In 1923, the American Society of Newspaper Editors agreed to some codes of ethics recognized as the “Seven Canons of Journalism” which are responsibility, freedom, independence, sincerity, impartiality, decency, and fair play. These were meant to set limitations of what is right and wrong in journalism.
These seven canons are still adopted by many organizations or journalists; however, with the emergence of social media, self-called-journalists are seen breaching the code of ethics due to no regulation. For Instance, a few days ago, a video that covered a Lahore based protest in favor of Palestine was uploaded on a YouTube channel “Leader TV HD”. In the video, all these canons seem to be violated.
In this write-up, I compare the canons with that video and highlight what importance professional ethics get in today’s journalism.
First of all, responsibility refers to public welfare which means journalists must be very careful to publish anything. In the video, the lady reporter, Anee Faisal did not care about the protestors. She made so many allegations against protestors as she questioned their religion. Instead of protest cause, she discussed what should have been worn.
Secondly, when it comes to freedom, a famous saying that clicks my mind that is “your freedom ends where my nose begins”. Freedom of the press does not mean that one can discuss anyone’s personal life as well. The reporter claimed that males and females sitting together were coupling out. If they were coupling out, it was their freedom, but the accusation that she made without evidence is a crime in journalism. After all, journalists need to be so wise in what they say.
Thirdly, journalists must be independent. This means that no one can tell you what to say or publish, nonetheless, the reporter clearly showed that her show was altogether scripted based on a specific agenda against feminism.
Fourthly, this canon is with three qualities i.e. sincerity, truthfulness, accuracy, and these are considered to be the foundation of any kind of journalism. Journalists must be sincere, true, and accurate. They should not slander or hurt without truth and accuracy. However, she hurt the feelings of protestors as well as the great cause without any confirmation.
Fifthly, impartiality is the most important canon that needs to be kept in mind. It means that journalists must be opinion and bias-free, but in the video reporter unequivocally opined about the protestors’ clothing, religion, and intentions.
The sixth canon, the fair play suggests that media persons should not slander without having given an opportunity to those against whom the story is broadcasted or published, nevertheless, she did not ask anyone about her accusations.
Last but not the least, decency means that journalists should not deliberately write because they just do not like it. In the video, it was crystal clear that the organization or the reporter did not like feminism. Since the protest was demonstrated by feminists, she spoke against feminists and feminism.
It is not just the only video that violated the code of ethics, but every day an immense number of videos are uploaded on social sites such as Facebook and YouTube which breach these seven canons because there are no rules and regulations. The fact is that lack of professionalism, specifically in this field, weakens the moral and ethical foundations of society.
Though there is the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016(PECA), as long as there is no implementation, such content is unstoppable. If the government is sincere to slap in the face of such content creators, she must ensure the implementation of PECA along with the establishment of an authority or body like PEMRA.