By Muhammad Murad
There are certain ethical codes regarding the publishing rules of journalism. The basic rules are minimizing harm to readers and the responsibility of journalists to publish the truth and accurate information. The problem under consideration is, “Should a story be published without verification even if it will negatively impact the general public?” The answer is simply ‘No’.
News of a claim by an American interrogator at Guantanamo Bay who had flushed a copy of The Holy Quran down a toilet, published in “Newsweek Magazine” on May 2005 is among the several news pieces that have been published in the past. The information was obtained from an anonymous source and was not verified which led to many repercussions and triggered protests in many Muslim countries. At least 16 people were reported to be killed in these protests.
Firstly, the information was not verified. Secondly, even if it was verified, there should have been ‘reservations’ about running it because ‘the potential to inflame is greater than the value of the piece itself’.
In cases where the information is necessary to be brought in public’s view but the story cannot be kept under cover until it is completely verified, it becomes necessary for the organization to carefully consider how the information needs to be included.
In a nutshell, a balance needs to be sorted to report the truth with minimizing the potential harm. It also depends on the importance of the story to the readers. Accuracy should be ensured and no ambiguous information need be presented. Manipulation in any case is unethical.
- Journalists should indentify and verify the information or should mention that the report is unverified.
- Readers should be warned against the potential risks of reading the information to themselves and their families.
- Realization of the importance of reporting the story accurately
- There are times when the public’s need to know becomes more important than holding a story until it can be completely verified. In these cases the news organization should carefully consider how they include the information.
- If the story warns readers of something potentially harmful to their health or that which affects their rights or lives in a major way, then the story should be published.