
Page 4 - 5
INTRODUCTION
EXPLORING ETHICS IN MEDIA AND DEFINING
ETHICAL ISSUES
Page 6
BODY
MEDIA REGULATORY BODIES
Pages 7 - 8
EXAMINING ETHICAL ISSUES
OBJECTIVITY AND VERACITY
Pages 9 - 10
FAIRNESS AND BALANCE
Pages 11 - 12
PRIVACY AND PRIVILEGE
Pages 13 - 14
LAW AND ETHICS
Pages 15 - 16
2
CONCLUSION
SUMMARY
Pages 17
REFERENCES
Pages 18 - 19
3
ABSTRACT
The media refers to a group that creates messages and spreads those messages to a
particular segment of the general population so as to accomplish a particular objective.
The media has developed rapidly since its inception. It has undergone a number of
changes as a result of the many pitfalls it has seen and problems stemming from the
processes involved in operation, the most obvious being technology which birthed the
mass media (the term refers to technology that is intended to reach a mass audience
(common platforms include radio, print, television, and the Internet.))
In society, we observe that all organizations (especially the ones that directly
influence the public) operate under a code of conduct, a set of regulations that dictate its
values so as to avoid ethical issues. In Nigeria, local enforcement is subject to The
Nigerian Police Force. The pharmaceutical industry is subject to the National Drug Law
Enforcement Agency. The food industry is subject to the National Agency for Food and
Drug Administration and Control. This principle is applicable in the case of the media
and there are several regulatory bodies which shall be explored in this paper.
The media is the primary source by which the people receive and seek
information. This makes it easy for those involved in the practice to influence the
thoughts and behaviors of others as they possess the power to do so. One could choose to
abuse this power and disregard all ethical standards in order to fuel their own desires.
4
That being said, this paper centers on the analysis of the different ethical issues pertaining
to the media from a social, cultural and professional point of view. It likewise intends to
cover each part of the issues such as whilst utilizing them in real circumstances.
5
EXPLORING ETHICS IN MEDIA
And Defining Ethical Issues
In broad terms, ethics is an aspect of philosophy which addresses matters
identified with the concept of what is right and what is wrong. Fundamentally, ethics are
standards that exist to guide a person’s conduct. Furthermore, they are governing rules
that dictate the appropriate behaviors in particular settings. Take a formal dinner and a
normal dinner, for example, it would be unethical to eat the foods with your hands at a
formal dinner but it would be the opposite for a normal dinner. This is because what is
deemed as right and wrong in terms of ethics is dependent on the situation.
. Media ethics is a derivative of ‘ethics’ that addresses the particular moral
standards, guidelines, and gauges of media. Before a media house is perceived as
trustworthy and held as trustworthy by the general public, there is a threshold that it must
surpass
Ethical issues in media are those vital matters that call for concern and discussion.
They are those matters that cause for the questioning the ethical standards and values of
the media regarding the duties of the media, its practices, the information it disseminates
and how it disseminates it. Particularly in news coverage (accuracy, fairness, bias,
objectivity, balance, privacy, public interest, favoritism are examples of such issues) and
advertising (product placement, stereotypes, the presence of explicit content, defamation
are examples of such issues). These issues are handled by certain regulatory bodies.
6
MEDIA REGULATORY BODIES
Media regulatory bodies are administrative organizations (or professional bodies)
that exercise power over media systems and employ various methods, frequently
legitimately authoritative, over a range of media processes in a supervisory capacity in
order to realize established standards such as freedom, diversity and so on. In
National Broadcasting Commission of Nigeria (NBC): The National
Broadcasting Commission is a parastatal of the Federal Government of Nigeria
established by Section 1 of the National Broadcasting Commission Act, Cap. NII, laws of
the Federation, 2004 and vested with the responsibilities of, amongst other things,
regulating and controlling the broadcasting Industry in Nigeria. ("About NBC", n.d.)
The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR): The Nigerian Institute of
Public Relations oversees all public relations practices in Nigeria. It sets the requirements
needed in order to practice. It seeks to establish and maintain a proficient structure for the
practice and protect the professional interests of its members.
Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCN): The Advertising
Practitioners Council of Nigeria exists to encourage, promote and regulate the mindful
practice and acknowledgment of advertising in Nigeria. It sets the requirements required
to practice and establishes ethical standards.
The Nigerian Press Council: The Nigerian Press Council sets and maintains
the high standards that the press abides by in Nigeria. It observes press practices and
looks into allegations involving the press.
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The Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ): is a media association comprising
of practicing journalists nationwide that strives to connect the country’s journalists with
the resources they require and openings they need to develop professionally and make
strides in the Nigerian media.
8
EXAMINING ETHICAL ISSUES
OBJECTIVITY AND VERACITY
The idea of “objectivity”, in present-day terms, for the most part, relates to an
object and a subject that perceives or does not perceive it. The object is
something/anything that already exists free of the subject’s recognition of it. In simpler
terms, the object is, because it is already there prior to being recognized. Thus, objectivity
is regularly related to thoughts such as reality, truth, and unwavering quality. The subject
can recognize the object for exactly what it is and perceive its characteristics or recognize
it as something other than what it is possibly associating foreign characteristics with it.
An example, people who suffer from dissociative disorders. They perceive reality for
what it is not. That being said, we can formally define objectivity as perception without
prejudice.
In ethics, ivity states that individual's choices and actions can be perceived as
right or wrong, notwithstanding of the circumstance or the results. It centers on rules for
overseeing what is considered to be ethically right, wrong, or compulsory. The subjective
assessment of the circumstance does not hold much significance.
In media, it refers to impartiality, an absence of bias, and truth. The media ought
to endeavor to communicate the outright truth to the public. Its most imperative function
is to supply information that strictly concurs to the facts. It aims to assist the gathering of
people to make up their possess mind about a story, giving the truths alone and after that
letting gatherings of people translate those on their claim. To preserve objectivity in news
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coverage, the media ought to show the truths whether or not they like or concur with
those truths. We can speak about journalistic objectivity in two ways. Firstly,
depersonalization, which implies that the media ought to not convey their own
convictions and points of view. The use of objectivity disguises the subjectivity that
stems from the media setting agendas. In news reporting, reporters recognize experts as
correspondents and adopt their comment by reiterating the comment and appearing not to
influence it. The second is veracity, which implies truthfulness. It is telling truth about
matters at all times.
Perfect cases for evaluating the limits to objectivity and veracity are cases that
involve gruesome killings and graphic content/information. Is it important for such to be
displayed by the media? A usual point of contemplation for editors. We can examine the
coverage of the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi (Yobe State, Nigeria) attack
of February 25, 2014, by the cable.ng. It was reported that fifty-nine males were killed
