Media Ethics 101 | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 03, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 03, 2016

striking a chord

Media Ethics 101

Last week, a private channel reported on a small group of young students, apparently holders of the GPA 5 title. They were asked questions to which they gave hilarious answers, developed from the far corners of their imaginative minds! The intention of the reporter was to prove to the world the huge gaps and fissures created in the education system of Bangladesh – how despite random young people being awarded the A+ and the GPA 5, they are simply not smart enough to function in this world. 

However, the report was not done in good taste. To many, the report seemed to be just another sensational victim-shaming news piece, where the identity of the kids was disclosed, going against the general ethics of journalism. Unfortunately, the news report, where a group of teens was humiliated and 'bullied,' is being shared online and just about anybody will have access to the video for the rest of their lives.

According to the code of ethics, children and underage individuals are to be dealt with sensitivity when it comes to journalistic reports. According to the BBC's editorial guidelines advise, there are some important provisions of the law a journalist needs to be aware of. If you are reporting on juvenile cases, without prior permission and proper explanation of what the report is going to be about, a journalist must not publish names, address, names of schools, disclose the face of the juvenile through videos or photographs.

According to SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) code of ethics, 'harm' should be minimised with regards to working with children or underage individuals, so that their future is secured. Where ethical journalism requires the reporter to treat sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings who deserve respect, the journalist is expected to work harder when it comes to reporting on juveniles and also to make sure that his/her identity if not comprised in any way. "Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent" mentions the code of ethics – easily available online.

No journalist has any right to humiliate children, teenagers or underage young people by sitting them down and asking general knowledge questions. It indeed is sad that the children could not answer the simplest of simple questions and some even gave outrageous answers. But it's a wonder how these kids agreed to the Q&A session. Were they informed of the actual intention of the journalist? I for one cannot help but believe that the young individuals who were highlighted in the video were given a different idea all together regarding the interview which they seemed prepared for. Also, there are reasons to believe that the journalist probably left out of the report the majority of the young people who actually answered correctly, thus having the report turn out to be a victim-shaming sensation. Indeed, the report was shared to tens of thousands of times (and more). In addition, memes, showcasing the faces of these kids are now going around on social media. What a wonderful way to tackle the education problem in the country – humiliate kids! This is no less than bullying young ones.

A proper report would have blurred the faces of the kids, attacked the actual system running in the country, questioned school teachers and authorities from the education ministry. After all, this GPA 5 showdown every year does raise questions about the quality of the ever-deteriorating education system in the country.

Clearly, the over all education system needs to change in the country – where-upon children will be able to grow up as global citizens. Let's talk about this, instead of getting a bunch of kids together, exposing their identities and then humiliating them on national TV.

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