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A look at how journalism and media ethics can vary by country and what influences those differences By Marco Mulcahy

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Presentation on theme: "A look at how journalism and media ethics can vary by country and what influences those differences By Marco Mulcahy"— Presentation transcript:

1 A look at how journalism and media ethics can vary by country and what influences those differences By Marco Mulcahy

2 Challenges  Understanding The Other  Establishing a standard with which we all can live by U.S.: Utilitarian approach vs. E.U.: Dialogical approach EU data privacy protection  Finding an ethical approach for crossing cultures Communication is the presentation and, simultaneously, a search for the truth. _ Karl Jaspers

3  Objectivity: Tell all sides and let the reader decide where the truth lies  Positive: Equality for opposite points of view, fairness  Negative: Chance of hidden bias, truth & falsehood get equal treatment  Subjectivity: Let your point of view influence how you present a story  Positive: Agenda isn’t hidden, reader/viewer can get reinforcement of his/her beliefs  Negative: Can be used as propaganda, does not give reader/viewer exposure to the Other’s point of view

4 Truth Socialist paper Liberal paperConservative paper

5 Blatant control  Government ownership of media such as in China, Iran, Myanmar, communist countries and Mideast and Asian “official news agencies” Subtle control  Financial support  Oppressive press laws  Embedded journalists  Information control (in Japanese press clubs and the White House press corps)

6  Cultural: Traditions, taboos, acceptance  Political: Government pressure, overt or hidden party support, denial of access to sources or information  Financial: Ownership, advertising, secret partners

7  Utilitarian approach (Greatest good for greatest number)  Communitarian ethics Concepts of good reflect values of the community  Relativism Let the culture decide vs. an imposed ethical monism  Deontological (Moral commitment & sense of duty)  Virtue ethics Moral behavior: The Golden Rule  Pluralism Respect the culture without taking a relativistic or an imperialistic approach

8  Ethical Relativism When in Rome do as the Romans do  Ethical Absolutism The imperialistic approach  Ethical Universalism Open a dialogue that respects the culture while getting all to agree on a set of norms or codes of ethics

9  Access to information vs. need (Brazil/France)  Truth vs. government agenda (Middle East & N. Korea)  Consequences (Prophet Mohammed cartoons)  How information is obtained (Phone hacking/WikiLeaks)  Speculation & rumor (When one just can’t wait for the facts)

10  Drugs, deception and deadlines in Romania  Beer doesn’t taste quite right in Mozambique  Head shots vs. ‘headless shots’ in Moldova  ‘Spoiled meat’ in Bulgaria  Romanian chicken stories  Paying a criminal for a story in South Africa  A stolen baby in Brazil  Naming a Teddy bear in Sudan  A fake ID and a circulation lesson in Bulgaria  ‘This Web site is awful – Here’s the link’ in Brazil  A naked prime minister in Bulgaria

11 Drugs and deception in Romania There was a serious heroin shortage on the Romanian market because the conflict in Afghanistan was affecting drug trafficking. A reporter at a Bucharest daily newspaper proposed doing a story about how addicts were dealing with the shortage and, basically, what life was like for the addicts. The reporter said an addict promised to take a reporter and photographer with him and show him the process - from buying the drugs to shooting up - if the newspaper would pay the 1 million lei - about 20 pounds - for the heroin. After a brief discussion with the reporter about the ethics involved and the responsibility the newspaper would face if the addict died, the editor ultimately agreed to pay for the heroin. But before the reporter and photographer met with the addict, they decided to tell the police about the story in order to ensure that they would not be arrested for buying drugs. The police told the journalists they could go ahead with the story if they notified the officers as to where the drugs were being purchased. The reporter agreed, gave the addict the money for the heroin and the journalists not only documented the purchase and the drug use, they then documented the arrest of everyone involved - except themselves. The editor said when he discovered about the notification of the police, he scolded the journalists for this action - and then published the story and photographs on the front page.

