Freebies and financial concerns and the news personnel
Freebies and financial concernsand the news personnel By Nancy R. Cudis
Forms of freebies andfinancial concerns Salary Government media Commercial media Advertising and sales Bribes Money envelopes Interpersonal Intraorganizational Interorganizational Freebies (friendship buying) Trips In kind (food, grocery items, etc.)
Scenarios Worldwide In Ghana, a reporter goes to a press conference, and inside her press packet, there’s a brown envelope containing the equivalent of a $20 bill. Not surprised, she slips it into her purse before heading back to the office to write up the event. In Russia, a public relations agency sends out a bogus press release about a fictitious company. Thirteen publications swallow the bait and agree to run the release just like a story, but only after demanding payment ranging from about $125 to nearly $2,000.
Scenarios Worldwide In Cambodia, a newspaper publishes a special edition devoted to the birthday of a prominent politician, complete with congratulatory advertisements from businessmen and lower- ranking officials. Then the paper sends out a bill for the ads – even though many of the “advertisers” didn’t know the ads were being used. They pay up anyway, rather than risk seeming not to want to honor the politician.
Scenarios Philippines Money envelopes were allegedly openly distributed to journalists at a press conference by former President Joseph Estrada, then vice- president at the time. The move was said to be initiated by Estrada’s fire-fixer Ike Gutierrez who allegedly did another press-bribery on behalf of Antonio Sanchez, the mayor who has since been convicted of rape and murder and is now in prison. Maguindanao Massacre (Nov. 23, 2009)
Points for Reflection Media have been so much engaged in defending journalists, that the media become shy sometimes in uncovering or exposing this side of our craft. Not only do journalists accept bribes and media houses accept paid material disguised as news stories, but all too often, reporters and editors are the instigators, extorting money either for publishing favorable stories–or for not publishing damaging ones. PR professionals may be instigators of media corruption, but they are also victims.
Points for Reflection While cash for news coverage is a problem that nearly everyone familiar with international journalism characterizes as extremely serious, it receives remarkably little in the way of focused work toward a solution.
International Declaration of Principlesof Professional Ethics in Journalism Principle IV: THE JOURNALIST’S PERSONAL INTEGRITY The social role of the journalist demands that the profession maintains high standards of integrity, including the journalist’s right to refrain from working against his or her conviction or from disclosing sources of information as well as the right to participate in the decision-making of the medium in which he or she is employed. The integrity of the profession does not permit the journalist to accept any form of bribe or the promotion of any private interest contrary to the general welfare. Likewise, it belongs to professional ethics to respect intellectual property and, in particular, to refrain from plagiarism.
IFJ Declaration of Principles on theConduct of Journalists 2. In pursuance of this duty, the journalist shall at all times defend the principles of freedom in the honest collection and publication of news, and of the right of fair comment and criticism. 4. The journalist shall use only fair methods to obtain news, photographs and documents. 8. The journalist shall regard as grave professional offences the following: * plagiarism; * malicious misrepresentation; * calumny, slander, libel, unfounded accusations; * acceptance of a bribe in any form in consideration of either publication or suppression.
Journalist’s Code of Ethic (Philippines) (fifth stipulation) I shall not let personal motives or interests influence me in the performance of my duties; nor shall I accept or offer any present, gift or other consideration of a nature which may cast doubt on my professional integrity.
The Basic Principle “All a plain journalist should endeavor, I have been taught as a matter of principle, is to learn as much as he can about his news subject and tell its story (1) objectively, that is, without any bias, and certainly without the slightest sense of moral advocacy; (2) fairly, that is, with all the sides to every issue aired; (3) accurately, with absolute fidelity to facts and contexts; and (4) clearly, in a manner readily understood by the general reader.” –Vergel O. Santos, Worse Than Free (Essays On Journalism Ethics And Other Media Issues)
Recommendations for newsorganizations Adopt, publicize, and then stick to a firm policy of zero tolerance for any form of cash for news coverage–from simple “facilitation” payments to reporters to paid ads masquerading as objective news. Review pay policies, acknowledging that pay can have an impact on ethics, and work to remove that rationale as an excuse for journalists. Take the initiative in creating accountability systems on their own, such as appointing an ombudsman, to establish a more transparent relationship with their audiences.
Quotes for Reflection “How can [readers] trust anything they read if they don’t know whether the journalist has been paid?” — Patrick Butler, President, International Center for Journalists “Courageous reporters risk life and limb every day to defend press freedom and human rights. We cannot stand by while bribery mocks those sacrifices, anywhere in the world.” — Aidan White, General Secretary, International Federation of Journalists
Quotes for Reflection “It is really harmful for journalists as this practice does not allow them to realize their professional duties … and even honest journalists are often accused in bribery.” — Ukrainian journalist For all the power journalism may have to topple governments and expose the inner secrets of giant multinationals, it can also be an exceptionally fragile institution, vulnerable to the petty greed or strained economic circumstances of a single reporter or editor. —By Bill Ristow, Cash for Coverage: Bribery of Journalists Around the World (A Report to the Center for International Media Assistance)