and twenty-four buildings were burnt and much was reported in text regarding the issue
but it can be argued that in order for the public to truly realize the importance of the
matter and feel the grievances of the victims they should have disregarded the public’s
sensitivity to graphic content and displayed photos because the absence of this could
undermine the story. However, such insensitivity and tyrannical behavior are what we
criticize of predecessors for. By promoting such we would be no different from them.
Would doing so push the culture of journalism into the disregard of ethics?
10
FAIRNESS AND BALANCE
The media cannot serve the public if it predicates the lust for power on lies and
deceit. It cannot serve the people if it serves the purpose of another already. The media
exists to expose lies and deception from individuals in positions of authority.
Fairness centers around detailing the truth precisely, investigating each source and
view accessible thoroughly. Specifically utilizing parts of the information to
communicate a story paints a picture somewhat or completely different to the public of
that what is being reported. This causes one question the ethical standards for that writer
in terms of the impacts that it will have on the issue and the public.
Balance, within the journalistic setting, implies that the media has a duty to be
objective and present a blend of opinions to stay fair-minded on a matter in spite of
personal opinions. Creating a chance for the public to judge the issue and form an
opinion from an array of multiple perspectives preserves the integrity of the story as they
are not are not being influenced toward a specific conclusion from one one-sided
supposition.
Take the coverage of politics, especially near or during election time, in Nigeria.
During election season, the media’s take on matters is held in high regard and it is the
time when it is needed to be at its fairest but one could argue that it mostly covers the
activities on the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party
(PDP). On the third of December 2018, African Action Congress (AAC) presidential
candidate Omoyele Sowore accused the media of favoring the two parties. He stated that
political rallies concerning lesser known parties were not paid the required attention in
11
comparison to Atiku’s trip to Dubai. He stated that “The money that the big political
parties or the legacy parties are giving you, they were not the money that they made
themselves. They were money stolen from the public. You have a duty to cover people
who have messages and not people who have money.” (Oluwasanmi, 2018)
12
PRIVACY AND PRIVILEGE
Privacy is characterized as the right to be secluded, to be left alone and free of
investigation without legal consent. A state where one is free of disturbance from public
attention. Technology has significantly improved investigations in journalism thanks to
devices such as recorders, phones, cameras, etc. However, it is questioned when it comes
to privacy. Just because information is true does not mean it can and should be published.
Press freedom and right to privacy often conflict as it is not wrong to capture moments in
public but the use of that footage is can cause trouble if consent is not granted from all
objects in the footage. To what lengths is one allowed to realize a story? Can you impede
on the right to privacy of crooked policeman in order to prove that he is guilty of his
crimes? Is it unethical or ethical?
Public figures are a popular topic of discussion. The public lives for conflict and
scandals but these public figures are entitled to protection because of privilege. Can we
report a story regarding the sexual harassment of minors by R. Kelly if he hides under the
shade of privilege? These are relevant questions because the line between personal
vendetta and justice are thin.
A perfect example is the case of Diezani Alison-Madueke who allegedly spent
about 10 billion naira on a jet. The public deserves to know what the country’s money
(which consists of their paid taxes) is being spent on but is the media allowed to dismiss
her rights and look into her personal files such as account statements and transactions for
the sake of justice. If these documents are illegally obtained does the integrity of the story
become compromised?
13
If we take again into consideration the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi
(Yobe State, Nigeria) attack of February 25, 2014, would we be violating the rights of the
dead by disseminating such images as they are still entitled to privacy?
14
LAW AND ETHICS
Journalists often face the problem of ethics conflicting with the law, journalistic
ethics conflicting with personal ethics and company ethics conflicting with personal
ethics. In achieving a story, how far can a journalist go and when is it acceptable to
dismiss ethical standards? What boundaries can they cross?
Popular topics of discussion are issues such as defamation, plagiarism, lethargy,
and censorship. Lethargy is the utilization of dated content. For example, one could be
writing a story about the pros and cons of appointing Buhari as president and discuss his
achievements during his tenure as a military ruler but is it truly relevant to the discussion
in modern times? Plagiarism is utilizing the works of another as yours in writing a story.
For example, reiterating another’s take on a particular issue because it suits the discussion
and properly addresses the topic. Defamation is hurting the reputation of a public figure.
It is often seen in cases where a public figure is to be presented a position of authority
and in an attempt to sway public opinion one resorts to slander and libel.
In regards to personal ethics clashing with duties of the media, one might be in a
position where he/she has to publish a story regarding a public figures actions but
because they sympathize with the figure they decide not to. Another scenario is being in
the position to capture an image to buttress a story but the consequences of capturing that
image, no matter how compelling it would be, could result in harming another individual.
For example, a story on poverty where one has to capture a child in hunger when they are
in the position to feed that child, the humane thing to do would be to feed the child and
spare them starvation but at the cost of the photo.
15
In regards to journalistic duties clashing with the law you have instances such as
choosing to disclose your source because it further credits a story but puts the source in
danger or in investigative journalism where posing as a doctor in an attempt to cover a
story regarding a hospital would be ideal but it clearly is against the law.
In the case of Ken Saro Wiwa, he took it upon himself to attack the government
for extracting oil from the Ogoni land knowing that it would degrade the land but at the
cost of his life. Instances like this are perfect examples because it tests the resolve of the
media in regards to communicating the truth to the public. The profession requires such
sacrifice and it is one that journalists should be ready to face.
Another example is the case of the leading photo for the popular 1993 story by
South African journalist Kevin Carter that resulted in public debate and the death of the
journalist. The photograph clearly depicted the state of famine in Sudan but caused the
world to question his principles. Some equated him to the vulture stating that placing
importance in the image over the child’s wellbeing was barbaric and others praised him
for instincts and dedication to the job as a journalist. Till today the debate for ‘journalist
first’ still rages.
16
SUMMARY
Essentially, we observe that ethics are standards that exist to guide a person’s
conduct. Before a media house is perceived as trustworthy there is a threshold that it must
surpass. These thresholds are define dby the corresponding regulatory bodies. Ethical
issues in media are those vital matters that call for concern. Objectivity is the presentation
of an issue free of personal opinion. Fairness is detailing the truth precisely and balance is
addressing and issue from all perspectives. Privacy is the right to be secluded from the
public eye. In conclusion, what is ethical if not formally established by a regulatory body
is left do the discernment of the journalist.
17
REFERNCES