12 This beer doesn’t taste right A source brought a reporter at the weekly newspaper Demos in Maputo, Mozambique, an unopened bottle of beer produced by Mozambique’s top brewer and showed the reporter rodent parts floating in the bottle. The brewery's manager told the reporter that he would investigate what happened and assured the reporter that if indeed the rodent parts were in the beer when it was sold, it was an isolated incident. Then the manager handed over a case of beer to the reporter and slipped him an envelope with 2 million meticais (US$90 or 60 British pounds). According to the reporter, the manager did not ask him directly to kill the story and the reporter did not ask for an explanation for the gifts. The reporter took the beer and the money back to the Demos newsroom where he wrote up the article about the rodent parts being discovered in the beer, including the comments by the brewery manager and the gift he was given following the interview. The reporter defended his actions by saying that he demonstrated loyalty to his readers by informing them of the bribe and the tainted beer. He saw no conflict with accepting the gifts and used the money to party with his colleagues at the paper.

13 “Head” shots and “headless shots” in Moldova American journalist Carole Brennan, who worked as a Knight Fellow from 1994 to 1995, establishing the Independent Journalism Center in Moldova, offers the following anecdote, which illustrates how some editors in Moldova perceived truthtelling: Week after week, one small Moldovan newspaper … was printing headshots of dead people. Catch is, they were taken after the people died! I didn’t want to push our American journalism style on my new colleagues, but I tried everything I could to get them to understand that most folks probably weren’t all that interested in the “dead head” shots they insisted on printing on page one. Pictures of dead folks’ heads, I told them, didn’t sell newspapers. To prove that they had learned what I had tried to teach them, one week later they printed a photo on the back page of the paper...This one was of a dead body... with no head!

14 Bad meat in Bulgaria Dimitar Shumnaliev, the editor-in-chief of Nosten Trud newspaper in Bulgaria, talked about a complaint he received from a reader who shops with one of his major advertisers: "There's a firm that has paid its ads - a store. Yesterday, a woman called and said that she bought spoiled meat from the same store. The store has paid a lot of money for the ads. We have to be loyal to both the firm and the reader. Often ethical values are in competition. I didn't publish any information about the spoiled meat, because we needed the money. But I also called the director of the store and told him about the spoiled meat. An hour later, no spoiled meat was on sale. I was loyal to the reader as well because I did something as an editor-in-chief."

15 Romanian chicken stories Dan Turturica, the editor of Evenimentul Zilei in Bucharest, provides a little background on his newspaper’s “yellow journalism” period and how truthtelling seemed to be in short supply. Evenimentul Zilei … was a yellow paper basically. It had short stories, sensational stories on the front page. … Later on, another genre took over on the front page of the newspapers and (inside as well): the made-up story, the fake story. For example … They ran a story about a hen who gave birth to a living chicken – not to eggs, but to a chicken. This became kind of the stamp of Evenimentul Zilei – the paper with the chicken stories. … They made up a story about a guy who has a wooden leg and at certain point after wearing the leg for 20 years, the leg started blooming. There were branches coming from the wooden leg. Or there was a story about a tooth that had a cavity and the filling … got vibrating and the guy could listen to a radio station on his tooth. …We started making bets, if we send an article just like that … it will be published in the newspaper if they are so eager to get these crazy stories out to the public. I made up a story about … about a guy that in 1970-something got hit in the head by something, he lost his consciousness, got amnesia and woke up in that year –1993 or He started asking ‘Wow, what the hell is this? Where is Ceausescu ? Who is Iliescu? Where is the Communist Party?’ …It also made the front page and I just made it up.

