The Ethical Delimma Of Journalist Essay, Research Paper
The Ethical delimma of journalist
Confidence and Privacy
Society must have media law to protect confidentiality of people and organizations, as moral principles would not sometimes rescue them from journalism greed. The example of rape case would powerfully explain how important of media law is, in order to protect the victim. Furthermore, public figures such as Politicians and Film Stars are greatly suffering from the intrusion of privacy. Journalists must now have some strategies to minimize harm in particular case.
Breach of confidence is a civil remedy ordering protection against disclosure or/and use of non-public information without authority of person who has imparted it (Robertson &Nicol, 1990, p. 134). Press has rights to express beliefs and judgment about persons, but they might reveal unnecessary information, which brings embarrassment and painful facts to someone. Furthermore, some of information is still inappropriate and dangerous for public to know (Klaidman &Beauchamp, 1987, p.11).
The example of rape case would vigorously illustrate the importance of media law and the absence of journalism morality. Since the Criminal Justice Act 1988 there is restriction to keep rape complainants as anonymous in an effort to improve the rate of reporting to police. Once person has alleged as a victim of rape offence neither name nor address nor picture would be published or broadcast. However, there are three important exceptions to anonymity rule. Firstly, person may consent revealing of information to educate society. Secondly, media are free to identify complainants who are charged with perjury. Finally, identification is use to persuade witness to come forward, if anonymity would otherwise prejudice the defense. This media law has been protecting rape victims from journalism intrusion of privacy, as it showed before in 1975 half of the press reported complainant’s name and address (Robertson &Nicol, 1990, pp.254-257). If there was no media law protection, some of journalists might enormously devastate victim’s reputation. Nevertheless, breach of confidence would hardly happen to rape victim, as journalists now can not break media law. Therefore, this issue should be more focused on the defendants because there is no restriction for media on any identification.
Legally, no one can publish name of rape defendant when case is still in the lower court. Journalists could only identify person when such time establishes evidence and s/he commits trial to higher court. However, there are some cases, which journalists must morally concern to the reputation of defendant and his/her relatives when revelation exists (Meyer, 1987, p. 87-91). For instance, the case of father who is accused of raping his own daughter journalists must seriously consider about future reputation of little girl. The revelation might not be acceptable, if it could lead to or imply the identity of victim. Thus, journalists should find the most possible way to describe defendant without sabotaging anyone (Klaidman &Beauchamp, 1987, p.129). Perhaps, in this case newspaper should not publish name and address of defendant before the arrival of verdict. Case has not been proven yet, so there is no point to hurt anyone and public might not yet want to know who the person is. Most newspapers provide only the description of age and occupation instead of full detail, otherwise newspapers might sometimes get charged of defamation.
What should journalists do then, if father who is accused of raping daughter has become a real criminal? Journalists need to be careful with the application of law as well as ethical values of their profession. Revelation of criminal name must serve to the public interest; otherwise journalists should find other news angle. Perhaps, newspapers should tell story as a man rapes someone lese instead or say that father has been found guilty, but identification is not approval in order to protect his daughter reputation. Newspapers must present the truth, but if the truth is dangerous it needs to explain to public.
In addition, media law is a protection against breach of confidence, but it could not yet protect all cases from intrusion of privacy. Most public figures are treated extremely different. One of reasons is that they hold or seek some public responsibility or public trust and this justifies greater scrutiny. This group is usually politician. Furthermore, film and TV stars also typically sacrifice their own privacy to obtain benefits of celebrity through exposure willingly sought (MEAA, 1997, p.47). However, it might be time to improve vision of journalism, as newspapers nowadays seem to intrude privacy of public figures with some unnecessary reasons. Journalists should use ethical values of their profession to consider and protect people, where the absence of law exists. Consequently, whenever journalists acquire the revelation of some secret information, particularly of public figures. First question to be asked is whether an obligation of confidence exists in relation to its use. If it does, further question might be whether subject of confidence is important for public to know or not. Finally, question should be, can journalist publish information without any danger of an injunction? These matters will be considered in turn (Robertson &Nicol, 1990, p.135).
Therefore, newspapers could breach confidence when it is such time to protect public rights as well as informing people crucial information. In some nation-states, they concerned rights of person accused crime to be sealed during the time of arrest and it became challenge for journalists. For instance, in 1969, the New Jersey, USA, legislature closed one criminal records, E.B, an Englewood man who was charged of his conviction to rape and murder two twelve-year-old boys, so tightly that police officers and journalists could not reveal who was arrested or sentenced. In 1989, E.B was released and stayed quietly with his wife in suburban area for another six years. In July 1994, United States had Megan’s law and society began to confess with big controversy. The Sliwa group, guardian angel forced news organization to find out who E.B man is and wanted to have his real name published. They claimed that why could not newspapers run the name of a man who killed two kids by stabbing at the back twenty one times, tortured and raped them? Public still remained anger even though twenty-six years had gone. It was true that E.B crimes were monstrous and everyone had a right to know who he is. The court was given the time to rule the case and finally permitted the revelation of E.B name (Woods, 1996). This is one of journalist dilemmas, whether or not to publish name of dreadful criminal by intruding E.B privacy because he was not anymore a criminal. In this case, journalists must gain permission from court before publishing E.B man detail. Sometimes the exposure of information might contradict with ethical values; hence, journalists need to consider public interest and work along with legal process. If information is useful, they have to inform the truth as a main principle of their profession.
In conclusion, journalists might have to intrude privacy, if information was beneficial and it served to the public interest. Journalists must also consider the possibility of publishing information without any danger of an injunction; otherwise material should be cancelled. However, there would be some cases, which still lack of media law protection and journalists need to have some strategies minimizing harm to people involved. Journalists would hardly prejudice anybody if they can only stop and deliberately think of the possible outcome.
Klaid, S. &Beauchamp, T. (1987). The Virtuous Journalist. New York: Oxford University Press.
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance: Australian Journalists Association section. (1997). Ethics in Journalism. Victoria: Melbourne University Press.
Meyer, P. (1987). Ethical Journalism. New York: University Press of America.
Robertson, G. &Nicol, A. (1990). Media Law. London: Longman Group.
Woods, K. (1996). Megan’s Law: Naming a new ethical dilemma. [On Line]. Available: http://www.poynter.org/research/research.htm