With the re­cent TRT World fo­rum draw­ing at­ten­tion to the in­ter­na­tional me­dia and its ethics, we are once again re­minded of the de­bate on ob­jec­tiv­ity and sen­si­tiv­ity when it comes to the con­duct of jour­nal­ists

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Reader’s Corner -

“IN­SPIR­ING change in an age of un­cer­tainty.” This was the head­line of the TRT World Fo­rum held in Is­tan­bul ear­lier this month. The fo­rum, held on Oct. 18-19, brought nu­mer­ous politi­cians, aca­demi­cians, busi­ness­men, me­dia ad­min­is­tra­tors, lead­ers of their fields and jour­nal­ists from all around the world to make this foray to dis­cuss the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion and the pos­si­ble fu­ture of the world, the re­gion and of course, the me­dia.

Let us be­gin with the event’s main scope as ex­plained by the or­ga­ni­za­tion it­self, “The con­tin­u­ous chal­lenges fac­ing the global or­der to­day raise many per­ti­nent ques­tions about the fu­ture of the world and the scope of change. In re­cent years, the world has wit­nessed rup­tures in the arena of global pol­i­tics and eco­nomic glob­al­iza­tion; as well as un­prece­dented hu­man­i­tar­ian crises, all of which have shaken the foun­da­tions of the es­tab­lished global or­der. The TRT World Fo­rum brings to­gether lead­ing ex­perts, se­nior de­ci­sion-mak­ers and in­flu­encers to dis­sect, an­a­lyze and un­der­stand th­ese press­ing is­sues to in­spire change for a brighter and bet­ter fu­ture.”

The two-day fo­rum in­cluded sev­eral ses­sions cov­er­ing a va­ri­ety of top­ics such as, “Re­defin­ing the Global Agenda: Old Guard ver­sus New Play­ers,” “Trans­form­ing Hu­man­i­tar­ian Aid: A Re­fined Ap­proach” and “Big Busi­ness, Big So­lu­tions: En­cour­ag­ing Cor­po­rate So­cial Re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

There were also ses­sions on con­ven­tional and so­cial forms of me­dia fo­cus­ing on things like, “Re-Think­ing Me­dia-Re­spon­si­ble Re­port­ing on Hu­man­i­tar­ian Crises,” “Cap­i­tal­iz­ing on Fear: the Politi­ciza­tion of Xeno­pho­bia and Is­lam­o­pho­bia” and “Dig­i­tal In­flu­encers and their Role in Shap­ing Pub­lic Dis­course.”

I have to say, as a par­tic­i­pant, the ses­sions that fo­cused on jour­nal­ism and ethics cap­tured my at­ten­tion the most. Jour­nal­ism in cri­sis re­gions and an­other ses­sion about tak­ing a fresh look at me­dia took hold of me. An­other sig­nif­i­cant sub­ject that was quite in­ter­est­ing was the con­cept of ob­jec­tiv­ity; along with de­bates on the term, “re­spon­si­ble jour­nal­ism” and what it en­tails in to­day’s mod­ern age.


Dur­ing a ses­sion that fo­cused on the con­cept of ob­jec­tiv­ity, TRT World Pro­gram Di­rec­tor R. Ser­dar Ataş em­pha­sized a very sig­nif­i­cant prob- lem, say­ing, “Some­times the me­dia evades the facts by hid­ing be­hind the prin­ci­ple of ob­jec­tiv­ity. A jour­nal­ist can­not hold a vic­tim and a mur­derer to the same stan­dard; or in the same re­gard. Rather than be­ing neu­tral, we have to be just.”

To be hon­est, crit­ics have been say­ing that ob­jec­tiv­ity or the me­dia’s at­tempt to be neu­tral causes the me­dia to veer away from right­eous­ness. It is a de­bate that has been go­ing on for a long time now, with one side ar­gu­ing for jour­nal­ists to be­come like ma­chines de­void of all feel­ings while they work, while the other side holds firm to the ar­gu­ment that jour­nal­ists are hu­man be­ings first and jour­nal­ists sec­ond.

While this some­what ex­plains the abridged view­points of both sides, there are sev­eral “mid­dle ground” per­spec­tives de­fended by many oth­ers. Through­out the de­bate, we see ar­gu­ments stem­ming from cold hard facts to hy­po­thet­i­cal ques­tions, such as, “If you come upon the scene of an ac­ci­dent, should you grab your cam­era first or should you run to help the wounded?”

