Colombo, Media and Communications

Is ethical and balanced journalism needed?

In my view, there are reporters and there are journalists. Reporters do exactly that. They report. But journalists on the other hand, should not be mere instruments of describing, but should be the activists who are working for change through their role as advocates.

Journalists are blessed with something that most advocates have to look for: an audience that listens to them. Whilst advocates in the traditional sense have to fight to reach their target audience, journalists have a daily dose of communication that can be delivered right to the doorstep of the public at large.

That gives them an edge to call for change. The captive audience can be fed not lies, but the needed parts of truth. There is a thin line between stating facts and using facts, and the same way there is a thin line between lying, and not telling the truth.

Whilst balanced media is supposed to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and look at an issue from all angles, this might hinder upon the journalist’s ability to advocate for change.

Let’s face it: given enough time and resources, everyone can justify their stance. Let’s take the current hacked example of SAARC.

If the journalist who is doing a story believes that having the SAARC summit in Sri Lanka is a waste of time, then that’s exactly what he or she should write about. Ask the right questions to get the right answers from people, and quote them verbatim to justify your point of view. What happens when to try to get a balanced look at the issue, is you give a platform to the politicians to justify SAARC, and you fail as an activist.

How ethical is it? Traditional journalism ethics would tell you it’s not. But at a state where ink on a paper and waves beamed across thin air are the last mountains on which one can stand and talk about the unjust system, and oppose a totalitarian Government, you can’t afford to be very ethical.