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Journalism Notes

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2012

Ethics of Journalism and Freedom of the Press

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The CSS Point 6/22/2012

Introduction Freedom of the press - where to draw the line? By Michael Kunczik o o

Preface Problems of ethics in journalism  1. Historical background and starting points for a discussion on ethics  2. Journalistic ethics: Individualistic aspects  3. Codes of ethics  4. Systematic aspects of a journalistic ethic and the public ethic  5. Further aspects of the discussion on a journalistic ethic  6. Outlook List of questions Literature

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Introduction: Freedom of the press - where to draw the line? Ethics (the term comes from the Greek word ethos: custom or practice) is that branch of philosophy whose purpose is to describe moral sentiment, as well as to establish norms for good and fair behaviour. In the context of journalism, this is a question about what is good and what is right journalistically. In the search for answers to these questions, my assumption is that democracy, though afflicted with many weaknesses, is nevertheless the best form of government. A functioning democracy is founded on a communications sector that functions adequately and allows informed public opinion to develop freely. This is why, in a democracy, journalists have a special political purpose and responsibility. Democracy is, above all, a culture of dialogue, in which the opinions of dissenters are respected. For example, the highest German court (the constitutional court, the "Bundesverfassungsgericht") holds that freedom of the press and freedom of speech are the essential elements of a democratic state, because only the continuous struggle between opinions and constant intellectual debate will safeguard democracy. It is not surprising that coups d'état which crushed democratic societies prioritised destruction of free media. So do totalitarian regimes, often using extreme...