Ethics and rights for online journalists: inseparable and obligatory?

E. Werkers, P. Valcke, S. Paulussen, D. Geens & K. Vandenbrande (Interdisciplinary Centre for Law and ICT, Leuven, Belgium)

Online media have enabled everyone to be a potential journalist. Today, virtually anyone can contribute to newsmaking, for instance by sending tip-offs and photos to newsrooms, by starting a weblog or by participating in online discussion fora. As a result, the definition of journalism is put under pressure. How a journalist should be defined, is not only central to sociological and professional debates, but it also has important legal repercussions. As there is no internationally accepted legal definition of a journalist as such, there is no legal certainty as to whether self-declared journalists on the Internet, like bloggers or other ‘citizen journalists’, can be subject to journalistic ethical codes or conversely, can invoke certain rights (such as the confidentiality of journalistic sources) which have previously been afforded to professional journalists. This papers aims to give a critical analysis of the current insecure context in which online journalists operate, both from legal and sociological points of view. After a review of the ethical and legal challenges posed by citizen journalism to the journalistic profession, the authors attempt to argue that while online journalism ethics cannot be regulated by the legislator and should be left to the self-regulatory intentions of practitioners, press rights should be guaranteed to all journalists, regardless of whether they work on a professional or amateur basis.

Timing - Saturday - Panel Session G1
Download the full paper - Werkers et al.pdf



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