FAKE NEWS: A HYDRA-HEADED MONSTER

The recent spate of claims about “fake news” appears to be a new feature of political discourse. The phenomenon of fake news trades upon tolerating a certain indifference towards truth, which is sometimes expressed insincerely by political actors.

In this post-truth age, Fake News and Fraudulent Mediation rule the roast. Media is among the prime factors influencing world affairs and the relations between states, peoples, and cultures in the information age.

The mass media is influenced by many duplicitous forces, among them politics, the legal system, the market, and last but not the least, by the motivation of the journalists.

Fake News and Fraudulent manipulation alter reality and polarize the national landscape into various divisions.

Consequently, the ethics of the journalistic profession are responsible for a great part of the journalist’s work, for her or his orientation towards or neglect of different themes or arguments in the process of news-making.

It is a common transgression we hear these days that media houses taking money to plug for politicians, demanding equity from companies in return for positive coverage, allowing marketing honchos to decide what news is, pushing editors to the margins, and reducing journalists to handymen.

In the quest to win circulation the universally accepted journalistic standards have been compromised. These mortal wounds scream out the name of our affliction – an insatiable appetite for profit and popularity.

The question of trust in the news media is invoked rather easily, leading to a spurt in the number of surveys to quantify trust.

Media itself cannot be ethical or unethical but the way politicians and media professionals use the media may be ethical or unethical.

They should be guided by ethics while taking various decisions regarding activities. It is probably the essence of the journalistic profession that reporters deal with ambivalent situations where the outcome is uncertain, the values are mixed, and the sides conflict.

Therefore, the main aim of this essay is to stimulate debates on ethical aspects of fake news and fraudulent news manipulation and to understand that ethical standards of media professionals should be maintained on some common grounds that one should not be unaware of various colliding moral standards.

Social Media: The New Villain

In the modern world, social media is becoming the new villain behind many flare-ups.

From Facebook to Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, TikTok, and a host of others are not left out from the hands of this hydra-headed monster.

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Fake news swims in the same electronic currents as everyday exaggerations, hard-charging opinion, and political hyperbole. This in many ways makes it seem normal, even when it is just crazy, made-up stories that develop under the radar before blowing up into viral memes.

In this post-truth age, fake news rules from one part of the country to another, and the challenges confronting journalists have grown in exponential proportion. All political leaders and business magnets, people of stature and education have repeated fake stories.

Unfortunately, not all stories are based on facts. In other words, fake news and pictures shared in no time, alter reality leading to unimaginable consequences.

Hatred and communal violence are spread at the touch of a button. Have things come to this pass? Can the media with its feisty, noisy, and often glorious contributions to Nigeria’s democracy be thrown in the unholy company of Nigerian civilization? Does the business of providing news require its professionals to betray the trust of the gullible, exploit victims, deceive the public, and work knowingly against the national interest? One would imagine that any self-respective news media professional would be appalled by such accusations. And yet, can they be ignored?

In media, ethics play a key role to establish credibility and win the heart of their audience.

While media has much to be proud of, there is increasing public disenchantment, not just with its slant, shrillness, sermonizing, and sensationalism, but with its core value, namely integrity.

As a whole, the trust in media is increasingly breaking down. Unethical media practices have brought many controversial issues followed by lethal consequences such as; the bombing of the World Trade Centre in America on September 11, a bomb blast in Taj Mahal Hotel in India, reporting of the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kashmir, etc.

It is agreed upon that news is sacred, a comment is free. However, even when news and comments are mixed up, the alert consumer can separate the two.

At any rate, even in the most advanced of democracies, the media does carry ideological bias, when is reflected not in the editorial pages, but the news columns.

This is a practice, however, is deplorable a free press can live with. It is reported that sections of the media are now for sale.

The system is getting fast institutionalized, with T.V. channels and newspapers approaching politicians, especially during elections, with a “package” which, increasingly, is negotiable. It is an offer difficult to refuse.

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This clearly shows that media practices in the world are very unethical. Those media professionals, involved in unethical practices, need to know and implement the journalistic code of conduct, also a code of media ethics.

Common factors in News

There are many signs of common ground between journalists. The following examples might serve as evidence for the thesis that once a debate on journalistic ethics has started, common factors rather than cultural clashes’ are to be expected.

