Ethics is a norm or rule that is used as a guide in behaving in society and it is related to the good and bad qualities. As Louis A. Day (Ethics in Media Communications) writes that ethics reflects a society’s notion about the rightness and wrongness and the distinctions between virtue and vice. In visual journalism, ethics is important since media plays an important role to influence people, including shapes public opinion. The effect of media can be good, but also it can be dangerous. Harming readers by giving false information or inaccurate news is an example of bad influences that media might have. Therefore, ethics is needed to ensure that news is covered and delivered in the right way or it does not deceive readers or news sources. It can be said that ethics control photojournalist’s procedures in digging information, collecting data, reporting, and publishing the news.
In 2017, there were five people became victims to a bomb blast near to Kampung Melayu Bus Sation in East Jakarta. The bomb blast location was only one kilometer from my house. As soon as I heard an explosion, I immediately went to the location. At that time, I saw victims covered in blood and people were crowding to see what happened. Police, anti-terror, bomb disposal, and ambulances, were not even there yet. When I started to raise my camera to make the breaking news, I doubt myself. I was asking myself: why do I have to photograph the victims instead of helping them, is it worth to do the photography in this situation, will these images do some good for others, will the images of the dead bodies be published in my media where I work. My intention to become the first to feature on a breaking news program was dealing with an awareness that I might give more sufferings to the victims.
A call from my editor who was asking me to immediately send the pictures from the field then made me continue my work. Besides that, I thought in uncertainty circumstance in terrorist attack, anyone can be a victim including me. So, I decided to let the evacuation process be done by someone skilled. This experience made me realize that photographers often face ethical challenges especially in the rush to publish photographs for breaking news.
Reading SJP Code of Ethics, it is written that the first ethical journalism to be accurate and fair. “Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.” The dilemma that bothered me in terrorism attack helped me to work ethically, including trying not in a hurry to publish raw images I got from the field. To make sure I reported the occurrence accurately, I interviewed the witnesses trying to find complete, clear, and balanced information from the explosion.
— Denty Piawai Nastitie —
A Journalist based in Jakarta, Indonesia
Student of Diploma in Visual Journalism — The Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University.