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It is hardly surprising, therefore, that many of them have failed in their attempt to please the public or to succeed in business. They have not understood that their papers can only become profitable businesses if they reconcile themselves to the fact "that the most important people on a newspaper are not the owners, the editors, the journalists or the staff as a whole - the most important people are the readers who pay their money to buy the paper.

If the official media succeed in attracting some revenue from advertising, this is usually from government and parastatals, or from private business entrepreneurs keen on impressing the government. In certain cases newspapers depend almost entirely on low sales and when businesses do advertise, or politicians offer sponsorship, they virtually call the tune.

If industry and commerce behave as though advertising were doing publishers a favour, this is due largely to the very unprofessional approach to journalism of which the press is guilty, but also to the fear on the part of businessmen of drastic government sanctions on anyone caught keen on investing in the private press or media. Increased professionalism would most likely lead to high circulation and more advertising and consequently more revenue for the publishers to invest in new technology. It could also act as an incentive to big business to invest in the media industry.

Not only does this ignore the ability of the opposition, businesses and other lobbies in society to manipulate the press, it also overlooks the fact that, just like in Europe and North America as the history of the press would show , media proprietors and practitioners in Africa might be attracted to journalism for reasons other than to promote democracy or human rights.

Since it has sufficed for papers to cry foul, for Western governments, human rights associations and press freedom watchdogs [ E. It has hardly occurred to them that the media practitioners might be using democracy simply as a smoke-screen behind which they articulate hidden ethnic, regional and sectarian agendas while presenting themselves as victims of repressive laws and authoritarian governments. It is with this in mind that Francis Kasoma has pointed to the international community as one of the factors to blame for the journalism of excesses in Africa.

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He deplores that the West has tended to content itself with "allegations made by the press Yet, "making allegations against politicians, based on the flimsiest hearsay and suspicion that there is dirt under the political carpet is not the same as actually exposing the dirt. It has indeed been argued that "the biggest ethical problem of journalism" in Africa today Serious allegations, many of them based on unnamed and dubious sources, are published without the journalists who write them making concerted efforts to establish the truth of the allegations.

Consequently, the people defamed are left permanently injured with little or no meaningful redress. Screaming, sensational, confrontational headlines devoid of any real content or substance have only made matters worse. In Mali, as elsewhere, it is common for readers to be "trapped" by "bugle call headlines on the front pages" into buying a paper just to "realise that there is nothing in the body of the article that merits that headline.

Celebrities in Journalism: The Ethics of News Coverage - Poynter

The unbelieving African society watches in awe as the largely incorrigible press literarily maims and murders those it covers to fulfil its not-so-hidden agenda of self-enrichment and self-aggrandisement and refuses to be held accountable for the harm it causes to society both individually and collectively. In its haste to clean up society of its scum, the African press and indeed the world press has often forgotten or simply ignored the fact that it also badly needs cleansing.

They do not hesitate to exaggerate the differences between the trained and the untrained, those [page-number of print ed. The splits, squabbles and instability witnessed among newspaper proprietors and journalists in the years of democratic struggle mean that the press has been preoccupied more with its own internal wrangles than with a conscious, concerted effort as an institution to pool their resources and fight for better laws and for persecuted journalists, as to well as better inform their readership or viewership.

Thanks largely to external pressure and encouragement, professional associations and unions have been created at national and subregional levels. There are many journalists in almost every country who still ignore the contents of their code. Some unions, like the Union of Cameroon Journalists UCJ , do not even have a location for their offices, have no knowledge of its exact membership and receive very little in terms of membership fee from its estimated members. Such difficulties and divisions are not limited to West Africa.

The few journalists who rallied behind PAZA [page-number of print ed. To him "the journalists in Cameroon He laments the fact that in Cameroon journalism remains a profession wherein "there are no elders" and where the young are not prepared to learn from the old hands: Everybody who comes in knocks his chest and says, well I'm here. In other professions you have respect for the elderly who are in the profession, and they somehow try to guide the youngsters who come into the profession so that there isn't much of a difference.

Everybody goes through the same thing and works on to attain the common goals of the profession. But here in Cameroon, that we don't have. And I think this is the point to challenge the people of the profession. The lethargy has been too long. Except for a few, most of the editors lack professional training and experience. While journalists of the government media are fighting one another for administrative positions and sinecures, those of the private press are battling for survival through blackmail and slander. The tendency to discredit certain units of the profession and to undercut one another has led to undue rivalry among journalists.

