The ethics of journalism – between rhetoric and reality

By Mufid Abdulla:

For a long time in the south of Kurdistan attention has been focused on how journalism operates. The grassroots want the truth and the two ruling parties want to hide the truth. In recent times, two brave journalists have been murdered and dozens beaten.

However, there is also a battle within journalism: between those who want to deliver the truth to the people and those who undermine the hard work of real journalism, basically by living from piracy and plagiarism. But we should all know our duties – to ourselves and to our nation. We need to be passionate and genuine about following an ethical code of journalism.

Many years ago, the Irish nationalist and poet W B Yeats was aware of similar problems, during his early days working as a journalist and fighting the corruption he saw afflicting his profession. To one of his close friends, Katherine Tynan, he said in 1888: “I hate journalists, there is nothing in them but tittering, jeering emptiness”. (1)

Last Saturday 10th September, The Kurdistan Tribune published an article written by Michael Rubin, a popular regular columnist, entitled ‘To fight corruption, Barzani needs to clean house‘. It was a most interesting article about transparency and the Barzani family and the possible ownership of a mansion in Virginia. Soon after it was published, the most prominent local Kurdish newspaper printed the story but with a distorted version of the content and without any reference or link to our website. Their editor-in-chief hasn’t given us any apology although he has since removed the article from his website.  A prominent Gorran MP took the content of the article and sent it to another newspaper as though it were his own statement without any reference or link to our website. At the same time it was also roughly re-published by a well-known newspaper in Sulaymani with content inaccuracies. Another notorious website put the story on its home page but with a wrongly-translated headline.

We must be honest that we have a problem with the practice of journalism in the south of Kurdistan: some journalists do not understand the true meaning of journalism. We have an ethical crisis and need an ethical code.

After these incidents, I now realise that the media in the south of Kurdistan needs reform. These writers and editors should come forward and issue a statement on such incidents: otherwise the people of Kurdistan can no longer trust their news.

(1) Dwan D (2008) “The Great Community, Culture and Nationalism in Ireland”, FIELD Da , Ireland, Page 169

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