  1. Objectivity: It is a norm that is central to Western journalism. It is also of growing concern to journalistic federations, and the growing field of media. Objectivity, however, is a norm that can contain many different approaches. While the hard core is surely the idea of balancing facts and opinions and avoid one-sidedness, different priorities might be given to the importance of social actors and their statements.
  2. Sensationalism: It is a form of journalism that is equally resented around the world. In contrast to the concept of pure entertainment journalism, which is particularly popular in the USA, most European journalists and journalists in Eastern countries would certainly underscore the social responsibility of the media, whether they are private or state-owned.
  3. Sensitivity: Sensitivity to socio-cultural values is not alien to both East and Western media. In the U.K. as well as in Germany, for example, grave violations of religious feelings by the media are regularly monitored and criticized by professional self-regulating bodies like the German Presserat (as in the case of the „Kruzifix-Urteil‟). It must be debated, however, how the call for freedom of expression on the one hand and religious integrity on the other hand can be harmonized.
  4. Be aware of Peoples’ right to true information: The media must realize that people and individuals have the right to acquire an objective picture of reality by means of accurate and comprehensive information as well as to express themselves freely through the various media of culture and communication.
  5. Media’s commitment to objective reality: The main aim of the journalists is to serve the people‟s right to true and authentic information through an honest dedication to objective reality whereby facts are reported conscientiously in their proper context, pointing out their essential connections and without causing distortions, with due deployment of the creative capacity of the journalist, so that the public is provided with adequate material to facilitate the formation of an accurate and comprehensive picture of the world in which the origin, nature and essence of events, process and states of affairs are understood as objectively as possible.
  6.  The Social Responsibility of the Journalists: Any information in journalism is understood as social and not as a commodity, which means that the journalist shares responsibility for the information transmitted and is thus accountable not only to those controlling the media but ultimately to the public at large, including various social interests. The journalist’s social responsibility requires that he or she will act under all circumstances in conformity with a personal ethical consciousness.
  7. Respect for Privacy and Human Dignity: An integral part of the professional standards of the journalist is respect for the right of the individual to privacy and human dignity, in conformity with provisions of international and national law concerning protection of the rights and the reputation of others, prohibiting libel, calumny, slander and defamation.
  8. Promote respect for universal values and diversity of cultures: A true journalist stands for the universal values of humanism, above all peace, democracy, human rights, social progress and national liberation, while respecting the distinctive character, value and dignity of each culture, as well as the right of each people freely to choose and develop its political, social, economic and cultural systems. Thus the journalist participates actively in the social transformation towards democratic betterment of society and peace and justice everywhere.
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REFERENCES

Adhikary, Nirmala Mani, (2006). Understanding Mass Media Research‟ Prashanti Pustak Bhandar, Kathmandu.

Adhikary, N.M. (2010). Sadharanikaran Model of Communication and Conflict Resolution‟.

Barney, Ralph D & Black, Jay (1985) “The Case Against Mass Media Codes of Ethics”, Journal of Mass Media Ethics Vol.1, No.1.

Bertrand, Claude-Jean (2003) “Media Code of Ethics: Building Blocks”, AIPCE, web-site November 2013.

Bukro, Casey (1985) “Accountability and Credibility” Journal of Mass Media Ethics. Vol. 1, No.1.

Journalism, ‘Fake News’ & Disinformation. (UNESCO, 2018).

Khanal, Shri Ram, (2005). „Media Ethics and Law Kathmandu‟, Bidhyarthi Pustak Bhandar.

Poudel, Ram Chandra, „An appraisal on the origin of Veda‟, Bodhi, An interdisciplinary Journal.

Pant, Laxman Datt, (2009), „Basic Practies in Journalism‟, an introduction to Journalism and Mass Communication. Kathmandu: Vidyarthi Prakashan. Nepal.

Prashanti Pustak Bhandar, Kathmandu. Adhikary, N.M. (2010). Exploration Within: Theorizing Communication and Posting Media Ethics Paradigm from Hindu Perspective.

Stensaas, Harlan S. (1986) “Development of the Objectivity Ethic in Daily Newspapers”, Journal of Mass Media Ethics. Vol.2, No.1.

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