• January 19, 2024

Ethics and Journalism

Ethics and Journalism
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By Alusine Fullah

Since the arrival of the new new media, (like facebook, whatsapp, etc) the media have been on the firing line for unethical behaviours. Disinformation and misinformation are vastly on the increase. We now live and interact in a highly mediated system. The sheer amount of information produced and distributed by the mass media on a daily basis can impact  significantly  on  the  manner  in  which  people,  communities and societies understand  (or misunderstand)  each other.  Whether it is considered as a fourth estate, a watchdog or a pillar of democracy, the press is undoubtedly an essential element of the public sphere.

However,  it  continuously  faces  several  challenges  and  is  assailed  by multiple  forces.  Indeed, competition on the digital front, pressures to publish fast and quick, the temptation of sensationalism, job insecurity and high staff turnover are some of the threats to the profession.  The constraints abound  both on  the internal front (search for new revenue  models, unstable recruitment  and training,  lack  of professionalization, conflicts  of  interest,  ownership  issues, etc.) and on  the  external  front (government pressure, economic pressure, competition, public scrutiny, etc.

With  so  many  constraints,  how  can  the  news  media  live  up  to  the  expectations  of  its  ever  more  demanding  audience?  As  the  need  to demonstrate  that  the  public  can  continue  to  believe  and  trust  in  it  is more acute than ever in the age of digital openness and scrutiny, we are inevitably led back to the fundamentals of journalism. Indeed journalism must not only aim to be intrinsically truthful and honest, but also needs to actively prove its worth in the public sphere. In other words, it must demonstrate that it has a solid sense of ethics.

It is a fact that once information has found its way into the public space, it is difficult to take it back. Therefore it is imperative that  those who are in the industry of information and news production are armed with the  necessary skills  and  mechanisms  to  process,  report  and  represent information along ethical  lines. It must be emphasised from the onset that ethics is not the law but that its use and application help enhance the quality of journalism and push for greater responsible reporting.

In the context of Sierra Leone, institutions like the Independent Media Commission (IMC), Sierra Leone Association of Journalism and Media Reform Coordinating Group are the fountains of ethics. For the past decades, they have provided trainings or guides for media professionalism. However, only little consideration has been for far. I pray that ethical considerations in the practice of journalism take centre stage.

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