Journalism and the law

Journalism is the art of collecting information from different sources, which may involve happening events or events that have actually happened. It involves analyzing the information, editing and proofreading the information for publication. Acquiring information can be very tricky as well as tiresome and in most cases as a journalist, you might get the wrong information or rather unreliable sources and thus the need for analysis.

Sources of information

There are many sources of information for journalists, some of these sources being anonymous in which case the identity of the person providing information to the journalist is unknown. In such cases, it is up to the journalist to investigate further into the claims from the source if the information has facts. However, this is not always case, and thus it becomes a challenge to the journalist who has no idea if the information given regarding some event or issue is true or false.

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Such information is helpful to a journalist if there is some supporting evidence either from the source or from investigation and research by the journalist. Having something to write is not always enough, but having the right information, that is not containing incorrect information. Having anonymous sources to some people means that, the reporters are lazy and probably do not want really to find out the correctness of the information from the sources.

According to research done on the use of anonymous sources, it shows that most journalists use anonymous sources due to competition and having a story to these journalists is having what any other journalist has. The only way of achieving this is by using anonymous sources; however, this kind of trust is not always reliable as it can lead to loss of credibility of the writer or the publication.

This results to numerous cases of incorrect information published, which is from unknown sources. The Simpson’s case of murder trial is a good example of a controversial report given which was basing the verdict on unnamed sources.

Reporter Tracie Savage represented the case to the viewers as having DNA match of blood samples found on a sock in Simpson’s bedroom with the blood of his former wife. The source of information was an unnamed source and days later, the reporter admitted that the information was not correct. However much an anonymous source can be, a source of information we need might not be accurate or correct.

Sometime a journalist may encounter very uncooperative sources of information because, data gathering is a tedious task; for example, on an interview some people do not agree to on tape recordings. This is due to mistrust, or not wanting to embarrass himself or herself. In such cases, the reporters have to report and this often appears in broadcasts. Therefore, the journalist has to report something on a given story even if not from direct quotation of the person.

Another source of information for the journalists is off-record material that may include privacy of information. Even though this is supposed to be private information about a given fact, having an off –record material sometimes uncovers hidden material. Bringing such information to light some people will come up and give the complete information about a certain event. Off-record sources are sometimes not a sure way of getting information and sometimes those concerned in the office refuse to take in any kind of information given from these sources.

While the above hindrances faces journalists in information acquisition, one of the major blows is the law pertaining to it and the policies and rules put into place regarding the media and publication give limits. Even though the law gives the right to information, it also clearly limits the amount of information given. As stipulated in law, the government may at times limit the amount of information given to the public if it relates to matters of national security, public health or personal freedoms.

This rule limits information flow to the public, since journalists end up withholding information from the public. According to Jordan times, power for the officials to prevent transfer of information is greater than the law and as per the study that was carried out by the Arab Archives indicated that many governments deprive citizens the right to basic information and this is by creating barriers on the information flow.

Officials limiting the time that the information is required put barriers, sometimes this means the public might get outdated information that might be irrelevant. However, the same information could have been quite useful if given to the public at the right time.

The information about the death of an ITN journalist Terry Lloyd is an example, the military is holding information concerning his death, this leads to ambiguities in the information path making it hard to know the causes of death. In this case the journalists only have a one sided report, which is the death of the journalist but the cause of death remains withheld information.

Challenges

Research done on journalists revealed that 58.8% of pressure comes from withholding information. While getting information may be a task to a journalist, withholding of the acquired information may be demeaning to a journalist. Sometime journalists having a story, reveal their sources of information to the government, which may be against the agreement with the source of information. In such cases, the source of information given to the authorities gets them arrested by police or demoted from positions previously held.

Michael Andrew, a veteran commander with a police department in Baltimore, had issued a memorandum expressing his concerns on handling of an event that had resulted to dashing of an aged man if it was of consideration. However, after receiving no response from the police department, he decided to go to the Baltimore sun and provided the same memorandum to a reporter. After the publishing of the article regarding the shooting, his seniors removed him from his command and gave him a job of low responsibility.

Journalism has a long history and dates form the old days. Many Media changes have occurred in the 20th century and most of the laws were getting tough thus limiting journalism; it is also the time when different forms of technologies were been developed to dispatch knowledge.

Even though limitations to information are sometime essential, the right of citizens to know everything that is happening is also vital. Some laws have limited the public from even the most vital and basic information denying them of their rights. This is clear indication that this too much information is not necessary. Therefore, it is important for the media to avoid information that might cause fear or a threat to public.

