Social Media and Citizen Journalism-A A +A
By Art Tibaldo
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
LONG before the new social media entered the scene less than a decade ago, there were individuals, groups and circles among the academe and civil society that were deliberating on a form of citizen journalism with the end goal to be heard and equally recognized just like the mainstream media.
Other than the so-called tri-media composed of print, radio and television, there had been efforts to establish an alternative source of information and portal for interaction hence the concept of an in-house publication, community paper and cable-television came about.
Indeed, every citizen has the right to be heard and duty to inform on significant matters that may affect his or her community. This way, he or she can participate meaningfully in state affairs and contribute to the society where he or she belongs. It is a fact that journalists and news organizations make mistakes and courts offer aggrieved individual remedies but we all know that once a reputation is tarnished and an individual maligned, it is very difficult to correct what was earlier published.
According to Boston Lawyers Louis Brandeis and Samuel Warren, the press is overstepping in every direction the obvious bounds of propriety and decency and gossip is no longer the resource of the idle and vicious but has become a trade which is pursued with industry as well as effrontery.
A handbook on Media Law given to us by the United States Embassy discusses the new media, citizen journalists and bloggers. It says that the freewheeling world of the blogosphere seem like the last bastion of true free speech. Accordingly, one does not need a lot of money, an expensive printing press or a transmitter tower. Anybody with access to a computer, a modem and a little software can share his thoughts with the world through weblog or blog. The paper states that the US congress and courts have struggle to balance free speech on the internet against competing interests like national security, copyright protection and the right to reputation. In its 1997 landmark decision, the US Supreme Court extended to communications on the World Wide Web the same First Amendment protections covering newspapers or other print media. Accordingly, cyberspace is neither a scarce expressive commodity like the broadcast spectrum used by radio and television broadcasters, nor an invasive one that enters an individual’s home or appears on one’s computer screen unhidden.
Though things may be different in our case with the issuance of a temporary restraining order against the Cybercrime Prevention Law of the Philippines by the Supreme Court, I still think that the Philippine Journalists Code of Ethics is still the best resource for guideline especially when blogging, commenting and even uploading anything in cyberspace. The eleven point code formulated by the Philippine Pres Institute (PPI) goes; (1) I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts or to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. I recognize the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly; (2) I shall not violate confidential information or material given me in the exercise of my calling; (3) I shall resort only to fair and honest methods in my effort to obtain news, photographs and/or documents, and shall properly identify myself as a representative of the press when obtaining any personal interview intended for publication;
(4) I shall refrain from writing reports which will adversely affect a private reputation unless the public interest justifies it. At the same time, I shall fight vigorously for public access to information; (5) I shall not let personal motives or interests influence me in the performance of my duties; nor shall I accept or offer any present, gift or other consideration of a nature which may cast doubt on my professional integrity; (6) I shall not commit any act of plagiarism; (7) I shall not in any manner ridicule, cast aspersions on, or degrade any person by reason of sex, creed, religious belief, political conviction, cultural and ethnic origin; (8) I shall presume persons accused of crime of being innocent until proven otherwise. I shall exercise caution in publishing names of minors and women involved in criminal cases so that they may not unjustly lose their standing in society; (9) I shall not take unfair advantage of fellow journalists; (10) I shall accept only such tasks as are compatible with the integrity and dignity of my profession, invoking the ‘conscience clause’ when duties imposed on me conflict with the voice of my conscience and (11) I shall comport myself in public or while performing my duties as journalist in such manner as to maintain the dignity of my profession. When in doubt, decency should be my watch word.
One of the most notable of the cybercrimes that I have encountered so far is about plagiarism and the best quote that I can think of is that by Sir Winston Churchill which goes “Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say whatever they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.’
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 15, 2013.