Ethics drive advancement of professional journalism

KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 (Bernama) — The rapid pace of technology opens up a borderless space for the democratisation of information, posing complex challenges to the journalism landscape and the responsibilities of professional journalists as well as mainstream media.

However, formal training, ethical guidelines, and editorial oversight, form the foundation of trusted and responsible reporting, thereby becoming a barrier that separates professional journalists from ‘citizen journalists’.

Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) chief executive officer Datuk Mustapa Omar said the journalistic ethics practised by professional journalists are the lifeblood of the journalism industry, which is credible and trustworthy, and it is a set of guidelines that are always relevant throughout time.

“Nowadays, anyone can be a ‘journalist’ and create their own news, but to what extent is their news accurate and true? This is what sets them apart from us in this journalism profession; we adhere strictly to journalistic ethics.

“This ethics is very important because we (professional journalists) know the impact and consequences of a piece of news on the public, whereas they (citizen journalists) only know how to ‘shoot’ (spread information), and when they’re wrong, they just apologise,” he told Bernama. 

In conjunction with this year’s National Journalists’ Day (HAWANA), the theme ‘Etika Teras Kewartawanan Mapan’ is being highlighted for the celebration taking place from May 25 to 27 in Kuching, Sarawak.

Mustapa said that despite the digital advancements which allow anyone to create news online, the role and work of professional journalists and mainstream media remain the primary reference.

“Even though we face challenges such as fake news and misinformation, it is the practice of these ethics that keeps the field of journalism alive, sustainable, and trustworthy,” he said.

For Norazlinawati Ngainon, senior lecturer of journalism at the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), professional journalists and news organisations that uphold credibility will ensure a high level of compliance with ethical standards, including being transparent about sources, avoiding conflicts of interest, and practising fact-checking.

“Additionally, news organisations should invest in robust fact-checking processes and tools, leveraging new technologies in this process, alongside government support for press freedom to ensure the sustainability and credibility of the journalism industry,” she said. 

Putrajaya Media Club president Wan Zirul Azri Wan Mohammad Sudin said there will be no compromise on matters related to journalistic principles, which serve as the foundation for every genuine and recognised media practitioner.

He said a professional journalist always reports true, accurate, and thorough facts in the nation-building effort, refraining from stirring up negative prejudices or baseless accusations and adhering strictly to the law while performing duties.

“When a few parties accuse media practitioners of not practising these journalistic ethics, it is a very serious accusation, especially against those who always adhere to ethics, professionalism, and transparency in reporting,” he said.

Meanwhile, Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) journalist Fauzura Mat Yusoff said the code of ethics is crucial in determining the pattern and narrative of news writing, which has a significant impact on influencing the minds and understanding of readers and society.

“Citizen journalists only disseminate information, visual materials, or facts without considering their consequences, but professional journalists are more responsible and rational in disseminating information.

“For example, when an accident occurs, netizens only record videos or take pictures and then spread that information based on their own understanding without considering sensitivities, unlike our certified journalists who conduct fact-checking first,” she said.

On Feb 20, Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil launched the new version of the Malaysian Code of Ethics for Journalists, which is an improvement from the one developed in 1989 by the Malaysian Press Institute.