Balanced journalism – a hoax? At a recent visit to a friend of mine in Dresden, Germany, I encountered the PEGIDA movement on the streets and that got me thinking about journalism and bias. One slogan especially caught my attention; it seemed to be repeated at every demonstration: “Lügenpresse.” As curious as I was, trying to understand what brings so many people to the streets in Germany, a quick Google search enlightened me that it is literally translated to “lie media.” While I certainly do not agree with most of PEGIDA’s goals and values, I thought they might have a point with this argument. Is media really infested with lies? Are PEGIDA’s accusations against the media valid? I found that allegations against the media’s objectivity have become more and more sound among not only the German population, but also the world.
For the last month, I could not let go of this topic, so I conducted some research on the foibles of journalism throughout the world. I have found that journalism varies greatly in different regions; over the next three weeks, I will be publishing my findings and opinions in subsequent posts, so stay tuned. I’d be lying if my research hasn’t altered my view on media as a whole.
What and who can we still trust? Should we lose our faith in the media altogether? Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments below after reading the post…
Why begin with Muslim countries, you might think. Well, I thought it would be a good idea to start with a different viewpoint. Countries with a predominantly Muslim population tend to exhibit a less equilibrated media than Western countries. This is not to say that Western journalism has no bias; on the contrary, Rupert Murdoch, is, as the Huffington Post so fittingly puts it, “The Man Who Owns the News” (The Huffington Post) (more of that in part 2 of this post). In fact, it is rather the case that Muslim journalists envy Western journalism for its professionalism, as media analysis studies by Lawrence Pintak have found.
There is a pattern in Islam journalism that I found quite interesting: Muslim media is strongly linked to the underlying religion itself. While many Western countries strive to achieve a clear distinction between state and religion (and likewise media and religion), Muslim journalists use their religious ideals (most importantly truth, independence, and justice) as guidance in their career. These are noble values, and I think Western journalists can still learn a thing or two from this example, since they still sometimes do a poor job at following these values.
Freedom of Speech vs. Respect
In my opinion, the discrepancy between freedom of speech and respect, and specifically the failure of adhering to the latter is a major deficit in Western journalism. Western media is often insensitive and disrespectful when it comes to controversial topics. One sentence especially stuck in my head from Pintak’s study: “From an Islamic viewpoint, freedom of speech is not an absolute right without limitations; rather it is modified by certain limits realized within the framework of the concept of justice” (Pintak). This is applicable to different types of news topics; whether it may be unnecessary gossip or racist caricatures. After all, I agree with the Muslim journalists who said “a journalist must balance the need to inform with the need to show respect” (Pintak). Do you agree too?
Check out the other two parts of this series and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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