Journalism and its Code of Ethics
The Half-day Journalist’s Forum on Code of Ethics held on 22nd September, 2014 took place in Jambayang Resort under the keen observation of the media stakeholder and representatives from the relevant media development agencies and partners.
A meeting was held with the objective to review the former code of ethics that was drafted in 2006 by Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority (BICMA), as the code was found to be too general and print bias by senior journalist and members of Journalist Association of Bhutan (JAB). But according to the presentation made by Kinley Tshering, the Secretary General of JAB, the main objective of the review was to get “self regulation” that is, giving control to media agencies and partners directly.
One of the participants from Kuensel enquired about which of codes of ethics to follow as they already have their inhouse code of conducts and the one that is being formulated by JAB. . It was informed that y adding a clause to “scope of application” that states that “the code will act as a mother document to guide all media houses with inhouse code of conducts”, which also means that all houses are to abide by the Journalist’s Code of Ethics irrespective of media houses holding their own code of ethics, in case of Kuensel, Bhutan Observers and The Bhutanese, that already holds current code of ethics of their own.
The main differences between the two codes of ethics are that, the new code of ethics is simple and comprehensive as compared to BICMA’s code of ethics. The new code stands for public interest whereas former code includes national interest only. Also, another difference is the obligation for journalists to reveal their source of information under the court of justice, which is completely erased in the new code of ethics and it depends upon journalist’s decision to reveal the source or not.
The code of ethics covered the topics such as, “responsibility” of the journalist to be committed to his / her work, protection of the “independence” of journalist from third party, “accuracy” of information provided by the journalists, “objectivity” of the journalist to create a sense of balance, “honesty” in work of journalism for public trust , “sources and confidentiality” to be honored by the journalists and not to be taken lightly, “audience’s right” to be maintained by the journalists while performing their work, “privacy” of an individual to be respected by the journalists, journalists to act as “representation” of the voice of society and avoid discrimination and “plagiarism” in journalism is unacceptable.
The new codes of Ethics not only include the idea of JAB members but also the arguments of the media representatives. The group discussion in the meeting brought out ideas and suggestions from the media representatives in many aspect of draft of code of ethics that was put forward by the JAB. The suggestion led to changing of words in few sentences to changing of whole sentences from the draft. The changes were not made by mere suggestions, but by strong opposition and explanations. In some cases even the vote was casted for the suggestions to be made into changes in the code of ethics. So, it can be said that the new code of ethics is made by the complete sweat, blood and idea of the representatives of the media house and not any other third party.
One of the aspects of the new code of ethics is, “complete removal of BICMA” from decision making position of media houses. But the new code of ethics still needs to be restructured in many simple and complicated ways. There is a need for replacement of words to complete removal of clauses in few places but in near future the revelation of code of ethics will be made, that will stand for public interest and is made by the group effort of representatives of the media houses.