Freedom of expression and fundamental rights

Contemporary media ethics

Heshani Karunaratne

Mass media is a crucial tool utilized to provide information regarding an incident or people related to it. Media ethics are the principles or guidelines that govern all forms of media such as broadcast media, film, drama, print media and the internet. The above mentioned ethics arrived to the forefront of society during the 1980s. Rafael Capurro, Barbara J, Robert Hoptman are among the pioneers who dedicated themselves to the implementation of the above mentioned code of ethics.

The foremost responsibility of the media is not only to report, but also to contribute to social consciousness, social and personal cognition, and social development. Nowadays it seems to be only restricted to just reporting and the rest appears to be forgotten. The downfall of media ethics due to this is a trait almost anyone can easily observe. 

Media can direct the public to either good or bad with ease, this is where media ethics should come into play in order for the media to follow the right path and for the public to follow suit. But it is a well known and obvious fact that such ethics are almost non-existent nowadays. Politisization seems to be the key factor for this downfall. Back in the day, the ones who used to treat and practice media impartially and appreciating equality without any regard for colors of parties or their members are now sadly influenced by political interventions and are prone to portraying one party as the protagonist and the other as the antagonist. No one can say for sure that this will not have a major impact on social consciousness as well as development.

Another key factor that could contribute vastly to the deterioration of media ethics is the attitude and behaviour of the Journalist. The contribution of the Journalists to societal development while keeping their impropriety aside is crucial in this matter. It is also necessary that everyone remembers that “example is greater than admonition”. Moreover, the manner of speech / practice of a journalist is changing drastically nowadays. It is a common practice nowadays for journalists to manipulate and twist words in a way where the interviewee is put in a visibly uncomfortable position when they are being interviewed. This often happens when the subject of the matter is personal. 

Furthermore, by filming and portraying the interviewee in a way in which their privacy and dignity is disregarded, they are dehumanized and made vulnerable. The sole purpose of such malpractices of media is for the journalists’ own personal gain and to make popularize their media establishments in the eyes of society. It is a serious issue as to how malpractices in media, disregarding the code of ethics and simply not following basic human etiquette will contribute to building a better society in the future.

The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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