The issue of unauthorized publication and/or information leak continues to haunt U.S. journalists, with the Wikileaks debacle often cited as an example of controversy between the supposed commitment to freedom of information and the considerations of security and data protection. While companies and policy makers assert that journalists should follow strictly the requirements of Code of Ethics and similar regulations enacted by both public and corporate bodies, dissenting voices emerge, pointing at both unconstitutionality of such provisions and the harm resulting from them for the public (Smith, ch.8).
In my opinion, the restrictions placed on journalists’ capacity to engage in certain activities (i.e. political campaigning or fundraising) or on their chances to publish the information that might be sensitive to certain private interests can be either justified or superfluous, depending on the exact character of the data involved. For instance, while the publication of the U.S. Department of Defense’s latest security data logs may lead to inadmissible leak of information to foreign governments and terrorist organizations, the unmasking of the corrupt activities of, e.g., the corporation’s CEOs would benefit the public, even if the latter information was obtained in the breach of formal Code of Ethics.
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Furthermore, such incidents as deliberate bribery of a reporter by commercial and/or political vested interests constitute a major breach of trust with the public which a journalist is supposed to maintain. The need to respect other persons’ integrity would preclude an honest journalist from disseminating unfounded and fallacious information but the unscrupulous media operatives might engage in such practices. This leads to the necessity of limitations placed on the potential defamatory activities by the media.
In sum, the determining of a validity of the journalists’ conduct regulations and restrictions depends on the advantages/disadvantages such limitations bestow upon the public and individuals affected by the journalists’ activities. Thus an objective treatment of such issues is warranted in all cases.
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