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21st cent. social media ethical consideration

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By Mercy Kelani

Individual rights to privacy are being violated at will through social media.

The only profession that has its responsibility embedded in the constitution of most democracies is press. Section 22 of the amended 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that “The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall always be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people”. A free press enhances good governance, democratic ideals and the exercise of fundamental human rights, particularly the freedom of expression and the press.

Growing advancement in communication technologies has helped performance of the media’s role as the platform with which individual opinions and ideas are expressed. Information is now speedily disseminated. Media convergence has also blurred some features among many platforms of channels. The online version of print media now has audio and video clips. Media platforms now release a podcast version of published news. Twitter and other social media accounts of prime media permit discussions between the publisher and the audience.

Owning a media house used to be expensive until the advent of social media.

In this century, proliferation of media ownership has also reflected changes in the medium of communication. Up until early 2000, establishment of a media was unimaginably expensive, neither could a television station be founded without a bank loan, except for the wealthy. However, the narrative has changed with advancement in information and communication technology. What is required to be a publisher in the 21st century are an Android or iPhone smart phone with excellent pixels for photography, enough storage capacity and adequate internet subscription.

Facilitation of the dissemination of media information has been increased by WhatsApp, developing citizen journalism. Having developed a plural press, it becomes difficult to repress of gag the press. Regardless of the benefits derived from these developments, significant ethical considerations in the practice of journalism have been abandoned as everyone wants to be the first to convey the news. These changes are also making humans lose their sense of humanity for the need to always want to video record every situation even if the person in the story is between life and death.

Article 12 of UDHR 1948 declares right to privacy.

Observations of ethical considerations like objectivity, balance and fairness taught in journalism school only work for the Marines. On a regular basis and at will, there are violations of the rights of individuals to their privacy. Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948 states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”.

Professionals in media law have highlighted six features of the right to privacy. They include personal autonomy, confidentiality, the right to individuality and relationship, limited access to self, and management of personal information. Dissemination of information in this century do not adhere to these elements. Arguments by observers are that there should be an initial consideration of the value of privacy by its importance to the society beyond its individual meaning. This implies that there is no universal value attached to the right to privacy that is useful for all contexts and instances.

Inclusion of communication and ethics in sec. school curriculum.

Consequently, it was agreed that the advent of social media has done more harm than good through its invasion into the privacy of individuals. Social media has encouraged abominable practices; for instance, displaying the coffin of a Yoruba Oba in social media. To curb this situation, there has to be inclusion of communication, education and ethics in the secondary school curriculum for creation of early awareness on basic communication ethics asides disseminating news. There should also be teachings of the ethical consideration of truth, respect for the feelings and traditions of others, fairness and objectivity early in the educational curriculum.


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