The word ‘Ethics’ stems from the term ‘ethos’, which for Aristotle, was “the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.” Ethics is concerned with principles and ideas that regulate an individual’s behavior.
The Macquarie Dictionary defines ethics as, “A system of moral principles by which human actions and proposals may be judged “good or bad” or right or wrong.” The Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines ethics as “a set of principles … conforming to accepted professional standards of conduct.”
Another definition of ethics is, “A set of standards by which a particular group decides to regulate its behavior — to distinguish between what is legitimate or acceptable in pursuit of their aims and what is not.”
Ethics refers to principles that define behavior as right, good and proper. Such principles do not always dictate a single “moral” course of action, but provide a means of evaluating and deciding among competing options.
Values, Principles and Ethics
Values are personal and local while ethics is universal. People know what is good and wrong based on religious beliefs, cultural norms, family background, personal experiences, laws, organizational values, professional norms and political habits. These may not serve to make ethical decisions, because, because they are not universal.
The terms “ethics” and “values” are not interchangeable. Ethics is concerned with how a moral person should behave, whereas values are the inner judgments that determine how a person actually behaves. Most values, however, have nothing to do with ethics. For instance, the desire for health and wealth are values, but not ethical values.
Ethical values like trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship eternally remain the same while values change. Values in democracy is not the same as values to be followed under a dictatorship. Thus, values change faster than ethics.
Principles are the guidelines when values are translated for behavioral adjustments. For example, honesty, is translated to tell the truth, don’t deceive, be candid, keep the promise, possess not what is not due etc. Thus, principles are “dos” and “don’ts” that arise out of the values.
Ethics is involved in putting principles into action. Consistency between what we say we value and what our actions say we value is a matter of integrity.
Ethics is also about self-restraint:
Ø Not doing what you have the power to do.
Ø Not doing what you have the right to do.
Ø Not doing what you want to do.
Advantages of being ethical:
Ø Inner harmony and peace.
Ø Social Approval and respect
Ø Integral social development
Obstacles to be ethical
Ø Priority to personal advantage than common good
Introduction to Media Ethics
Ethical communication is that which allows others to grow to their fullest potential, in which value of the other individual is emphasized and felt, and in which both parties in the communication exchange are trusted, respected and appreciated, and a positive communication climate is established.
Ethical Communication is fair, accurate, honest, truthful, responsible, independent and decent. Truth is its guiding principle. The message is presented in a fair, accurate and unbiased manner.
Ethical communication is telling the whole truth fairly, freely and fearlessly.
Being ethical does not mean passive, but dynamic. They criticize the government society constructively to make them better.
Being ethical is not being completely open. At times the source of news has to be kept confidential when there is a clear reason to do so.
Being ethical as a communicator is to tell the truth as it is, not manipulated by technology, personal interest or biased by pressure groups, impartially, with professional disinterestedness.
Being ethical also mean thinking universally. Some information if it does eternal good for the entire society has to be kept hidden, according to the social commitment.
Ethical communicator does not plagiarize words or images.
Being ethical means accepting nothing of value from news sources or others outside the profession. Gifts and free or reduced-rate travel, entertainment, products and lodging should not be accepted. Expenses in connection with news reporting should be paid by the newspaper.
Being ethical means remaining free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility. Communication action should not primarily be aimed at for rewards.
Communication shall not degrades individuals and humanity through distortion, intimidation, coercion, and violence and through the expression of intolerance and hatred.
Ethical communication respects privacy and confidentiality.
Communicators with ethics take responsibility for the short- and long-term consequences of their own
Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when
Traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story
Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or
grief, victims of sexual crimes, especially when they are minors. Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other. Admit mistakes and correct them promptly. A journalist shall rectify promptly any harmful inaccuracies, ensure that correction and apologies receive due prominence and afford the right of reply to persons criticized when the issue is of sufficient importance.
A journalist shall strive to ensure that the information he/ she disseminates is fair and accurate, avoid the expression of comment and conjecture as established fact and falsification by distortion, selection or misrepresentation.
The press must not, even where the law does not prohibit it, identify children under the age of 16 who are involved in cases concerning sexual offences, whether as victims or as witnesses.
The journalist shall do the utmost to rectify any published information, which is found to be harmfully inaccurate.