And the presence of unions and associations with written codes promising to respect ethical ideals and foster professionalism does not seem to be making much of a difference anywhere. While the press is certainly to blame for most of the journalistic excesses we are likely to read about in the region and the continent as a whole, it would be wrong to ignore the mitigating circumstances some of which we have examined above under which the press is called upon to practise. Indeed, an ethic or code of conduct has meaning only if it derives from a context that is conducive to its implementation or practice.

A code of conduct that treats truth as a virtue, denounces corruption and encourages honesty or fair play would have a difficult time getting implemented in a society that pays lip service to truth, condones dishonesty and overlooks corruption by making the political survival of dictatorship the only thing that counts. The point here is that the media are a reflection of their society and that if the politics and culture of the larger society are essentially dishonest, corrupt, obscene and immoral or unethical , it is very unlikely that the media would be any different or that they would have the political, legal and moral empowerment they need to practice a journalism of tolerance, fairness, accuracy and credibility, especially if matters are made worse by economic and financial difficulties for the media and journalists.

Karikari makes a similar point when he argues that in considering journalistic ethics and their violations we must take into account "the moral integrity of the journalist, his sincerity or otherwise, his technical skill and creativity, his education and training, as well as the demands of civil society, and the prevailing moral standards of the political and social [page-number of print ed.

West African journalists might be trained locally, but they are made to understand that journalism has some universal canons, among which, a set of ethical values.

But this has been intended more to serve political exigencies than to promote a certain African ethic or world view. Things are made worse by the fact that even journalists trained locally are victims of a polarised sort of literature produced mainly in the West, drawing from Western experiences. To be accepted they have to think, see and write as Westerners do.

Also, the fact that these journalists are trained in and use Western languages naturally invites them to think in Western terms - given that one's thinking is often a prisoner of one's language. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when asked about journalism or its ethics, African journalists would immediately reproduce what they have gathered from books on this matter. Most codes of ethics and professional values adopted in the continent are heavily inspired by Western codes or Western-derived international codes and dwell on ethical issues such as those Blin discusses.

The Benin press code, for example, "was inspired by the Charter of the professional duties of French journalists. The post has the powers to sanction violators and to make the offence known by publishing its proceedings. Other regulatory bodies for the media include the Nigeria Press Council created in December , the National Broadcasting Commission and the National Media Commission for policing the watchdog.

It is little different from the rest in terms of its creed and objectives [ Ngah, Mimicry is the name of the game as far as the West African codes are concerned. However, having a code of ethics is not synonymous with being ethical in practice, nor does it "necessarily lead to the development of an ethical conscience. As Onadipe puts it, professional independence in Africa is generally an uphill task and journalists "invariably get caught up in the eye of the storm" of the "cataclysmic events swirling around them.

Those who run such schools believe that these norms are and should be the same everywhere in the world. The West might have priorities different to Africa's but its basic assumptions about journalism are shared almost unquestioningly by African journalists and most of those who train them locally. Golding, ; O'Brien, Little wonder, therefore, that the major training schools in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon and elsewhere are state-owned and government-controlled.

The Anglophones have continued to be inspired by Anglo-Saxon media traditions, while the Francophones have remained French or "Latin" in style. All journalists interviewed recognise this and also have an explanation for it. While the Francophone journalist wants to attract the audience, the viewer or the reader, the Anglophone journalist is more inclined to go for the facts and to avoid opinions.

It is generally recognised that training is much less professional in Francophone Africa than in Anglophone Africa. These differences in style, even if imagined most of the time, are related to the different media systems of the Western countries which have most influenced the situation in Africa. The level of direct government involvement with the broadcast media is not the same in Britain and France. For just the fact that a journalist speaks [page-number of print ed. His own view of the world and issues is very different and he selectively refers only to those sources or practices that would consolidate that perspective or outlook and further distinguish him from his Francophone counterparts.

The differences in colonial heritage are blamed for the lack of a Cameroonian style but the very fact that such differences have persisted is an indication of the lack of cohesive and enforceable cultural policies capable of providing local alternatives to inherited Western values.

Francis Kasoma, professor and head of Department of Mass Communication at the University of Zambia, believes that this situation constitutes the greatest tragedy with journalism in Africa today. He writes: The tragedy facing African journalism of the s and beyond, however, is that the continent's journalists have closely imitated the professional norms of the North Consequently, the African mass media's philosophical ethical foundations, their aims and objectives have been blue-prints of the media in the industrialised societies of the North.

Some African journalists even claim that the Northern standards they follow are world journalism standards which every media person should observe.

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They refuse to listen to any suggestions that journalism can have African ethical roots and still maintain its global validity and appeal. Anyone suggesting, as this author has often done, that Africa can teach the world some journalistic manners has been declared anathema It is believed that some of the departed and the spirits keep watch over people to make sure that they observe the moral laws and are punished when they break them.

