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Holding journalism to a high standard

  • Published at 12:04 am September 13th, 2019

Newspapers have rights as well as responsibilities

Whenever a newspaper prints sensational news with eye-catching headlines, false interviews, and other unethical approaches to increase the sale of the paper, it is called yellow journalism. 

Victims of yellow journalism have an option to stand against it, but the question arises -- how many victimized people actually protest against the injustice done to them?

For someone who is economically powerful -- he/she may take the case to court and regain the damage to their reputation. People from the middle or lower economic classes cannot use the same mechanism, and are forced to live with the loss.

A bit of history
The term “yellow journalism” comes from the battle between Joseph Pulitzer, owner of New York World, and William Randolph Hearst, the owner of the New York Journal. The New York World published a cartoon of yellow kid.

This cartoon got so much popularity that the New York Journal hired the artist Richard F Outcault to work in his newspaper. To continue the yellow kid, Pulitzer hired another artist. The publication of yellow kid in both newspapers made a conflict among them.

In 1898, hostilities began in the aftermath of the sinking of USS Maine in Havana Harbour in Cuba, where 250 Americans lost their lives. There are many opinions about this incident.

This is where yellow journalism played a huge role as it influenced the war between Spain and the US. Pulitzer and Hearst used this incident to sell their newspapers. The newspapers accused Spain of the sinking of the US battleship, influencing the mind of their readers.

The amount of yellow journalism in this war and that era can be understood from an event when a reporter said Cuba was full of peace, and in return Pulitzer said: “You furnish the pictures, I’ll provide the war!”

Freedom of press and yellow journalism
Bangladesh has ensured freedom of the press in its constitution in Article 39(2), with some restrictions. The newspapers can exercise their freedom but cannot just write anything in the name of freedom of the press.

The present-day Bangladesh news industry with its online news portals is creating competition like never before. As a result, yellow journalism can be used as a weapon to stay in business. 

The newspapers try to highlight news with exciting headlines that have no relation to the reality of the news, and sometimes publish news on the basis of incomplete facts.

The role of the Press Council
The Press Council was established to maintain and improve newspaper standards, ensure the right decision for the betterment of the newspaper industry, and help exercise the freedom of the press.

So the council was formed, comprising a chairman and 14 members who have the knowledge and practical experiences, and can take matters into their hands upon a complaint or otherwise if any newspaper agency offends the standards of journalistic ethics or public taste.

The council can warn, admonish, or censure the newspaper, news agency, editor, or the journalist under Section 12 of the Press Council Act 1974. People behind the newspapers need to understand the moral responsibility and avoid any unhealthy competition for profits.

Newspaper agencies and media houses should remember that there are people who believe their words blindly. It is a responsibility, which should never should be forgotten by the newspaper industry, to respect people and the sanctity of the information they get from news media. 

Rizowan Ahmed is a student of law.

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