Unethical journalists must be reprimanded

By Sonia Khudanpur

The media that is considered to be the fourth pillar of democracy has off late been held up for violating its ethics. The media includes print, broadcast media, radio, television and internet. The media’s responsibility, especially the news media’s, is to disseminate information to the public in a transparent and objective manner. It is also expected to act as a watchdog that checks the actions of the government and the corporate houses.

The recent scandal involving Niira Radia, politicians, bureaucrats and media personalities, clearly shows the extent to which ethics in the professional field have been ignored and violated. The recorded tapes have her conversing with important people from the government, bureaucrats and journalists like Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi. Radia along with the help of all her associates has been allegedly accused of deciding cabinet portfolios and being involved in the allocation of the 2G spectrum licences.

This scam calls for a huge debate on professional ethics. The journalists named in the scam have been directly indicted of taking instructions from Radia and violating the fundamental ethics of journalism. Ethics has everything to do with the conscience of a person. A person can be punished for going against the law of the land, but cannot be punished for being unethical.

The two main journalists identified in the tapes were Barkha Dutt of NDTV, Vir Sanghvi of Hindustan Times. Other journalists like Prabhu Chawla, G. Ganapathy Subramaniam and M.K. Venu also had conversations with Radia. In the conversations between Vir Sanghvi and Niira Radia, Radia thanks him for writing the controversial column in Hindustan Times, making it clear that Sanghvi had indeed done as Radia had asked him to. In one of the conversations, Sanghvi says, “I was supposed to meet Sonia today … I’ve been meeting with Rahul … I won’t get into Sonia in the short term, let me try and get through to Ahmed.” There are also instances, wherein Sanghvi discusses the portfolio issue between Alaghiri and Maran and agrees to get in touch with Ahmed. He openly discusses the allotment of portfolios and the Congress-DMK tussle over them. His conversations with Radia don’t seem to be purely journalistic, but point to some other motive. Even Barkha Dutt’s conversations with Radia seem blasphemous and leave not a bit of doubt about her involvement with the lobbyist Radia in the 2G scam and the cabinet berth issue. In the tapes, she keeps offering solutions to the problems that Radia discusses with her and asks for her next set of instructions. For example, in one of their many conversations Barkha Dutt says, “Oh God. So now what? What should I tell them? Tell me what should I tell them?” This shows that her behaviour here is not that of a good journalist.

It is imperative that the wrongdoings of such journalists be exposed. They must be held equally responsible in the issue and should not be let off easily. If unethical practices like this one are ignored, more journalists will be encouraged to behave in the same manner. As far as the corruption in the government and corporate sector is concerned, not much can be done, unless stern action is taken against them. The bitter truth is that in this country white-collar crimes are not considered to be high-priority, like terrorism and are shaken off and forgotten like another act of corruption. Unethical practices at the work place leads to crimes and scams. Such practices should not be ignored and must be dealt with seriously. Only then can the problem of growing corruption in this country be resolved.

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