Global Media Ethics
- Stephen J. A. WardStephen J. A. WardDistinguished Lecturer in Ethics, University of British Columbia
Global media ethics is the study and application of the norms that should guide the responsible use of informational public media that is now global in content, reach, and impact. Its aim is to define responsible use of the freedom to publish for journalism, online commentary, political advocacy, and social media. Global media ethics proposes aims, principles, and norms for global media work, and pays special attention to coverage of global issues such as climate change, immigration, and terrorism. The primary principles tend to stress media protection and advancement of human rights, human development, and global social justice. However, “global media ethics” does not refer to something clear, singular, or established. There is no one code of global media ethics. Global media ethics is a work in progress, a contested zone where globalists advance rival ideas, while skeptics dismiss global ethics as a dream that can never be realized.
Among the conceptual challenges of constructing a global media ethics is the issue of whether universal values exist in media practice around the world, how an appeal to global values can avoid cultural imperialism, such as imposing Western values on non-Western cultures, and to what extent media practitioners can find common ethical ground. Much theorizing in the field of global media ethics discusses forms of cross-border ethical dialogue that are likely to produce fair and inclusive agreement on principles among practitioners. Ultimately, the main questions for global media ethics are: (1) How should the aims and roles of journalism and informational media be redefined given the fact that media is now global? (2) What are the principles for global media and how do they apply to nonprofessional online writers? (3) How does global media ethics alter existing practice, especially the coverage of global issues? And (4) By what methods would such an ethic be constructed, endorsed, and implemented in practice?