Media Ethics & Freedom of Press

Mains Marks Booster     3rd August 2023        


  • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has blocked several YouTube news channels from India as well as Pakistan for spreading “fake news”.
        Ethical Issues

Ethical Principle of Journalism & Proactive steps to avoid conflicts with the principle

Based on Gandhian Principle (Truth, Fairness, Humanity) & Utilitarian Principle (Minimising harm, Avoiding Libel)



                   Ethical Principle

  Steps to avoid conflicts with the principle

Truth and Accuracy

  • Journalists cannot always guarantee ‘truth’ but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism
  • Evaluate the value of various sources of information (peer review, surveys, anecdotal reports, testimonies, etc.). 
  • Build connections with experienced and reputable professionals in various fields so that solicit advice/information can be taken.


  • Journalists should not act formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural. 
  • They should tell the audience any of their political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute a conflict of interest
  • Consider ulterior motives when writing your article. 
  • Inquire about and share details related to potential conflicts of interest.
  • Distinguish between opinion and scientific evidence when reporting.

Fairness and Impartiality

  • Most stories have at least two sides. While there is no obligation to present every side in every piece, stories should be balanced and add context. 
  • Objectivity is not always possible and may not always be desirable Example - In brutality or inhumanity, but impartial reporting builds trust and confidence

  • Attempt to contact a few reputable sources on the topic and build a reputation for being a trusted source of information. 
  • Be sure to clearly state limitations (if no adequate research has been conducted).
  • Check the accuracy of information before reporting. 


  • Journalists should not do harm. Their reporting or broadcast may be hurtful, but they should be aware of the impact of words and images on the lives of others.
  • Think about the potential impact of sharing messages.
  • Show compassion for those who may be impacted by news coverage and use heightened sensitivity when reporting on issues that impact vulnerable populations.

Avoiding libel

  • This is a legal as well as a moral imperative for journalists. 
  • Journalists cannot print false statements that damage a person’s reputation. 
  • In most jurisdictions, true statements cannot be libellous, so journalists can protect themselves by rigorously checking facts.
  • Take responsibility for accountability by checking the accuracy of work before publishing by verifying information and using original sources. 
  • Provide sources and citations for material. In the event that information was reported and later discovered to be inaccurate, share this new information

Proper attribution

Journalists must never plagiarise. 
  • If they use information from another media outlet or journalist, they need to attribute it to them.

Harm minimization

  • Journalists should follow the Utilitarian principle while showing news. 
  • Not every fact that can be published should be published. 
  • Ex. News based on heroism of Internet gaming 
  • If the amount of harm that could come to private individuals particularly children—as a result of disclosure exceeds the public good that would come of it, then news outlets might choose not to publish the story.

Ethics Violation by Journalist

  • Publishing allegations by a single source without attempting to verify accuracy.
  • Ex.  Media house of China, North Korea
    • Omitting facts that could lead to a different conclusion to the reader/viewer.
      • Ex. Two-part documentary series aired by BBC on the PM Narendra Modi
    • Calling for comment after normal business hours when there would have been time for the journalist to call earlier. 
      • Ex. Asking response from People coming out after casting votes
    • Using editorial positioning of quotes to impact readers’ conclusions 
      • Ex. Putting quotes critical of an organisation in the lead paragraphs.
    • Biases in ideology and focus on sensation of news to increase TRP. 
      • Ex. Political News like change in government in Maharashtra from MVA to NDA 
    • Media trial by the journalist.
      • Ex. Aryan Khan Drug Case, Susant Singh case, 

    Conclusion: There are scores of codes and statements to guide journalists in their important work of sharing information with the public. Adhering to the Ethical guidelines brings transparency and accuracy in the information. It serves the core function of the fourth pillar of democracy.