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Reflections on the “Ethics in Digital Broadcasting Conference: Do No Harm!”

February 23, 2015

Windhoek, Namibia

February 9-10, 2015

When I was invited to speak at the Ethics in Digital Broadcasting Conference in Windhoek, Namibia I gladly accepted.

The conference was co-sponsored by the Southern African Broadcasting Association (SABA) and the African Center of Excellence for Information Ethics (ACEIE).

SABA1

Professor Fackson Banda, UNESCO

I have worked with the SABA member Namibian Broadcasting Association (NBC) in the past so I was excited to share knowledge with them and learn from them.

I was taking notes because all the points made by the speakers were excellent.

Professor Fackson Banda of UNESCO talked about the need for fair communications.

“Information plays a key role in us understanding each other,” he said. “It is important that our communications be ethical.”

Mr. Albertus Achoamab, the President of SABA and the Director General of NBC followed Professor Banda. He said we must all ask ourselves four questions before we write.

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Albertus Achoamab, President, SABA; Director General, NBC

“First, is what I’m saying factually correct? Second, is it fair” to the person you are writing about? “Third, Will it build good will and better friendships? And, finally, will it be beneficial to all concerned.”

I find that a fascinating concept but I’m not sure it would be feasible in all cases. Especially when you are reporting on government officials, business leaders or those accused of criminal activity.

Even if those stories are factually correct, they may not think the reporting about their activity is fair.

Social Media and Journalism

That brings up a point that I was asked to address: how do you balance the needs of social media with the ethics of journalism?

There are rules regarding slander and libel that say you can’t knowingly publish information that you know to be false. If you do, the aggrieved party can take you to court.

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NABJ President Bob Butler with Namibia Minister of Information Communication Joel Kaapanda

The Honorable Joel Kaapanda, Namibia’s Minister of Information and Communication, said the lack of social media policies in his country is a real problem.

“The misuse of social media is the result of no social media guidelines. I have people calling and coming to my office almost every day complaining that someone has published false information about them on social media,” he said.

He expressed the hope that SABA and the other stakeholders at this conference help develop those guidelines.

The African Center for Excellence for Information Ethics at the University of Pretoria made valuable contributions by discussing tools you can use to help you make ethical decisions.

Mrs. Erin Klazar showed participants how they teach their students about information ethics.

Mrs. Rachel Fisher and went to great lengths to explain how to consider your motivation, the opportunities versus the risks, the vortex and the effects (MOVE) before you make a decision.

They also explained the RISE principles you should follow to guide your actions while online.

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Mr. Coetzee Bester, Director, African Center of Excellence for Information Ethics

Center Director Coetzee Bester says all these principles are necessary for citizens to be well-informed.

“It is important that we have safe access to information and access to safe information,” he said.

Following the panel discussions and presentations we broke into small groups for intimate discussions about how to make ethical decisions in news writing and photography and further delve into the MOVE and RISE principles.

There are many people who deserve thanks for this important conference.

But none of it would happened but the the leadership of SABA secretary-general Ellen Nanuses, ACEIE’s Rachel Fischer. They and all the speakers and participants made this a valuable educational experience.

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