About NBC. Retrieved from http://www.nbc.gov.ng/pages/about-nbc

VISION & MISSION - Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. (2019). Retrieved
from http://nipr.org.ng/index.php/about-nipr/vision-mission

About Us. Retrieved from http://apconng.blogspot.com/p/about-us.html

Mulder, D. Objectivity | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from
https://www.iep.utm.edu/objectiv/

Objective Ethics Law and Legal Definition | USLegal, Inc. Retrieved from
https://definitions.uslegal.com/o/objective-ethics/

What do fairness and balance mean in the journalistic context?. (2016). Retrieved
from https://allienticott.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/what-do-fairness-and-balancemean-in-the-journalistic-context/

Adoyo, S. (2015). JET SCANDAL: House Of Reps Orders Investigation Over
Alison-Madueke's Money Spendings. Retrieved from
https://www.legit.ng/63103.html

OLUWASANMI, B. (2018). Press And Prejudice: Nigeria's Media Bias Favor
Buhari And Atiku By Bayo Oluwasanmi | Sahara Reporters. Retrieved from
http://saharareporters.com/2018/12/03/press-and-prejudice-nigerias-media-biasfavor-buhari-and-atiku-bayo-oluwasanmi

Jewell, J. (2014). Dealing with graphic content is a moral minefield for
journalists. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/dealing-with-graphiccontent-is-a-moral-minefield-for-journalists-30383
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
Ukpong, C. (2018). Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa 23 years after brutal killing by
Nigerian govt. Retrieved from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/features-andinterviews/295004-remembering-ken-saro-wiwa-23-years-after-brutal-killing-bynigerian-govt.html

MACLEOD, S. (2001). The Life and Death of Kevin Carter. Retrieved from
http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,165071,00.html
19
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