16 Paying a criminal for a story in South Africa Charmaine Phillips was released on parole in August 2004 after serving almost 20 years of her four life sentences in prison. She and her 35-year old lover, Pieter Grundlingh, became known as “Bonny & Clyde”, after a series of murders that fascinated the country in the early 1980s. The couple’s son, Pieter Grundlingh, now 21, was six months old when his parents were arrested, and was with his parents when they committed all four murders. He has been involved in crime and drugs since he was twelve years old. Pieter, a member of a notorious gang, was serving a sentence for being in possession of stolen goods. There was interest in the private life of Charmaine Phillips. Since much of the detail of her years behind bars and her new life remain undisclosed or in confidential prison reports, one of the few sources available to the media was the couple’s son, Pieter jr., The Sunday Times reported that although Grundlingh was peppered by questions from the news media, he remained reluctant to talk, since his story was sold to a magazine for rand (1.100 pounds). Question: Is it ethical to pay a paroled criminal in order to extract from him private information about his mother? - By Jana Marais, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

17 A stolen baby in Brazil BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) _ Two journalists were arrested for trying to steal a baby in an attempt to demonstrate that hospital security is lax, their editor said Wednesday. Jornal de Brasilia reporter Rovenia Amorin and photographer Sheila Leal were arrested after Amorin was caught, disguised as a nurse, taking a baby out of a maternity ward, Sandra Carvalho said. The pair was stopped by a security guard when they tried to leave the hospital with a newborn child. The guard called the police, who arrested them for attempted kidnapping. After several hours of discussion, lawyers for the newspaper managed to persuade police that the journalists were investigating hospital security, and the journalists were released.

18 Naming a Teddy bear in Sudan Sudan charged a British teacher with inciting religious hatred after she allowed her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad, an offense that could subject her to 40 lashes. The charge against Gillian Gibbons heightened tension between Sudan and Britain. In London, Foreign Secretary David Miliband summoned the Sudanese ambassador to discuss the case, the British government said. Gibbons, 54, was arrested after the parents of some of her pupils complained, accusing her of naming the bear after Islam's prophet. Muhammad is a common name among Muslim men, but giving the prophet's name to an animal would be seen as insulting by many Muslims. Gibbons was charged under Article 125 of the Sudanese legal code and that her case would be referred to court. If convicted, she faces up to 40 lashes, six months in prison and a fine. Gibbons was teaching her pupils, who are around age 7, about animals and asked one of them to bring in her teddy bear. She asked the students to pick names for it and they proposed Abdullah, Hassan and Muhammad, and the pupils voted to name it Muhammad. Each child was allowed to take the bear home on weekends and write a diary about what they did with it. The diary entries were collected in a book with the bear's picture on the cover, labeled, "My Name is Muhammad.” The bear itself was never labeled with the name. From NYT report

19 An ID card scandal in Bulgaria A great lesson in choosing loyalties by the Bulgarian media presented itself at the doorstep of 24 Chasa in The newspaper was then the largest-circulation newspaper in Bulgaria with a circulation of more than 500,000. The second-largest paper, Trud, lagged far behind at about 80,000. Then 24 Chasa Publisher Petar Bluskov favored one of the candidates for mayor of Sofia at the time, Venceslav Yossifov, and obtained a forged copy of a Communist Party membership card for Yossifov’s rival, Stefan Sofianski. Bluskov ordered 24 Chasa editor-in-chief Valery Naidenov to print the known forgery on the front page of the paper with the headline,” Sofianski is an ex-communist who changed color.” But the editors at Trud learned of the deception and printed a front-page story the following day, announcing that “24 Chasa is lying.” Naidenov later wrote a front-page apology and resigned from the newspaper. The circulation at 24 Chasa plummeted and Trud’s numbers skyrocketed.

20 A naked prime minister in Bulgaria Dimitar Shumnaliev, the editor of Nosten Trud in Bulgaria says his definition of truthtelling - put forth all the facts you can get and present them no matter the cost - justifies his decision to run the naked photo of a deceased former prime minister on the front page. “A few years ago, Andrei Lukanov, a former prime minister of Bulgaria, was killed. At the time, Nosten Trud ran a photo on its front page of the naked corpse of Lukanov. Probably, in this case, the ethics of several schools can be applied. The first serious school, the BBC one, would say that such a photo shouldn’t be published because it violates journalism ethics and disturbs public norms. But there’s another school, another type of journalistic thinking, whose motto is that ‘this is life and we are covering life as it is.’ The second school justifies the publishing of the photo.... I want to point out that there is no one single code of journalistic ethics. There are different levels of seriousness of newspapers around the world.”


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