Home > BLOG 4 > Philosophical Question that hard to answer.

Philosophical Question that hard to answer.

The recent uprising in Middle East and North Africa countries raise two very serious questions to me as a Journalist. First, in those countries where power and violence are used in similar meaning, is it fair to blame the journalist and news media companies which have been cringing to the dictators and failing to satisfy their citizen’s desires for democracy? In fact, answering the first one is not very difficult. It seemed like they are wrong, and not courageous enough.

However, there is one philosophical question that really bugging me to answer. What if they said they did their best job to secure their countries best interest? In Libya, still the national media promote Moammar Gadhafi as a national hero, and demonize Libyan rebels as rioters who are trying to overthrow the nation. The Libyan reporters might argue, they do their best to secure the national interest, and, of course, hundreds of thousands of Libyan who supported Gadhafi may agree with this argument.

Libya media are doing their best to protect Liby’s national interest?

Then some people might response, “Oh come on, protecting Gadhafi is not securing Libya’s national interest, but protecting only Gadhafi and his family’s interest.” Thus, the news media in Libyda do the terrible job on promoting national best interest. When we are looking others’ situation, it looks obvious which one is right or wrong. Then, let’s go back a little bit of United States history. The travel doesn’t have to be in long run, just 8 years ago that the Iraq war just broke out.

In that period, the majority of American supported the Iraq war, and they believeed having the war against Iraq would have been resulting the best interest of United States as well as Iraqi people. In addition, people also believed there were massive weapons of destruction in Iraq. As public, media in United States support the Iraq war full heartedly except some of newspapers, and broadcasting stations, and those media that were against to the Iraq war was criticized by citizens that they are not  patriotic enough.

However, after the eight years has passed, Americans are suffering from budget deficit because Bush Administration spend huge amount of money on Iraq, America’s image on the world was tarnished as global political henchman, there weren’t massive weapons of destruction, and the living condition of Iraqi people haven’t been significantly improved at all. If you are Americans who were the majority of Americans who supported the war, could you say supporting the war would results the best interest of your country?

Reportings about WikiLeaks hurts America’s interest? Really?

As a foreigner, I can see clearly that Iraq war hurts American’s national interest very badly, and this argument shows that, it is very hard to judge which action would results the best interest of your or my country especially if your or my nations are in the middle of crisis. And because of the fact that the public are very restlessness in the period of national turmoil, the role of journalist in this situation is very important.

They should check the facts very dispassionately and analysis the situation very carefully, and shouldn’t be swayed by hasty public opinion. Sometimes, Journalist needs to challenge the majority of pubic opinions. If in that case he or she should challenge them without hesitation, and following their hard facts, and overall and insightful analysis based on the data they have.

Here are thumb up rules that Journalist should follow on their reporting in the national crisis.

1.     The most important role of Journalist is not protecting national interest but inforing the citizens, and expanding  public discourse.

2.     Journalist should focus on the hard facts, and in the national crisis, they should be very skeptical of what government said, and challenge them if they seemed not truthful.

3.     Measuring the national interest very carefully, and considering the national interest is consistent with citizen’s best interest.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of New York Times mentioned about his news paper’s policy on recent stories of wikileaks document on the interview with ‘On The Media’

“Look, I absolutely believe that governments have an obligation to keep certain things secret, you know, not just diplomacy – military operations, the codes to the nuclear weapons. I mean, there are lots of things that governments have the right to keep secret. It’s their job to keep it secret. It’s not the press’ job to do that… we have a choice to make about what we do with those secrets. We do sometimes withhold them but, you know, it’s a choice you have to make case by case.

  1. March 4, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    So, how do you define “national interest?” That concept is central to your argument here.

    You say in rule #1 that journalists should not protect the national interest but then in #3 you say the national interest must be measured carefully and that the national interest should be the citizen interest. These rules seem to conflict. Or am I missing something?

    Lastly, you state that “the fact that the public are very restlessness in the period of national turmoil, the role of journalist in this situation is very important.” Should journalists work to calm the public during turmoil? If not, what should journalists do in regard to public restlessness?

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