Ethical Obligations

Ethical Obligations

‘Ethical obligations are things a person must or should do based on a code of ethics. Ethics are not inherently based on laws, religion or one’s personal feelings, but ethical obligations for professionals, like lawyers and doctors, can be codified into law. For example, according to the Wyoming State Bar, lawyers have an ethical obligation to keep their clients’ confidentiality, but there is also a legal requirement in place that makes it absolutely necessary for lawyers to keep confidential information to themselves and to protect that information from becoming public. For some people, perhaps, the ethical obligation would be enough, but the law backs up this ethical obligation as an added measure of security.

Professionals are not the only people who can be bound by ethical obligations. Many people have a strong sense of right and wrong and feel ethically compelled to act when they see something that they feel is wrong or unjust.’[1]

Ethics in the Media.

Ethics are the moral principles that define how a group or person acts. However, there are some issues in the ethical side of the media industry such as: Privacy, and mostly truth.

Morality issues such as right and wrong have to be taken into account. Exploitation and sensationalism also have to be considered and taken into account. Offensive material such as privacy and copyright. These are not usually enforced by law. Regulatory bodies and codes of practice exist often within the industry. Representational issues are to do with the re-presentation of people, facts, opinions and events.

Representation & ethics

Representation refers to the construction in any medium of aspects of reality such as people, places, objects, events, cultural identities and other abstract concepts. Such representations may be in speech or writing as well as still or moving pictures.

A reporter when working on a certain story will have to make sure that he/she isn’t bias or one sided towards that story. They must also gather both sides or the argument, for and against that story in order to gain a fair sided report. For example religion. A reporter can’t be one sided they must approach it with an open mind and not take sides.

Codes of Conducts.

As standard, modern day media companies have to have in place a sort of code of conduct. One I would like to draw attention to is the most relevant one to journalists, the NUJ code. It is also to be noted that it of paramount importance that each media establishment has its own code. Most are of the same principles however some may have slight changes.

A journalist:

1.At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed.

2.Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair.

3.Does her/his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies.

4.Differentiates between fact and opinion.

5.Obtains material by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means.

6.Does nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest.

7.Protects the identity of sources who supply information in confidence and material gathered in the course of her/his work.

8.Resists threats or any other inducements to influence, distort or suppress information and takes no unfair personal advantage of information gained in the course of her/his duties before the information is public knowledge.

9.Produces no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation.

10.Does not by way of statement, voice or appearance endorse by advertisement any commercial product or service save for the promotion of her/his own work or of the medium by which she/he is employed.

11.A journalist shall normally seek the consent of an appropriate adult when interviewing or photographing a child for a story about her/his welfare.

12.Avoids plagiarism.[2]

Cases of Ethical Obligations  – Hillsborough Disaster

Often regarded as one of the worst sporting disasters ever in the UK, and one of the worst in European football. This disaster involved 96 Liverpool and Nottingham Forest fans being crushed (to death) at the Hillsborough Stadium during the 1988-89 FA Cup semi-final.  After the disaster, several failings were found by the Taylor Report, started in 1990 (mainly because of the layout of the stadiums, which lead to the inclusion of all-seater stadiums which are seen throughout most of the top-flight football grounds) and the Hillsborough Independent Panel (Set up in 2012) report which showed that the media was portraying certain aspects of the disaster inaccurately and negatively portraying supporters of Liverpool FC[3]

Newspaper Coverage

The Sun’s infamous “The Truth issue 19th April 1989. After the disaster, several newspapers that covered the disaster published various inflammatory comments regarding the disaster. The most publicized and the most well-known example of one of these newspapers was none other than The Sun, headed by former editor-in-chief Kelvin Mackenzie, who published the 19th April 1989’s issue, commonly known as “The Truth” In this issue, several comments were made about the disaster which were about the fans acting aggressive towards police, some resorting to urinating on police officers, as well as beating up officers who were actively helping people injured during the disaster.

It was later learned that these claims were not proven by the Police in the Taylor Report and that The Sun was, trying to “smear” the disaster in a bid to attract more people to buy the newspaper, which in fact, had the opposite effect as The Sun has some of its lowest readership values in the Liverpool area as many Liverpool fans, even to this day, still do not buy the newspaper.[4]

The Sun’s article violated various codes from the PCC’S “Editor’s Code of Practice” which outlines several guidelines to make sure that print media companies act considerable and proper.

In particular, The Sun violated the first code, Accuracy, as their claims that the fans were drunk and aggressive to police officers were not proven and were distorted, which the Code clearly states should not happen. In addition to this, they had presented the information in the article as if it was fact (in reality, it was false) which the Code clearly states that they should distinguish this clearly. Their apology was very late to the disaster, almost 23 years after the incident, which could also be in violation as their apology was rather late and only done so with looming pressure from the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

They may have also violated the fifth rule of the Code, intrusion into grief or shock, as The Sun had been quite judgmental towards the people affected by the disaster, their inquiries to the families and to the disaster were not sympathetic and the lack of discretion by the article towards those affected offended those affected.

The representation of Liverpool fans was also something which was ethically wrong. The Sun played on the “hooliganism” problem facing English football during the 1980’s and portrayed the fans as drunkards and aggressive when this was not proven and in some sources, such as the BBC’s coverage of the disaster, fans were very distraught about what had happened and were helping one another.[5]














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