Deception is a path taken by many journalists in order to uncover a story. According to Lee (2005), deception means lying to deceive, mislead, misrepresent one’s own words or actions. Though there is no clear answer to whether journalism is unprofessional ethically wrong; it will however be discussed in the essay that it is an unavoidable part in journalism as according to Wilkins (2008), at least one out of four conversations contain some form of deception.
Charles and Elliott (1992) explain that there are three forms of deception. The first form of deception is the investigative deception. This involves looking into a situation or getting information by using means such as the use of hidden cameras or not revealing one’s own identity. The second form of deception is the interrogative form in which involves misrepresenting motives by flattering a source or showing empathy towards a person to get more information. The third stage is known as the testimonial, which revolves around how the story is presented. The story can involve false attribution and mislead the reader in order to protect the source of information and the journalist’s reputation.
Besides these three, deception can take many other forms as well. The most common according to Braun (1988, p.77-83) involves the manipulation of photographs which appears to depict falsely and mislead the viewer to believing something else. The unethical and deceptive use of hidden cameras has also caused charges and arrests of many media industries. Such was the case of ABC TV, as Richard (2005) talk about how ABC charged a food chain with deliberately selling spoiled food by placing hidden cameras in Food Lion’s factory and showing evidence of it. ABC came under disgrace when it was found by a jury of 12 Carolinians found that they got the story by fraud, and in essence that it had violated the standards by which decent people live and work. Sensationalism, according to Iggers (1999), can also lead to deception in news as it can cause the leader to be misled by exaggerations of the actual news.
A major case of deception that took place in Malaysia was of Mongolian model Altantuya Sharibuu, whose body was blown up to pieces on October 16th 2006. Though, according to Dubus (2009) the two prosecutors Chief Inspector Azilah and Corporal Sirul, revealed details of her murder to the police, the report was only released 3 years later. Before that report, according to Bernama (2009) both prosecutors were blaming one another and not admitting that they were involved in the murder, despite claiming so in Malaysian police reports. The reason this report was not released was to protect the reputation of then, deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Najib Tun Razak for having links to her murder. C4 explosives were used and according to The Malaysian Bar (2010), they are only obtainable from the Defense Ministry. Najib Tun Razak had also sent SMSes and phone calls prior to, and after the murder of Altantuya. Pictures were also published of Altantuya having lunch with Najib. But this was all covered up when changes were made to members of prosecuting team and the judge council, until recently when the police report in Bermana (2009) published the actuality of events and how Malaysian public was deceived by their own media.
In order to publish the news ethically, Malaysian journalists need to follow the SPJ code of ethics (2010) in testing the accuracy of information from all sources to avoid inadvertent error. And never distort the content of news photos or video image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Test the accuracy of information from all sources to avoid inadvertent error. According to the NUJ, journalists should balance a criminal suspect’s fair trial rights with the public’s right to be informed. Malaysia’s Canons of Journalism (2010) strives to ensure that...