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To simply condemn and ostracise them is considered to be irresponsible. When it is elders who are going wrong and there are no age mates to advise them, there is also room for young people to advise elders provided proper etiquette is followed. This implies that: [page-number of print ed. Similarly, family morals must conform to clan, and clan to tribe morals. What strengthens the family, the clan and the tribe or ethnic groups is generally morally good.

To safeguard the welfare of the community, there are many taboos concerning what may not be done and the consequences for disregarding these taboos. First, they must make the basis of morality in their practice "the fulfilment of obligations to society and to the journalistic corps," by seeking to solve communal problems rather than creating them.

Second, they must "develop a deep sense of right and wrong so that they are able to feel guilty for behaving unethically and try and correct colleagues who falter in their journalistic performance. If they do not, there is every likelihood that they are unethical. Only in this way can African journalism "put its house in order.

Appealing as this ethic might be, there is little [page-number of print ed. What we should therefore advocate is a sense of creative adoption of global influences and the need to rehabilitate the mainstream cultures of Africa that are victims of marginalisation and unfair competition.

It is true that African journalists have not been creative in their adoption of ethical codes and that they have tended to mimic the West most of the time. But ignoring Western influences altogether is hardly a solution, given the hybridity of contemporary African identity. Although it is not within the scope of this paper to propose ethical alternatives, Kasoma's Afriethic stands a better chance of endorsement if advocating the recognition and valorisation of African mainstream values and ethics does not imply the exclusion of the cultural influences that have reshaped and continue to shape African identity since the colonial period.

Moemeka touches on this when he wonders if a solution to current ethical dilemmas could be the creation of "a hybrid ethics that could eliminate the weaknesses of the old and the new but maximise their strengths. Papers published on journalism training have emphasised media ethics [ Cf. Kasoma, In February Panos Institute and the Ghana Journalists Association organised a regional seminar on ethics in journalism and subsequently published a rich survey of ethical practices in seven West African countries. Karikari, a. A meeting on "ethics and media code of practice" held in June in Amsterdam brought together African, Dutch and other Western journalists and focused among other things on the ethical predicaments of African journalism in a multiparty context and serious financial difficulties for the press.

Feldmann et al. A factor which according to Onadipe [ Although journalists of the official media have, generally speaking, benefited more from formal training in schools of [page-number of print ed. When questioned in Cameroon, journalists with the official media claimed that the training they received from ESSTIC, the local school of journalism, is adequate and that this makes them professionally superior to their counterparts in the private press.

The private press journalists reply that although trained, the official journalists have used their technical competence to deliberately falsify facts, manipulate the population and impose a government inspired monolithic perspective that has impoverished debate and constricted alternative outlooks. The official journalists can hardly claim to practise the techniques they acquired in school, as most of what they publish as news comes to them in the form of press releases and official communiques.

This has led journalists of the private press to argue that in the current context of multipartyism and democratisation it is precisely the official journalists who have more to learn call it re-learn about the profession. The view is very strong among journalists of the private press that although trained formally in recognised schools of journalism, journalists of the official media have operated in a context that does not allow for excellence and that has indeed blunted any professional competencies they may have acquired at school.

This controversy notwithstanding, in thinking of how current shortcomings can be corrected it would be important to distinguish between the formally trained journalists who have not had the opportunity to implement what they learnt at school and those who join the profession out of interest without any training and without having acquired the basics.


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While the latter need to be introduced to the techniques and principles of news gathering, news writing and news presentation or packaging, those who have had formal training without practical experience need refresher courses to keep themselves abreast with technological developments and with cases of journalistic excellence in the subregion and elsewhere. In sum, West African journalists all need to be conversant with new technology in information gathering, processing and dissemination and to understand the ethical implications of using this technology.

New, more commercially oriented schools do not seem to offer better prospects either. In and the Foundation conducted a less classical, more flexible training programme for journalists, made up essentially of seminars, workshops and practical exercises, based on pre-identified needs of media institutions and journalists.


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The training programme for stressed the theories and practices of journalism on the one hand, and the social, political and economic factors that impinge on the practice of journalism in Cameroon, on the other. At the end of the Foundation noted that a significant number of those who had benefited from its training programme were not in a position to practise what they had learnt. Some of them were working for newspapers which had folded for financial reasons, while others were working for papers that were not published regularly.

To continue training people who could not practise was seen as wastage. Moreover, the Foundation felt that it had given the private press the basics for its journalists to be able to practise professionally. It was therefore decided to focus the training programme on specialised reporting and that effectively practising journalists of both the official and private media be targeted. It was also agreed that more emphasis be placed on practicalities actual exercises and practical experiences in the form of workshops each to last five days.

