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The Power of Pen and Press: Upholding Democracy through Ethical Journalism

Updated: May 23, 2023

Alex Coiov, XI A

Journalism is a shiny double-edged sword because we don’t always agree with what we’re reading. Yet that’s the magic of democracy. Stakeholders, such as various interest groups, political officials, sundry organisations, countless businesses, and unique voters from myriad schools of thought, form so-called ‘factions’ that fiercely vie with one another in the idea realm. These factions compete for ideological supremacy, thus being forced to compromise in order to reach a consensus, hence the power dilution.

However, one cannot forcibly abolish such exuberant factions due to their particular and perhaps peculiar doctrines; that would be worse than allowing them to form in the first place, for liberty is savagely shattered when people’s voices are silenced. One can merely foster the competitiveness of thought, which helps weaken the warped and destabilising extremes – but not silence them completely – and allow the centres to reach concurrence.

In this bloody and vicious battle between factions, the media plays a paramount role since it can amplify one’s message and facilitate the dissemination of thought. A free press is unequivocally the foundation of participatory democracy. Whilst constituents elect representatives in a democratic, republican-style government to represent their wishes and desires in countless countrywide legislatures, the media allows for a participatory-type democracy instead of an elitist one since the people can freely and directly express themselves without the requirement for an intermediary that can alter and modify the initial message according to personal beliefs.

Yet, the press cannot solely sputter pertinent arguments and acerbic comebacks hoping to emerge victorious. An ethical code ought to be respected, and this righteous code reflects a country’s level of democracy and vice-versa.

On the one hand, a prodigious free press, upholding accuracy, impartiality, fairness, privacy, and the ensuing accountability of publication, ensures the receipt of factual information by the populace, helping them make informed and judicious decisions. The egregious paucity of nefariousness in journalism thus reflects society’s democratic standards, for a democratic society would not accept an autocratic press. In this case, journalism ethics reflect society’s democratic aspirations.

On the other hand, a democratic society equally reflects an ethical press, with the media likewise reinforcing democratic standards upon its readers in the same manner its democratic readers would enforce a just standard on itself. If journalism is vigorous and free, battling and urging for accurate material, it prompts its readers to act alike. In essence, a free and ethical press reflects a democratic populace, as society is liable to function democratically when provided with impartial and unprejudiced information.

In this way, the ethical code of journalism and the principles of democracy are mutually reinforcing, engendering a virtuous circle of transparency, accountability, and public participation – pivotal factors upholding a participatory-style democracy and curtailing the polarising influence of factions.

Ergo, journalism ethics and democracy are unequivocally and inextricably intertwined, each serving as a sturdy bulwark against the abominable excesses of the other; hereby, the media plays a crucial role in a participatory-style democracy, thus enabling the free expression of diverse voices and multifaceted opinions while concomitantly promoting indispensable transparency, accountability, and public engagement.

However, a free press must also adhere to ethical standards, thus reflecting society’s democratic aspirations, encompassing accuracy, impartiality, fairness, privacy, and accountability. By upholding these standards, the media thus fosters public trust and confidence, strengthens democracy, and curtails the unchecked influence of factions, thereby serving as a checks-and-balances system.

Moreover, the virtuous circle of journalism ethics and democratic principles nurtures a more vibrant, robust society wherein the rule of law and the public interest are paramount and placed first. Therefore, it is imperative to cultivate and safeguard the integrity of journalism and democracy, recognising that they are, in fact, two sides of the same glossy coin.

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