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CODE OF ETHICS FOR JOURNALISTS SEPARATES 'WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF' – EXPERTS

10/05/2024 09:41 AM
From Nurqalby Mohd Reda

This article is in conjunction with National Journalists’ Day on May 29

 

The emergence of social media and citizen journalism has changed the landscape of the media industry worldwide, and in this country, it has had a significant impact on the general public and conventional media.

According to experts, reporting through social media, especially by citizen journalists who are not trained in journalism, is more likely to influence public sentiment than conventional reporting which is said to be controlled by parties with vested interests.

Rarely do members of the public realise that the “reports” churned out by the so-called citizen journalists are most likely to be fake as their sources have no credibility. Such news items are aimed solely at generating advertising revenue through high viewer numbers.  

Experts said this situation is placing conventional journalists in a dilemma, sometimes pushing them and their media organisations to disregard the ethics of journalism in pursuit of stories that can garner the attention of their target audiences, including playing up sensitive issues, reporting biasedly and ignoring fact checking.   

Malaysia has its own Code of Ethics for Journalists which was first developed by the Malaysian Press Institute in 1989. Now some 35 years later, the manual has been revised by the Department of Information Malaysia.

The updated Malaysian Code of Ethics for Journalists, officially launched on Feb 20, is seen as highly relevant in enhancing the credibility and integrity of the journalism profession in this country.

 

GUIDE

Head of the Department of Media and Communication Studies at Universiti Malaya Associate Prof Dr Mohamad Saleeh Rahamad said every media practitioner should adhere to the newly-launched code of ethics, understanding that numerous factors underpin every action they take in delivering news, among them being media-related laws, cultural and ethnic sensitivities, and the principles of Rukun Negara.

“There have been cases where journalists violated the code of ethics in their reporting but they didn’t do it of their own volition… they were compelled to abide by the wishes of the higher-ups in their organisations,” he told Bernama.

Pointing to the improvements in the revised code of ethics which, among other things, puts emphasis on fostering racial harmony and national unity, Mohamad Saleeh said this is a good thing as some journalists do not realise the existence of subtle restrictions when reporting on cultural, religious and moral issues due to their own different backgrounds.

“Our journalists come from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, so they have to be more aware when writing about the cultures and religions of other communities,” he added.

At the launch of the Malaysian Code of Ethics for Journalists, Minister of Communications Fahmi Fadzil said the code will elevate the dignity of the media as a trusted source of news and information.

The main principles outlined in the code include the need for journalists to be the voice of Malaysia’s pluralistic society, and to be transparent and carry out their duties with integrity, and to be fair in the delivery of information.

The code also requires journalists not to be swayed by personal interests and to ensure the authenticity and accuracy of the information they deliver, as well as respect the privacy and confidentiality of their sources. Journalists also need to understand the laws, Acts and policies related to their scope of work.  

 

COMPLY WITH ETHICS

Mohamad Saleeh said media practitioners need to embody these journalistic ethics to gain public trust and convince them that conventional journalism remains relevant as a channel for authentic, fair and transparent news.

“The ethics outlined in the code should be instilled in students studying in journalism schools so that they will practise them when they start working.

“We don't want citizen journalists who haven't gone through journalism schools nor worked with any (media) organisation to have more influence. This is because with the power they have at their fingertips today, they can type anything on any issue and ultimately have a negative influence on society,” he added.

Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia Communication Programme senior lecturer Dr Fauziah Hassan agreed that for journalists to do their work with integrity, they must comply with the principles of the Malaysian Code of Ethics for Journalists.

“Even if the news they are presenting is just for entertainment purposes, it should be straightforward without any element of provocation. It shouldn’t create negative assumptions among readers, otherwise, it can trigger differences of opinions that cross the boundaries,” she said.

She said the integrity of a journalist and media organisation is measured through the content of their reporting. The content will reveal whether they have checked the facts of the story first or if they are merely taking advantage of a trending issue without an in-depth understanding of the situation.  

“(Complying with) the code of ethics is the element that will distinguish (authentic) journalists from citizen journalists,” she stressed.

 

AVOID DISCRIMINATION

Fauziah also said the revised code of ethics for journalists is a step in the right direction to curb discriminatory reporting, which could ultimately influence societal behaviour towards certain matters.

She said issues seen as oppressing certain individuals or groups due to specific sentiments should not be normalised in this country.

With regard to this, she added, the code of ethics plays a crucial role in ensuring that reporting on any news upholds justice, truth and balance, thereby avoiding elements of bias towards any group.

“Reporters must be prevented from presenting discriminatory and stereotypical news that is based on assumptions or prejudices.

“We’re aware that lately there have been many news items playing up 3R (race, religion and royalty) sentiments that have provoked different reactions among the people. This is why balanced reporting is important to reflect Malaysia’s diverse society as well as to ensure all groups receive fair representation in the media,” she said.

 

Translated by Rema Nambiar

 

-- BERNAMA

 

 


 


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