The following areas of specialisation were retained: politics, economics, social issues, environment, local politics and community issues, and global politics and economics.

Media Law and Ethics (LEA's Communication Series)

And given that most of those practising in the private press had had no other training opportunity, it was appropriate to see this improvement as one of the positive results of the training programmes. Many journalists interviewed were thankful to the Foundation for its [page-number of print ed. However, although it was evident that the Friedrich Ebert Foundation training programmes had done much to promote professional journalism, especially among private press journalists most of whom did not know even the basics prior to the following critical remarks could still be made: Notwithstanding the fact that most of the resource persons selected to train journalists were of excellent professional quality and remarkable pedagogic skills, the actual training, even in the specialisation programme, was insufficiently interactive and participatory.

There was a general tendency towards university-, highly academic-style lectures, with little attention to the level and context of participants. Hardly used were films, videos, newspapers and any other material that could facilitate learning and understanding. Yet one of the reasons why the Foundation initially decided to work together with these training schools was that their training facilities could be used for its own training programme. Throughout the two years of training journalists, the Foundation did not develop any standardised and tested instruments of evaluating success both in the short term and in the long run.

This made it difficult for any claims that the training programmes were successful to be substantiated objectively. It is evident that a significant number of participants were keen on the training programmes not so much out of enthusiasm to learn and master the canons of journalism as a profession, but because of the per diem , lodging and transportation offered by the Foundation. In a situation where journalists are not sure of their salaries and where such salaries even when they come are chicken feed, the attractive per diem offered by the Foundation to participants at its seminars was simply irresistible.

And many journalists did everything including outright dishonesty, e. It was not uncommon for journalists to pack and leave, or to go drinking during lectures, once their per diem had been paid. Although the Foundation devised means of addressing "the chase after per diem ," including paying by instalment, one is tempted to think that had the Foundation decided against the per diem altogether, hardly a journalist would have attended its seminars, their professional inadequacies notwithstanding.

Some resource persons could be accused of a similar attitude, when they appeared more interested in their honorarium and per diem than in honouring the terms of their contracts. Francophone Africa seems to have lagged behind in the opening of mass communication training schools. Today journalism training schools and departments of mass communication have mushroomed all over the region, especially with the easing of regulation of private initiative in this and other areas of national life in many a country.

Nigeria alone has more than 45 such institutes. Sierra Leone is a case in point where "the old British tradition that a journalist is born and not made has had a profound influence on the government media executives with regard to training in journalism. Up until now journalism training is not a priority in the education and training programme of the government. Nor is it perceived as an independent academic discipline of the University. In my own experience, I found that it was extremely difficult to convince the University of the need to add journalism studies to its curricula.

However, in October a break-through was made with the establishment of a journalism unit in the Department of English at Fourah Bay with staff recruited from Journalism Departments in Nigerian Universities. This unit is to be developed into a Department within a phased five-year development programme.

In most countries where these two systems co-exist, however, the school system has not been able to impose itself as the only one that can turn out qualified and competent professionals, since many renowned journalists have not been in any training school or centre. There is no consensus view in the region of who a journalist is. While some legal definitions tend to take for journalist any person who "on the basis of his intellectual faculties, his training and talents Cameroon, cf.

Sopecam, These differences notwithstanding, everyone seems agreed that training of some sort, formal or informal, is indispensable for good journalism. In the light of this objective, training of journalists in the process of newsmaking should focus not only on what makes a journalist but also on [page-number of print ed. Kunczik [ In other words, a good journalist must not be pedantic, intellectually rigid, erratic, socially indifferent or lacking in self-assurance. In West Africa, where governments have tended to stifle debate, participation and genuine democratic alternatives, the journalist needs to be "strong, courageous, socially engaged" and "willing to make sacrifices and able to stand conflicts," especially in the face of persistent government pressures to make of him a mouthpiece.

In the words of a veteran private press journalist, Jerome Gwellem, being a journalist in Africa is "too high a risk to take" and certainly not something for the "timid and chicken hearted," as it entails that the journalist "works with one leg in his office and another in prison. Also, the language used by journalists must be accessible to as many readers as possible so that content can be followed without difficulty.

The simple rule is that if one has something to say one must say it in the language of those whom one is addressing. The journalists must therefore learn to use language well. They must be made to understand that the strength of a good journalistic piece is the power or level of language. Many in West Africa today do not master the language, with the result that they present things which look like outright lies or at the very best half truths. They must also avoid the manipulation of language aimed at taking advantage of the readers.

