In Response to Rocky’s Bru: Journo to Journo: How Low Can You Go?

By Malaysian Heart (member of Hartal MSM)

I'm encouraged by the news (from Rocky's Bru) that a group of practising and former Malaysian journalists are writing to the Executive Chairman of Kumpulan Utusan, Tan Sri Mohamed Hashim Ahmad Makaruddin, to express their anger and disgust at the story on the late Yasmin Ahmad that the tabloid Kosmo! ran on July 27th, 2009. As they write in their email seeking fellow journalists' support for their letter: "Let's uphold the kind of journalism that this country so desperately needs."

Irregardless of whether it is based on the truth or not, the article, headlined "Takdir Yasmin", breached not only the journalist's code of ethics, but standards of human decency as well.

Since a journalist's first obligation is to seek truth and report it, why is this article in Kosmo! a breach of journalistic ethics? Because even if it is true, it violates another principle that journalists are obliged to uphold:

Minimize Harm – Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

According to this principle, journalists should:
  • Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
  • Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
  • Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
  • Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
  • Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
  • Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
  • Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
  • Balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed.

(From the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics)

In the case of Kosmo's article, the people behind it have violated this principle in at least four ways:

Read more at: In Response to Rocky's Bru: Journo to Journo: How Low Can You Go?