Why Is Privacy Probably One Of The Most Difficult Ethical Area For Journalists To Define?

2519 words - 10 pages

Why is privacy probably the most important and difficult ethical area for journalists to define?Ethical principals are hard to define because moral judgements are essentially the decision of each individual. Broadly defined ethical codes may be useful to some journalists but responsibility falls on personal conscience.Also, Frost tells us:"There are too many variables around the circumstances of each invasion of privacy to allow for hard-and-fast rules."There is little dispute that the ethical issue of privacy is at the forefront of media debate in Britain."It [privacy] is certainly the issue that has underlined all the major debates on the press in the last ten years or so."Firstly, let me look at what privacy actually means. It is accepted that privacy is a definitive right, but unfortunately, the concept of a 'right' is a not a simple one and is not an absolute standard. Also, it is easy ignore the separation between legal rights and natural or moral rights.Reiss offers a simple explanation of what privacy is:"Every human being and organisation requires a workable level of privacy, defined as 'those places, spaces and matters upon or into which others may not normally intrude without the consent of the person or organisation to whom they are designated to belong.'"Much of the privacy debate surrounds statements in the European Convention on Human Rights which, in itself, has contrasting arguments in Article 8 - the right to privacy - and Article 10 - the right to free speech. These sections are often seen as contradicting one another and this has sparked disputes over which is of paramount importance.Article 8 of the Convention states:"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence."It goes on to say that this right shall not be interfered with, except "in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."However, Article 10 gives another cause for breach of privacy:"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression."This means that journalists are allowed to express opinions on other people's lives. This includes reporting on the private lives of public figures.A high value is given to freedom of expression, which covers political, commercial and other speech as well as writing in all media.A line has to be drawn between the public's right to information and a person's right to privacy. An infringement of privacy has to be justified by:"An overriding public interest in disclosure of the information. This would include revealing or detecting crime or disreputable behaviour, protecting public health or safety, exposing misleading claims made by individuals or organisations, or disclosing significant incompetence in public office."The much-debated issue of invasion of privacy by the media has, for many years,...

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