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Ethical journalism: Need of the hour

Journalism, one of the noble professions of society, is prevalent in the vast majority of the world.


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  28 Jan 2022 4:01 AM GMT

Ranjan Jyoti Sarma


Journalism, one of the noble professions of society, is prevalent in the vast majority of the world. The rise of social media over the decade has seen a strong influence on the way of news reporting and digestion by all parties within journalism, with the journalists taking on a developed role utilizing social media as both ways to deliver and to promote their works. Whereas ethics are two things First, ethics refers to well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues. Ethics, for example, refers to those standards that impose reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, slander, and fraud. Ethical standards also include those that enjoin virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty.

And, ethical standards include standards relating to rights, such as the right to life, the right to freedom from injury, and the right to privacy. Such standards are adequate standards of ethics because they are supported by consistent and well-founded reasons. Secondly, ethics refers to the study and development of one's ethical standards. As mentioned above, feelings, laws, and social norms can deviate from what is ethical. So it is necessary to constantly examine one's standards to ensure that they are reasonable and well-founded. Ethics also means, then, the continuous effort of studying our own moral beliefs and our moral conduct and striving to ensure that we, and the institutions we help to shape, live up to standards that are reasonable and solidly based.In today's time, the media works as a channelized form of circulation of false information that is fuelling communal violence in the mindsets of the citizens of India. The pre-existing bodies such News Broadcasters Association or Broadcast Editor Association have failed the idea of self-regulation as their sole motive has become to squeeze profit out of high TRP. It is seen that Journalism is diverting from its ethical code due to a lack of regulations and checks. From the Radia tapes in 2010 to the Essar leaks last month, Indian journalism has been creaking under the burden of unethical practices. One of the biggest threats to journalism now is paid news. We cannot leave here the media trail which is also threatening the practice of ethical journalism. The media trials have been evident in cases like Jessica Lal murder cases, Bijal Joshi rape case, Nitish Katara murder case etc.

Recently, after the alleged Sushant Singh Rajput suicide, some media channels started conducting their trial in which they questioned the witnesses just like the examination of witnesses in court. As per data of March 31, 2018, over 1,18,239 publications were registered with the registrar of Newspapers which consisted of over 550 FM radio stations, over 880 satellite TV channels of which over 380 claims for broadcasting news and current affairs. Democracy can be a success only if its citizens share well informed and are free to participate in public issues, for which an important constituent is a free press. The daily newspaper as an information carrier on a range of issues is the only source which both rural and urban India accesses alike, though urban India and to some extent even rural India has access to other forms of media like radio and news channels on television but no form can substitute a newspaper. Given this great dependence and faith entrusted to the media (both print and electronic) and journalists, it is only fair to expect that the Media shoulders their responsibility and brings to its readers and viewers accurate information giving objective view without unnecessary attempt at sensationalizing the events. But unfortunately, the press in existence today show blatant disregard for these expectations of responsible and ethical journalism and the shift is in favour of selling newspapers for maximizing commercial gains and raising Television Rating Points or TRPs of news channels. The commercialization of journalism has diverted attention to trivial news items which although attracting increased viewership also results in the public remaining ignorant about certain issues of prime importance. To substantiate the above statement, the authors cite the example of a news piece in 2006, which flashed across news channels for 48 hours covering the rescue of a boy named 'Prince' from a ditch and on the other hand the cause, effect and consequential activities relating to the Syrian crisis, conflict in Ukraine finds little or no mention amongst news items. This is not to suggest that the ill fate fall of the young boy into the ditch is not significant, but to continuously cover the incident for 48 hours at the cost of other equally or even more significant information cannot be said to be an act of responsible journalism. In the last few decades, there has been a rise in the instances of unethical journalism in India. In the words of writer Late Nirad C Chaudhuri: "Indian are by nature emotive, rather combative in their expression", and these words stand accurate when reflected in the context of Indian Journalism today. The problem with journalism today is varied from paid news to yellow journalism to an increasing trend towards commercialization of news. Media plays a great role in governance and the overall development of the country. The same has been highlighted at various occurrences. Many of the media houses are doing great work by imparting true and accurate information to the masses.

A few months ago, Patna High Court took suo moto cognizance seeking a response from the government based on a report published at Times of India where a child was trying to wake up his dead mother. However, on the other side, it has been constantly highlighted that many media channels do not focus on verifying information rather they focus on providing it at the earliest. Due to many factors like sponsoring media by big corporate houses and politicians, ethical standards are compromised. It has also been observed that despite focusing on issues of concern like education, health, economy etc., they focus on trivial issues. Mechanisms like the letter to the editor, media watch groups ensure accountability of media and also help in increasing the credibility of the press. Also, independent regulators free from government and media control can be assigned to have a monitor and have a check on media houses.

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