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Journalism Ethics Reflects The Level of Democracy in Different Countries

Alexandra Muntianu, XI A

The first concept that has to be fully understood is “journalism ethics”. Ethical journalism aims at ensuring the free exchange of accurate information. The second concept, but also one of tremendous importance is “democracy”. Through the medium of democracy, people have the possibility to decide legislation or choose governing officials to do so. In other words, they have many rights, among which the right to vote and the freedom of speech.

In democratic countries, journalism ethics strongly encourage democratic views. For example, one pillar of journalism is truth and accuracy. Journalists have to make sure that the presented facts are reliable and relevant. When a piece of information is not supported by strong evidence, the lack of reliability should be mentioned. Another principle is fairness and impartiality. Impartial reporting builds trust and confidence, alleviating the impact journalists’ opinions can have on people. Humanity is also a principle of ethical journalism. Journalists should be aware of the negative impact some news can have on the audience and should try as much as possible to do no harm. In the European Union, where most of the countries are considered to have a democratic political regime, these principles are respected as much as possible, emphasizing a strong correlation between them and democracy.

However, North Korea, which is a totalitarian state, blatantly violates the freedom of the press. Albeit the North Korean Constitution protects the freedom of speech and press, the government only allows speech that supports it and the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. Media reports in North Korea are known for their exaggerated nature, playing "little or no role in gathering and disseminating vital information true to facts". Furthermore, candidates for journalism school must prove loyalty to the ruling party and must come from politically “reliable” families. The ones who don’t abide by the rules face severe punishment and sometimes even execution. Only news that favours the regime is permitted, whereas news mentioning the country’s problems is not allowed. However, they try to conceal this manipulation under the principle of press freedom. Hence, although they have journalism ethics, this doesn’t reflect the democratic level of the country.

To conclude with, in some countries journalism ethics are strongly reflecting democratic views. Nevertheless, the same ethics are just a facade for what is really happening in totalitarian states like North Korea. As long as in a state people have the power ethics are mandatory. When the power resumes to one person, ethics are just "a pretty face with an ugly soul”.

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