A consensus between the lawmakers and the media should be able to revise some of the specifications that are in place. The government officials should loosen up on their rules; however, journalists must also uphold a high level of professionalism in their work. This will ensure that correct and constructive information dispatch to the members of the public with accuracy, thus, the information will be reliable.

While it is important for the officials to have someone responsible for events that have happened, having the media disclose their sources is not just, unless it is a matter of national security. More so, regulations are important as information is also necessary for growth and democracy and this is only possible if the journalist has a voice and can give information freely.

First amendments

In regarding the transfer of basic information therefore, the United States of America constitution has the amendments regarding the basic rights, which include freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

Hate speech/advocacy

While speech is a right, there is a law that does not allow for hatred in speech. Hate speech may involve any act or gesture or conduct in writing or in display, which may prompt biasness or violent action against a person or a group of people. It may also involve any kind of intimidation towards a person or a group. Advocacy on the other hand refers to the support of a certain idea or policy and mostly with a hidden motive, which could be disastrous to the rest of the people.

Under the defamation clause, it is illegal for anyone to give a statement publicly which is false and that harms the reputation of another person. These expressions can be either written or spoken. The judiciary system recognizes this as the words expressed to a person that could hurt them thus making them unable to earn a living. Defamation fact is usually hard to express as it involves an allegation of a fact, which is actually false, however expression of an opinion is not defamation.

The challenge in a defamation case is always to differentiate between how the one represents himself/ herself, or the depth of the hatred in the speech. There is need to work out a better definition of a hate speech. This will help solve many cases of Hate speech that will otherwise be hard to determine.

Public forums

While the law restricts on what is to be termed as a public place, there is freedom of expressing viewpoints in public places and the base of such a grant depends on the content of the speech. Public forums are restricted to taking place in some places like public schools and military bases.

In the first amendment, the law is unclear on the specifications on the rules governing a public forum. While a majority may use a public forum to represent a point of view, it is important for the law to stipulate the circumstances under which this is possible. Clear guidelines on public forums should through further amendments form an important component.

The public forum law involves restrictions relating to the way of conduct in a public place. For example, in Columbia, a court struck a law that was prohibiting the display of any sign within a radius of 500 feet distance to a foreign embassy. This rule came into account due to the public wanting to bring the foreign government into a “public pulpit”.

The law also conditioned that, it was unlawful for three or more people to congregate within the 500 feet distance. This rule was a limitation to the right to speech and expression; however, it was an exception as observing the right would disturb the peace and security of the embassy. This is an example of an exception from the right to a public forum.

Symbolic speech

This is a term, which describes actions that covey a certain message, or statement to those observing. Under the first amendment, deems symbolic speech as a form of speech and thus it needs protection. .Since most forms of protest and expression were verbal or written, it was not included in the bill of rights. Another form off symbolic representation is by wearing some type of colors that are symbolic of specific identities.

A good example is wearing of an armband that has a symbol that is prohibited in the past by law. Some symbols and art that are included in this category will include drawings, painting, motion pictures, dramatic works, radio music, poetry and television entertainment, and engravings.

The above forms of speech lack clear-cut definitions from the first amendments; however, they are important elements of speech and expressions. Whilst spoken and written means of communication are the most used, it is important to recognize these forms of communication.

When a view is not appealing to a given public, a protest serves as a way to express disappointment in the issue and this is because in protest, the method mostly used is visual. As recognition of these forms of communication, it becomes crucial for the public to have a defined law governing the way other forms of expression are used. There are many exceptions to the first amendment, which the courts recognize.

The justification of these exceptions is an act that may cause harm to the public or if it is to protect cultures or tradition; his is because the significance of freedom of speech at times conflicts with very significant parts of our culture. The non-recognition of the non-verbal or spoken ways of expression in the bill of rights limits the way expressing views as well as opinions.

Conclusion

In every form of government, the rules are always to protect the government as an entity. The rights to speech and information are important to every citizen. Through these rights the citizen are able to give their views on different issues affecting them.

The media a source of knowledge, and aims at giving out information to the citizens and through an efficient flow of information, views raised by the public are addressed using different manners of expressions. The officials take up the issues and act up them. On the other hand, Journalists follow up on citizens’ activities as well as the governments and serves as a mediator between the two entities.

Information by a journalist flows from different sources and through media protection; the law protects all sources of the information. It is a point of note that publishing of incorrect or inaccurate information by journalists should leads to loss of credibility of the source and the media house, that investigated, and well-founded information dispatched is healthy to the public.

While competition is a major factor to consider, having the correct details about a given story is more important in the field of journalism and that having wrong information may do more bad than good. Information is supposed to enlighten and give us the direction that we are following and because of this, the rights to express views and information sourced out consequently becomes of importance.

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