May 23 2015 • Uncategorized • 454 Views • No Comments on FREEDOM OF PRESS AND RIGHT OF PRIVACY



Many journalists believe, as witnessed particularly in India during the last couple of years, that the public’s right to know and the need to expose vice and corruption are superior to all other concerns. Most of the time it turns out to be focusing more on privacy of people which is turned out to be ‘newsworthy’ item in their media career. People in public life are vulnerable when their private lives become a spotlight for the media. The growth in mass media size, profile and influence together with technological change or otherwise called ‘information revolution,’ made the privacy of people so fragile. Privacy is one of the fundamental freedoms of people and it is essential to liberty and human dignity. Media justifies such interference in privacy of people arguing that it is in the public interest. Privacy is not just a concern over personal information and the dangers of ‘surveillance society.’ It is more than the mere maintenance of one’s ‘data protection,’ or confidentiality of any information.


In using the personal information of people and facts about events in an individual’s life media has a greater responsibility. Even though there are strangely few odd persons who try to seek a high profile and public recognition, to further their own interests or some cause or philosophy they support through publicly going with personal details. The balance between individual’s right to privacy and public’s right to know, is often unsteady. Ethical issues and choices arise out of it. The public’s right to know is one of the guiding principles of journalists. They believe strongly that if officials are allowed to act in secrecy, miscarriages of justice and corruption may result. Is it an unobstructed right to know everything? Is the public’s right to know always in ‘the public interest’? Do journalists understand ‘the public interest’ to mean the public ‘good’, in the classic sense, or the public’s curiosity? If we assume the public is always curious about the private details of other’s lives (or pictures of their experiences), does that make it right to ‘print everything you know’? Is the public always curious or are they often offended by the information or photographs put before them, and are the media therefore out of step with the very audience they claim to serve? These are the serious concerns in media ethics. Simple check before a journalist when deciding whether to print or broadcast a piece of information or a picture: Is it true? Is it fair? And is it necessary? (Gail Hulnick “Defining the Line Between the Public’s Right to Know and the Individual’s Right to Privacy”)


The maladies in mass media are problematic as they affect entire society directly and indirectly. For example, certain advertisements on tobacco-related materials are undoubtedly detrimental to the healthy life of people, particularly younger generation who are future pillars of the nation. The avoidance of this type of advertisement in Radio, Television and Newspaper is recommended. In smoking it is wrongly projected that freshness comes after having that smoke. When such ideology is inflicted on the minds of people, they are made to believe. Avoiding such advertisement would enable us to take care of people in any society. The mass media has an obligation to the society to show right things, right thought, right guidelines, and right behaviour.


Media Ethics

Applied Ethics

Where ever the suppression of fact is necessary, the mass media has a duty to do it immediately. For instance reporting of sensitive communal riots and tensions might be suppressed if it would accelerate further riots and tensions in other parts of the world. Suppression of personal misbehaviour of particular individual, for which one is duly punished, is recommended with exaggerating it to be the important news item. Reporting the individual’s wrong doing as belong to particular community, state, religion, or country, is unwarranted. Equality before law guarantees that wrong doer will be punished without any discrimination or preference.


Whenever an exaggeration of fact is necessary, the mass media has to do it for the welfare of people. It might alert people and enable them to protect them as early as possible. For example, news about the death of 1000 persons in road accident duet to violation of wearing helmet could possibly be exaggerated so as to create awareness among people to protect themselves. It depends upon the context that the mass media has to work carefully without any delay.


Media ethics is given a broader concept of social responsibility. In presenting the facts and news around the globe, the Media is expected to have certain responsibility inherent within or imposed upon, namely responsibility towards the society to which it serves. The question of social responsibility comes to be highlighted whenever there are certain controversies that are reported without foreseeing the consequences that would follow. Every one is entitled to have information. When the information is passed on media personnel have their own perspective to present. In certain cases, the presentation of certain facts may have negative impact. Hence, there comes the question of social responsibility. Defining social responsibility and regulating the aspects of it are to be careful figured out. One may talk of theoretical grounding of the concept of social responsibility. Yet the concrete reality of practical journalism may have particular difficulties in the applications of these theoretical values. To bring about a more comprehensive understanding of social responsibility is a challenging task. Formulation of media laws are to be effective and should have a potential to result in improving the role of media. (Melisande 2009)


Accountability in the media is often defined in terms of producing records like evidence to support what has been reported. The journalist is accountable in the sense he or she is held liable for the consequences of the reporting. The liability is both in ethical and legal in nature. Responsibility for the act of reporting is on the journalist.


There is a distinction between accountability and responsibility, “Whereas accountability often is referred to as the manifestation of claims to responsibility, the latter is the acknowledged obligation for action or behavior within frameworks of roles and morals” (Plaisance, 2000). Responsibility is in this sense the obligation for proper custody, care and safekeeping of one’s audience. In social responsibility the interest of the society is given a top priority. From the Commission on the Freedom of the Press or the Hutchins Commission the following five guidelines are briefly given for A Free and Responsible Press. These principles, though valid, are lacking in precision.


  • a truthful, comprehensive, and intelligent account of the day’s events in a context which gives them meaning;


  • a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism;


  • the projection of a representative picture of the constituent groups in the society;


  • the presentation and clarification of the goals and values of the society;


  • full access to the day’s intelligence.


Social responsibility is an obligation of the media to provide trustworthy and relevant news and information as well as opportunities for diverse voices to be heard in the public arena.


It is to see that all sides are fairly presented and that the public has enough information to decide. (Siebert et al. Social Responsibility Theory, 1956)


Like the newspaper, the radio and television, the movies also have great power in society, especially in India. It has an impact of good or evil in the individual lives of persons, in social relationships and in the relations between nations. Numerous studies have indicated the great influence of movies, especially upon the thinking and conduct of youth. These pictures serve to set the pattern for mannerisms, styles, fashions, for ways of courtship and lovemaking and for personal adornment. They stimulate emotions and allow them to be in fantasy and in daydreaming as well as to indulge in overt behavior. They help to create ideas of right and wrong and to mould desires and ambitions. During the early development of the movie industry, there were some scandals within the industry and considerable criticism of the type of pictures shown. This led to the emergence of censorship. The censorship legislation has a set of codes for movies with production code for distributors and producers. While a producer cannot be compelled to produce pictures in accordance with the code regulations, the code has had a beneficial effect.


In some of the larger cities the censorship boards have each year eliminated from the films brought before them several thousand scenes which they considered detrimental. Censorship as imposing certain legislative codes of conduct and screening has a clear foundation on ethical principles. It ultimately brings in improvements and high-quality films. Even though it may be argued that censorship curtails the freedom of speech, the effective use of it has shown desired results in film industry. Prohibition of obscene, lewd, and filthy scenes and forbidding the importation of any film that is immoral or obscene have done good to the society. Motion pictures are included in the list of articles that may be prohibited on the grounds of immorality or indecency from the channels of interstate commerce or circulation through the mails. The fairly widespread criticism naturally has been a matter of concern to the motion-picture industry. Besides, making some amendments in its code and adopting “an advertising code,” the industry has taken steps to clean house from within and to enforce the provisions of the code. Now many theatres will not show a film unless it has been given the seal of approval of the censor board. The code of the industry.


Media Ethics


Applied Ethics

states, No picture shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience shall never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil, or sin. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented. Law, natural or human shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.

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