Some of our col­leagues ap­proach the term of “search for fair­ness” with sus­pi­cion; and I am among them be­cause some­times we wit­ness that this search, this quest, trans­forms into a pas­sion and oc­ca­sion­ally into an ob­ses­sion in time. There are nu­mer­ous neg­a­tive ex­am­ples where the lines be­tween jour­nal­ism and ac­tivism get blurred or en­tirely erased. We men­tioned a cou­ple of th­ese in­stances in the past in our Reader’s Cor­ner ar­ti­cles, as well.

Let me nip a pos­si­ble mis­un­der­stand­ing in the bud. I am not against ac­tivism; in fact, I re­spect it tremen­dously. How­ever, what both­ers me greatly is the blur­ring, dis­ap­pear­ing line be­tween jour­nal­ism and ac­tivism. When some of our col­leagues turn into some­thing other than a jour­nal­ist, they slowly start to drown in sen­ti­ment and de­vote them­selves to a “cause.” Iron­i­cally, it is pre­cisely at that mo­ment when their ties to right­ness weaken or break away com­pletely.

On the other hand, we usu­ally re­fer to terms such as “pub­lic good” or “re­spon­si­ble jour­nal­ism;” we rec­om­mend th­ese prin­ci­ples, even. So, you might ask, doesn’t that con­tra­dict the pre­vi­ous para­graphs?

I do not think it is a con­tra­dic­tion. Af­ter all, it is uni­ver­sally ac­cepted that a jour­nal­ist must con­sider the pos­si­ble re­sults of writ­ing a news ar­ti­cle in some ex­cep­tional sit­u­a­tions. What are those ex­cep­tions though?

For ex­am­ple, news ar­ti­cles cov­er­ing vi­o­lence against women, in­clud­ing in­stances when they are also vic­tims of a homi­cide. Cov­er­ing ter­ror­ism is an­other ex­cep­tion. Abuse and ha­rass­ment can also be con­sid­ered amongst those as well. And of course, cov­er­ing sui­cide in­ci­dents is an­other sit­u­a­tion where we must choose our steps care­fully.


The me­dia can take a pro­tec­tive stance when it comes to dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple, mi­nori­ties or the dis­abled. When it comes to cov­er­ing sto­ries of vi­o­lence against women, homi­cide or ha­rass­ment and abuse, a jour­nal­ist must al­ways side with the vic­tims. They must not play a part in nor­mal­iz­ing the malice or en­cour­age and pop­u­lar­iz­ing evil, whether will­ingly or un­will­ingly. They must use pre­ven­tive lan­guage.

A jour­nal­ist must al­ways side with peace and never with war. They must de­fend the rights of in­no­cent vic­tims to live in a democ­racy and not ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions, per­pe­tra­tors or their at­tacks. And fi­nally, a jour­nal­ist must be on the side of the weak and the just, not at the side of the pow­er­ful and wrong.

Therein lays the prob­lem, un­for­tu­nately. Th­ese are largely ac­cepted prin­ci­ples but their right­ness is not the main fo­cus of the ar­ti­cle. It is their method of ap­pli­ca­tion wherein the ar­gu­ments arise. We must not con­fuse pur­poses with tools but in­stead stay within the con­fines of jour­nal­ism.

As Ataş said, with ex­am­ples from in­ter­na­tional me­dia dur­ing the fo­rum, be­ing watched does not al­ways mean that you are be­lieved. Right­ness mat­ters. Truth mat­ters. Facts mat­ter and as a method, ob­jec­tiv­ity is quite sig­nif­i­cant but, and I em­pha­size, as a method.

As a jour­nal­ist, you can­not turn a blind eye to the prob­lems and mis­ery that is go­ing on around the world. You can­not treat groups of peo­ple; namely im­mi­grants, as num­bers, or their fates as a statis­tic. You can­not treat mur­der­ers, rapists and bul­lies the same as their vic­tims in the pur­suit of neu­tral­ity. Jour­nal­ism is not a vo­ca­tion of im­pas­siv­ity. It calls for re­spon­si­bil­ity and sen­si­tiv­ity. It re­quires you to be hu­man and hu­mane. Only then can jour­nal­ism ful­fill its func­tion as long as we do not com­pro­mise on the main prin­ci­ples of the pro­fes­sion, of course.


İbrahim Al­tay

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