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Media Theory, Ethics, Law and History

Misinformation, disinformation and fake news, bias (both conscious and unconscious), conflict of interest, sensationalism, hype, protection of sources, political pressure, verification and deadlines, to publish or not to publish: these are some of the ethical and professional challenges faced by media practitioners every day. Is there something called media ethics specific to the profession? What should a journalist do when pressurised by editors or owners to either write puff pieces on major advertisers or suppress unflattering stories about them? What is a journalist’s role in society? What are the ethical norms to observe when undertaking an investigation?

Starting with definitions and theories of ethics, this course will look at the challenges faced by media professionals in the practice of their craft. An examination of Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean (virtue) Kant’s Categorical imperative (duty - Karma and Dharma), Mill’s Principle of Utility, John Rawls’ Theory of Justice and more will see the course constantly pit theory against practice. Closely linked to the question of ethics is media law and the tension between the media’s freedom to communicate, comment and inform and State restrictions to protect public interest or individual reputations. Who defines what are “reasonable restrictions” on press freedom? Right to information, codes of conduct, criminal courts and procedure, confidentiality, libel, defamation, electoral law, censorship and reporting restrictions, gag orders, the Official Secrets Act and other legal provisions ion press freedom in the Indian Penal Code will be studied.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka