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Stockholm (Sweden) -- Is ethics possible in journalism?

On April 6 in the Atheneum University Residence in Stockholm a round table was held with various journalists from the national press and television, a professor from the school of journalism and the ombudsman or defender of the public against the press. The topic of the debate was: “Is ethics possible in journalism?”

The focus was on difficult situations that called for a choice between following the dictates of one’s conscience and professional “success.”

The need to place truthfulness and objectivity above providing of interesting and entertaining news was also stressed. At times the need to comment rapidly on unexpected news leads to a lack of care in checking one’s facts and to compromising the truth.

The intervention of the ombudsman stressed the need to respect people’s privacy and personal integrity. A good journalist, he said, has to respect the truth, exercise justice and show empathy.

The conclusion reached was that ethics is possible in journalism, although unfortunately transgressions are quite frequent. Another important point made was that in contemporary society the private sphere is steadily diminishing while the public sphere is expanding.

Following the debate, the public had an opportunity to ask questions. Afterwards refreshments were provided, allowing everyone to exchange impressions with the speakers in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Many of the participants drew the conclusion that, in the end, the public is responsible for what appears in the press. If people refuse to read a newspaper or watch a television program, they will soon disappear.

Romana, No. 42, January-June 2006, p. 125-126.

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