As with other professions, journalism is guided by a set of values under their code of ethics such as commitment to professionalism, separation of news and opinion, a concern for accuracy and the ideals of objectivity. Media practitioners are also subject to specific legislation covering their various areas of work. The digital revolution has added new dimensions to issues with regard to media ethics and legislation as conventional journalists increasingly share the public domain with “citizen journalists’, bloggers and tweeters. Traditional rules may not apply anymore or lines are blurred between what is ethical or not, what is legal or illegal, due to the changing media and social landscapes.
As an effort to help update local media practitioners on such concerns, Angkatan Zaman Mansang Sarawak (AZAM Sarawak) in collaboration with the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) Sarawak Branch will be organising a workshop Media Law and Ethics on 14 August in Kuching.
The half day workshop will be conducted by Dr. Venkat Iyer, a barrister and academic attached to the School of Law of the University of Ulster where he teaches constitutional law, media law, and business law. A former Nuffield Press Fellow at Cambridge University, Dr Iyer has lectured in a number of countries including the United States, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Iran, Ukraine, Bahrain, Kuwait, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and India, and has acted as a consultant to a number of governments, private corporations, and non-governmental organisations. Dr Iyer runs training courses on media law and ethics for newspapers and media organisations around the world. He is the author of a number of books and articles, and the editor of The Commonwealth Lawyer and The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, both published from London. In 2008 the British Government appointed Dr Iyer to the position of Law Commissioner for Northern Ireland, a position he held until May 2015.
On media law updates, the workshop will cover topics such as Defamation, Contempt of Court, and Hate Speech. On media ethics updates, the workshop will cover topics such as truth/accuracy in reporting, keeping news and comment separate, avoiding ‘paid news’, dealing with grief and shock in reportage, avoiding ‘chequebook journalism’, and pros and cons of self-regulation.
About 25 local editors and reporters are expected to participate in the half-day workshop.
The chairman of the CJA Sarawak Branch, Alice Wee hopes that the local media will take this opportunity to update their knowledge and understanding of the law and ethics with regard to journalism practices especially in this current era of more sophisticated and discerning audience and stakeholders.
The Commonwealth Journalists Association is a voluntary professional association for working journalists throughout the Commonwealth, comprising 53 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, North and South America, and the Pacific. Since the formation of the CJA Sarawak in 2003, the association has essentially emphasized on training to help upgrade the standard of journalism in the state.
AZAM Sarawak is an NGO that promotes development communication to facilitate the development process in the state, targeting mainly grassroots communities. The media are among AZAM’s important partners in its efforts to promote development consciousness and participation among the people of Sarawak. AZAM’s work with the local media dates back to the 1980s mainly in the form of journalism training.