Thursday, 19 April 2012

Bhutan - Journalism’s onus and curse

If engendering a GNH-based democracy is a process, so is ethical journalism.
It is not something that can be achieved, but a goal, a standard to strive for.

It is like reaching the moon, each time we stretch out for the stars, but the goal is to not settle for that.

Therein lies the beauty of it all.

It is a pursuit, like happiness, and at various individual levels.

The information and communication secretary at the ethics conference yesterday in Thimphu said, it was the state’s responsibility to create an environment conducive for its citizens to pursue happiness.

If only they felt the same about the functioning of the Bhutanese media, particularly at a time when the whole system seems to be working against it.

A modicum of transparency within the bureaucracy is all that is required to foster that enabling environment.

But why that transparency, if it is for the purpose of reflecting a ministry and the various agencies under it in negative light?

As public figures and elected representatives, public scrutiny is a part and parcel of life, and the media plays a role of exposing instances of corruption, or should there be renege on election promises.

There is, however, no arguing if reporters misquote people, invade their privacy, defame them, publish unreliable information, are biased and play up stories, for they sit at the core of ethical journalism.

Worse still, if news outlets refuse to run clarifications and letters following errors.

Ethics and professionalism, the secretary also said, were related.

If that is true, then most news media outlets lack ethics, for most of them are not necessarily run by people trained in the profession, and thus not professionals.

In that case, the weaker the news media outlets are, for lack of professionals, the greater the chances for ethics to suffer.

In that case, training people in the trait of journalism is a must, because it is how we report, and what we report, and how we tell stories that are indicative of the principles we stand for as individuals, and ethics as an organisation.

That, however, does not seem all that likely, for media organisations do not want to invest in building human resources, institutions established to help facilitate training of reporters are sitting on the funds, and reporters do not consider a training as one, if it does not entail having their baggage tagged.

We need to show ethical journalism, by building our credibility with our readers, with our understanding that everyone has opinions of their own of what is acceptable and not in our society.

In journalism, as in life, it is near impossible to please everyone.

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