BANGKOK—Amid today’s high-speed information exchanges, professional journalists underscored the need to refresh time-honored principles of fairness and responsibility in the exercise of press freedom.
Freedom and responsibility, the theme of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s keynote address on Tuesday at the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) Congress, continued as the main topic during roundtable discussions among newspaper professionals.
It was noted that social media had emerged as a source of news, but that the veracity of such reports were often difficult to check.
“It is the responsibility of professional journalists to verify the facts they gather (online) by examining the news source and referring to the primary source,” said Chavarong Limpattamapanee, web editor of Thailand’s Thairath Daily.
Ethical rules should also apply to online journalists. For example, if a journalist wants to report or comment on discussions in a closed-door meeting, he or she should first ask permission from the meeting organizer, Chavarong said.
He also said journalists should not have any qualms about apologizing online if they make a mistake in their news reporting and commentary on social media.
“The media operators must delete or correct that information from their files immediately and they must post an apology…,” he said.
Technological advancements are only “tools to augment reporting, not replace reporting,” said Thailand’s “News Junkie,” veteran journalist Suthichai Yoon.
Suthichai was among the first Thai journalists to embrace the digital age. As chairman of Nation Multimedia Group, he had urged his young reporters to get on social media. But he also stressed that while digital skills were important, “knowing how to find a good, in-depth story” and how to write it well were still “more important.”
Javier Moreno, editor in chief of El Pais, said that the news audience continued to look for “credibility and independence.”
United Kingdom-based Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) said new media needed to focus on the basics of journalism, and not on the great strides that digital media makes each day.
“We talk about how we can improve ourselves… It’s about going back to the basics,” Aidan White, EJN director, told a packed room at the Press Freedom and Media Development Round Table forum.
It’s still all about “truth, independence and impartiality,” White said. He reminded journalists to “be transparent, be accountable.”