CMCF Seminar: Empowers Ethics in News Reporting

By Nurul Shafiqah  and Balqis Asrof

KUALA LUMPUR, 30 October 2023: In a bid to encourage greater ethics in media reporting, key players from news media met on 19 October 2023 at M Resort & Hotel Kuala Lumpur. The purpose of this event is to urge journalists to develop a sense of empathy while building positive relationships with both people and themselves. By adopting these practices, they can foster more empathy towards others, even when creating headlines. 

In a panel discussion titled “Humanity in Headlines, Reframing Narratives with Ethics and Empathy” moderated by Sheahnee Iman Lee with four other panellists, discussed the ongoing issues in news reporting and provided insights on ideal news reporting.

In discussing the ethics of sensationalism and child-related content, Datuk Dr. Amar Sigh, Consultant Pediatrician and child disability activist voiced his concerns on the matter.

“Often times children-related contents are being sensationalised by the media especially when it comes to child abuse. These kinds of reportings have been constant for ages, 10 years, 20 years, the media has been portraying the same narrative on child abuse, but is child abuse actually decreasing? No, I do not think so,” he said.

He continued by saying that it is essential to adopt a more ethical approach when reporting content related to children. He believes that it is best to ask for the child’s consent directly, rather than relying on parental consent solely.

The forum encompassed more topics on the reduction of stigma related to suicide. As a journalist, it is crucial to report sensitive topics with greater empathy and avoid sensational headlines such as “Teenager Jumps from 10th Floor Due To Depression”. Such headlines may contribute to more societal problems, especially for those who are suffering from the same concerns. 

Furthermore, the panellists also discussed how news reporting and social media can sometimes inflame racism, islamophobia, xenophobia and hate speech. When asked what type of hate speech is most conveyed on social media, Dr. Khairil Ahmad from the International Institute of Public Policy and Management expressed that the most prevalent form of hate speech in Malaysia is racially charged or racially motivated. 

In discussing the trends of news reporting especially on obtaining information, Norman Goh, a Journalist from Nikkei Asia voiced his concern that the journalists themselves sometimes fall prey to misinformation and disinformation as they often turn to social media for faster news updates. “This raises the question of whether the news is shaping social media or the other way around,” he said.

Additionally, the speakers also shared certain methods and ethics that media practitioners could use when portraying People With Disabilities (PwDs) in news reporting. For instance, avoid ableist language such as ‘dumb’, ‘crazy’ and ‘psycho’ when referring to them. 

Moreover, empower proactive PWD features in social media by ensuring that the platforms are accessible to them including the features such as screen readers, alternative text for images and captioning for videos. They also believe that the media industry should employ more PwDs for inclusivity and to better understand one another.

At the end of the discussion, Joanne Bala from Google Malaysia and Singapore underlined the importance of media literacy and urged others to educate the younger generation on how to distinguish between disinformation and misinformation.***