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Case Study # 1: Codes of ethics; critical comparison
Code of ethics is an important set of rules that every professional journalist must follow to provide unbiased, non-judgmental and plagiarism-free information. Analysis of Codes of Ethics of UAE (Journalism ethics, 2015) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) (SPJ Code of ethics, 2015) shows that while there are many similarities like respect for diversity, human rights and reliable information etc., there are also differences.
1. UAE Code of Ethics states that the main principle of a professional journalist is to respect the privacy of individuals. Journalists are not allowed to expose individuals’ names and other information without their consent to do so. While the SPJ respects individual’s privacy, journalists may reveal one’s personal information after evaluating the “consequences of publishing or broadcasting personal information”.
2. UAE Code of Ethics prevents from publishing photos and names of criminal suspects unless they are proven guilty; whereas publishing photos and personal information of children involved in crimes is not allowed. SPJ Code of ethics encourages journalists to show compassion for those who are under trial and use heightened sensitivity. Also, it allows balancing the public’s right to know and the suspect’s right to fair trial.
3. UAE Code of Ethics stresses that Islam is a heart of UAE culture and values. Therefore, journalists must not offend it in any way and show respect for nation’s sacred traditions and religion. On the other hand, the SPJ expects professional journalists to consider cultural differences before making their own judgment.
4. While the SPJ Code of ethics states that journalists must identify sources according to the public’s right to know as much information as possible, the UAE Code of ethics emphasizes that “professionalism and confidentiality should be strictly observed” when the news sources demand anonymity.
5. Photos of brutal violence are not allowed in UAE in respect of the feelings of the public, especially children. In this case, SPJ implies public right to know all the information and leaves this matter for the journalist’s own consideration.
UAE is a state where Western democracy principles are combined with Islamic traditions and human right to anonymity is appreciated the most. Therefore, these factors have to be taken into account by professional journalists when publishing their news. UAE Code of Ethics is relatively new and still has some issues to consider. For example, it is not clear who will arbitrate what is ethical and unethical, “the ethical verdicts [are left] completely to its editors” (The UAE and journalistic ethics, 2007).
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Case Study Assessment # 2
1. Should Stone have told his editor that he was having problems getting the right photographs before he set up the shots?
Stone should have told his editor that homeless people refused to pose for his photos. In this case, the editor could advise him how to better approach the homeless and get the pictures done. Stone could have talked to people and explained them that he needed these pictures to save their shelter from ruination.
2. After letting the editors see the photographs, should Stone have told them how he took the photographs?
From the ethical point of view, Stone should have explained to his editor how he took these photographs and under what circumstances. It would have been upon their judgment whether to go on with publishing the photos or not.
3. Is it justified that the photographer “created” the photographs as an act of desperation to capture the right emotions and pain. Is it ok because the intentions of the photographer were right?
While the intentions of the photographer were right, his way of creating the photos was not. Only unprofessional journalists would act this way and deceive readers. The newspaper company may lose trust from its readers and even get under investigation, if the truth will arise. In any case, such situation can be very harmful for company’s reputation.
4. Does the fact that the photos closely mirrored reality make a difference in whether the deception was ethically justified?
Even though the photos closely mirrored reality, deception of the editors and readers is a highly unethical practice and therefore, shall never happen under any circumstances.
5. In the UAE there are specific ethical codes of conduct to prevent this sort of thing. Briefly explain any three of such codes, which are specifically written to deal with similar situations.
The following three codes of ethical conduct in the UAE are among those that a journalist must take into account (Journalism ethics, 2015):
1) Journalist shall respect public’s right to access true and accurate information. The credibility of a journalist as a professional, and a newspaper company as a whole, is assessed according to the accuracy of published information and means of its receiving. Therefore, journalists should not compromise the public’s right to access true and accurate information.
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2) Journalist must not hide any information and falsify documents or facts. Producing biased news, falsification of documents and influencing public opinion by omission or twisted facts are very bad practices.
3) Journalists must use only legitimate means of obtaining information, documents and photos from original sources. Guided by people’s right to know the true information, journalists shall use credible means and unquestionable sources to ensure the best practice.