At our next community media meetup, we will be discussing the importance of ethical principles for community media practice. We will be sharing our experience as to how an ethical approach to media participation can be sustained, what the main activities might include, and where the principle of accountability rests – the individual or the system?
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Crafting a Code of Ethics for a community media project is a delicate endeavour that interweaves the threads of moral responsibility, democratic discourse, and communal engagement. The ethical principles we hold are a compass guiding our actions and decisions within the community media realm, embodying the values and principles which underpin the collective work. Modern Western Social Democratic societies are underscored by a blend of ethical principles that aim to foster a more egalitarian and inclusive socio-political landscape. The following summarises the core ethical tenets usually associated with Social Democratic principles:
- Equality and Social Justice: Striving for a more egalitarian society is a hallmark of Social Democratic thinking. This includes advocating for equal opportunities and rights for all citizens, irrespective of their social, economic or cultural background.
- Solidarity and Community: There’s a strong emphasis on collective responsibility and mutual aid. Social Democrats often champion the idea that individuals thrive when the community thrives, and vice versa.
- Welfare State and Social Safety Nets: The provision of robust social services and welfare programs to ensure basic living standards for all, especially the vulnerable and disadvantaged, is a pivotal aspect of Social Democratic ideology.
- Democracy and Participation: Encouraging active participation of citizens in the democratic process, fostering a sense of shared decision-making and ensuring transparency and accountability in governance.
- Sustainable Development: Social Democrats often advocate for policies that are environmentally sustainable and that balance economic growth with ecological responsibility.
- Human Rights and Dignity: Upholding and promoting human rights, and ensuring the dignity, respect and autonomy of individuals is typically at the core of the Social Democratic ethical framework.
- Inclusive Dialogue: Social Democrats typically endorse open dialogue and discussion among diverse groups to foster understanding, resolve conflicts and build a more inclusive society.
- Progressive Taxation and Economic Fairness: Through progressive taxation and other redistributive policies, Social Democrats aim to reduce economic disparities and promote economic fairness.
- International Cooperation: In an increasingly globalised world, Social Democrats often support international cooperation and multilateralism as means to address global challenges and promote peace and justice.
- Education and Lifelong Learning: The importance of education, both formal and informal, and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all citizens to enhance personal and social growth.
These ethical principles work in concert to create a framework within which individuals can live harmoniously within a community, with a reasonable assurance of economic security, social inclusion, and justice. Through such a framework, Social Democratic societies balance the rights and responsibilities of the individual and the community, promoting a cohesive and prosperous society for all.
A serviceable code of ethics for community media and community communication practices should prioritise the following principles:
- Seek truth and report it: Reporters and communicators should be honest, fair, and courageous in gathering, reporting, and interpreting information.[i] They should test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.[ii]
- Reflect the diversity of the community: Service in the public interest creates an obligation to reflect the diversity of the community and guard against oversimplification of issues.
- Be accountable for news-gathering practices and reporting: Reporters and communicators should respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity, and fairness. They should acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently.[iii]
- Expose unethical conduct in news reporting, including within their organisations: Reporters and communicators have a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the profession and address any unethical behaviour they encounter.[iv]
- Preserve the integrity of the process of communication: Communicators should act honestly and accurately in all their communications, and they should promptly correct any erroneous information for which they are responsible.[v]
- Provide services without discrimination or preference: Human service professionals involved in community interventions should provide services without discrimination or preference based on age, ethnicity, culture, race, ability, gender, or other factors.[vi]
- Consider ethical decision-making processes: When conflicts arise between ethical codes, laws, workplace policies, cultural practices, credentialing boards, and personal beliefs, human service professionals should employ ethical decision-making processes to make careful choices.
Some examples of ethical violations in community media include:
- Posting distinctive personal information that breaches confidentiality: Sharing personal information about clients or research subjects without their consent can be a violation of ethical standards.[vii]
- Misrepresenting services, products, or expertise: Providing false or misleading information about the services, products, or expertise offered can be considered an ethical violation.
- Promoting stereotypes and exclusion: Creating or perpetuating stereotypes, prescribed roles, or negative public perceptions about certain groups can be an ethical issue in community media.[viii]
- Offensive and insulting statements: While not always a direct violation of the code of ethics, posting offensive and insulting statements can be viewed as uncivil, unprofessional, or demeaning to the community.[ix]
- Conflicts of interest: Failing to disclose or address conflicts of interest, such as personal relationships or financial incentives, can compromise the integrity of community media practices.[x]
- Privacy breaches: Sharing private information without consent or violating confidentiality agreements can be an ethical violation in community media.[xi],[xii]