Ethics for online media remain a challenge

Posted on July 12, 2011

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The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 07/12/2011 11:20 PM
Amid the increasing Internet consumption, including news, a code of ethics for online media remains a challenge as there are several issues that have yet to be regulated by journalism’s code of ethics, observers said.
Guidelines on correcting or moderating public comments, and links are among the challenges for the new media services.
A survey by the Press Council showed that in 2009 there were 442 violations of journalism’s code of ethics. Also, according to the survey, 27 violations were committed on online media between January and May 2011, with problems ranging from inaccuracy to a lack of objectivity.
According to global research company Nielsen, Internet consumption in Indonesia jumped to third place in 2010 from seventh place in 2005. The first and second biggest media consumption went to television and radio.
Nezar Patria of news portal vivanews.com said online media in Indonesia should follow the industry’s steps in the US, making a code of conduct to stipulate rules that had yet to be regulated by the conventional code of ethics.
“For example, should online media put the links to websites that spread hate speech? How about a mechanism for correction and comments? We currently use the code of ethics, but I think there should be a specific regulation for online media,” he said.
Nezar, who is the chairman of the Alliance of Indpendent Journalists (AJI), said that for typographical errors, his newsroom usually makes a correction on the same webpage, adding the word correction in the title and giving an explanation underneath.
“For substantial mistakes, we make a new article and link it to the one with the mistake,” he said.
Abdullah Alamudi from Dr. Soetomo Press Institution said that even if an online media source makes a correction or withdraws a news story, the search engine still stores the original in its cache.
“Instead of focusing on second-by-second updates, online media should exercise the code of ethics carefully. They should verify thoroughly before publishing news because mistakes will linger longer on the Internet,” he said.
He said online media should also be responsible for moderating comments, mostly from Internet users with dubious names.
Nezar said that people could use the comment box available on all news sites as their right to reply. Unfortunately, he added, not many people are aware of this as the comment box is often only used to post offensive words.
“Our society has yet to understand that their online comments are as worthy as the news itself,” Nezar said.
Edi Taslim from kompas.com said that while his office initially had a pre-moderation comment policy, his office eventually switched to post-moderated.
However, he added, his portal also invited readers to participate in blocking offensive comments by providing a ‘report abuse’ button.
“We can’t close the comment box because it is part of the online media character to interact with readers. If the media cannot handle the comments, then it is better to close it,” he said.
JP/Tifa Asrianti
Posted in: Media