Ethics in Politics and Journalism

Journalism and politics, the author claims, are closely related professions, since for both power poses the central question and embodies the main issue. Yet, they differ in their evaluation and appreciation of power. One seeks power or tries to preserve it, while the other sees its most edifying mission in debunking power. From this two opposing perspectives emerges a tension which in a sense reflects the tension between power, on the one hand, and ethics, on the other. However, the tension by itself does not bar a reconciliation between political power and ethical consideration. Journalism can play a crucial role in preventing the corruption of political power into self-serving authoritarianism. However, in order to be able to perform this highly important moral task the journalist must, according to the author, continually respect those absolute, and often unwritten, principles of ethical behavior.

The author further suggest that in journalism, as in all other professions, good and evil persist side by side. However, the journalists are, unfortunately, often judged by their worst examples and not their best. As Max Weber has claimed, those journalists who trample upon moral principles may attain heights of fame and fortune but never accolades of honor and respect. For the politician, the measure of success is his ability to opt for power when faced with the choice between the moral imperative and political expediency. Thejournalist, on the other hand, the author believes, will be judged on whether as the container of political power chooses the path of moral rectitude.

* Abstract prepared by the author

Houchang Vaziri
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