Each and every one of journalists must define news and information, collect and contribute with solemnity, truthfulness and bravery.
1/ It requires for a journalist to make every news regardless of any status accurate and free from errors, especially he must take care not to ruin its original image.
2/ A journalist is required to meet with individuals, news sources and their feelings, desires and opinions are to be allowed to be shown, that is to say, they are to be given right to explain.
The above-said statements are the essence of the first two excerpts from 25 US journalistic ethics issued on November 1996. Though there were amendments of journalistic ethics with changing times, it is assumed that the above-said two’s essences will always exist without changes. Moreover, accuracy and freedom from errors will occupy the top posts.
In the era of electronic media, time limit is becoming narrower. News agencies are vying with each other in reporting breaking news just in a second period. Much as they are making efforts to post news hurriedly as soon as possible, news must be truthful and accurate in accord with news media ethics. If asked why truthfulness and accuracy is prioritized, our stock reply will be—“Effectiveness of news coincides with people’s trust in accuracy and truthfulness of the news.” In case news media’s news coverage is extremely large in the international sphere and those who take the news and information true were leaders of nations, policy makers and international organizations, its influences will be in depth. At that time, depending upon the volume of falsity some will become a prey to false news.
If a news item is falsely mentioned carelessly or intentionally, it is a disgrace for a news media of great power, said by U Kyaw Zeya, Myanmar ambassador over the statement which was based on their one-sided views and free from actualities concerning northern Rakhine State Affair. AP News Agency misrepresented the opening speech addressed in English by State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at 13th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
AP’s false news was quoted by other news agencies, such as Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and other news agencies, thus false continued to spread about, causing sequences of bad effects over our country.
U Aung Hla Htun, Vice-Chairman of Myanmar Press Council said, “It can make serious impacts on the State Counsellor as well as on the entire nation and the people. Actually, the impacts are already there. Based in the US, AP is one of the most influential international news agencies in the world. The international communities including the nations of the world and the UN usually tend to heavily rely on the reports by the international media when laying down their policies. As a result of their pursuing wrongful policies based on the untrue reports by the international media for a long time, the image of our country has been badly ruined, causing mounting pressure and various intimidations.”
Myanmar Journalists Union strongly condemned regarding distorted news of AP, “Such distorted reporting has an immense negative impact of the country and could lead to further misunderstanding and discord between Myanmar and the international community at such a delicate period. Even though AP made the correction one day later, we demand that the AP, one of the world’s largest news agencies, take responsibility for the damage done and apologize to the people of Myanmar for its erroneous and irresponsible mistake.”
The incident reminds me of an event which took places in January, 2014. At that time, Union Government, Rakhine State Government and responsible officials at different levels were making concerted efforts to gain peace, stability and rule of law in the region when AP News Agency had opened its branch office in Yangon. At the time when situations in northern Rakhine State could turn up into a worse situation at any time the AP News Agency reported an unconfirmed news item, saying “An unruly crowd of Myanmar people killed Muslim women and children amounting to more than one dozen with swords.” As a matter of fact the news was unconfirmed, and the amounts said to have been killed were differently by the news. Authorities concerned as well denied that news were not actual. A local resident, who was a Muslim national, disclosed that the said terrorist attack did not take place in the region as described in AP news.
The news which was a questionable one concerning accuracy of the news and doubtful about the aims and attitudes of the reporter who wrote the news and news agency was quoted by some international newspapers. As a result of the false news some countries such as United States of America and the Britain pushed pressure on the then Myanmar Government to investigate the event which did not actually happen. In actuality, a security force patrolling for the regional security was attacked by a mob, in which a police sergeant had missed, who was assumed to have been killed. The true news was hidden by the false one, thus the truth disappeared under lies.
The current AP’s error was committed in the presence of foreign ministers, deputy ministers and high-ranking officials from 51 Asia-Europe continental countries, ASEAN Secretariat and European Union. It is a disgrace for an influential news media to have distorted the opening speech full of constructive meanings by the State Counsellor and Union Minister for Foreign Minister, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Media men from home and abroad attended 13th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting for news coverage. On such a day, the outbreak of AP’s error was assumed to have been attributed to their inability to remove opinions conceived in their minds over Myanmar and the State Counsellor. I pondered myself whether they would have hallucinations of thinking the truth as the falsity, the cold to be the heat and loving-kindness to be anger, provided that an error impressed itself in the deepest soul of a person.
Translated by Khin Maung Oo