There is also the need for West African journalists to understand that in a plural or heterogeneous society it is normal to have or expect other per- [page-number of print ed. As Kunczik [ He must always ask himself: Is my report fair? Journalists must also avoid scapegoatism - that is, giving the impression that there is an individual, a group ethnic, linguistic, religious, political, etc. In talking to them about ethics of the profession, the fact must be stressed that in reality these norms are extremely difficult to realise, if not impossible, and that they call for extra effort from the journalist on a day to day basis.

The training programmes must be tailored more and more towards the real as opposed to the imagined or the imposed needs of Cameroon as a developing country in search of basic freedoms and betterment for the majority of its peoples. For as Kunczik rightly maintains, "development journalism needs strong, courageous, socially engaged people willing to make sacrifices and able to stand conflicts, because development journalism is irreconcilable with servile government-say-so journalism.

The then technically improved journalism can be used to manipulate the population and for government propaganda. Any curriculum that aims at addressing ethical issues must strive to improve the intellectual skills of the students in order for [page-number of print ed. Such insistence would only weaken the professional dimension of the training programme.

Any training school should aim at preparing students to face difficult and ever changing political and economic situations "by equipping them with the proper skills to do their work with accuracy, initiative and loyalty. Conclusion In this paper we have discussed how the rise of multiparty politics and attempts at liberalisation of society in West Africa have resulted in an unprofessional and unethical journalism.

It is a shortcoming for which journalists, politicians and other pressure groups in society share the blame in one way or another. The call for a more responsible and professional approach to journalism has come not only from politicians and concerned segments of the public, but also from fellow journalists. Thanks to local initiatives supported by Western NGOs and institutions, journalists have created associations and unions and adopted ethical codes of conduct.

But this is far from solving the ethical crisis in African journa- [page-number of print ed. For a viable and meaningful ethic of journalism to come about in Africa, there is need for a conscious, conscientious effort that draws not only from the experiences and concerns of journalists and politicians, but also from those of the wider society, especially the silent majorities who are still in touch with the often marginalised mainstream cultures and values of Africa.

References Agbor Tabi, P. Alabi, N. FES: Accra. Amougou, A. Anyakora, G. Friedrich Ebert Foundation: Ghana. Arthur, A. Badu, K. Friedrich Ebert Foundation: Accra. Bahi, A. Bayart, J. Longman: London. Betts, P. October Blin, B. Boafo, S. MCRC: Budapest. Boh, H. Friedrich Ebert Foundation: Yaounde. Bouhafa, M. Boyomo, A. Butty, J. Chindji-Kouleu, F. As I have repeatedly told President Trump face to face, there are mounting signs that this incendiary rhetoric is encouraging threats and violence against journalists at home and abroad. Through 33 presidential administrations, across years, The New York Times has worked to serve the public by fulfilling the fundamental role of the free press.

To help people, regardless of their backgrounds or politics, understand their country and the world. To report independently, fairly and accurately. To ask hard questions. To pursue the truth wherever it leads. That will not change. The dossier memo was written by former British Intelligence head of the Russia desk, Christopher Steele and circulated in the months before and after the November election.

Privilege is one of three major defenses against libel suits. The other two are truth and fair comment. The doctrine of privilege allows unfettered news reporting of conflicting ideas or versions of events that may surface in trials, executive memos or congressional hearings. In many cases, courts have interpreted proceedings to be official whether or not they are open to the public.

Comments Off on Trump dossier libel suit dismissed. Some people are afraid of freedom of speech. Take the Dec. Actually, as it turns out, it already has been tested , and rather frequently in fact. Davis and Crawford are dead, but de Havilland, at age , is still very much alive.

The suit raises the interesting question of how much a living historical figure can control what is said about them. See: New York Times story March 3, Posted in Libel. When should the names of juveniles accused of murder be made public? Generally there are good reasons for keeping the names of juvenile offenders private, including a better chance for rehabilitation. But who has the duty to keep a name quiet? A newspaper? And would that be true for a teenager accused of murder, for which there is no chance of rehabilitation? Posted in Privacy. Until , the American legal principles governing libel and slander were completely out of sync with the free speech and free press guarantees of the First Amendment.

First, a defamatory statement at that time was presumed to be false. The plaintiff did not have to prove falsity. Second, it made no difference how much care the speaker exercised. If the statement was false, strict liability was imposed. Third, certain statements were presumed to cause harm. Even if a plaintiff presented no evidence of actual losses, a jury could award a large amount of damages based simply on the nastiness of the utterance and the extent of its circulation.