The arrest of journalists for extortion is a blot on the profession, writes The New Times in an editorial. It is not the first time this has happened, previously, a journalist caught blackmailing somebody with the threat of publication said: 'It's how we survive'. The case highlights the urgent need for a self-regulatory mechanism for the media.

The New Times writes in an editorial:

The arrest of two journalists on Wednesday for alleged extortion is a shameful act that members of the media fraternity must condemn out rightly.

A journalist compromising his/her professional ethics for the sake of personal financial gains is not only an act that undermines the integrity of our profession but disqualifies us from the watchdog role we play in society.

If the fraternity is to remain relevant in society, it must uphold canons that define the profession.

While various existing cannons or code of ethics differ among media houses, we share common elements including the principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability.

But then how can we be the custodians of public accountability yet our very own hands are stained?

How shall we expose the rot in public or private institutions if our very own conscience is not upright? And above all, what moral authority do we base on to make a judgment on the corrupt and yet a few within us have become the fountain of this vice?

Journalism fraternity in this country must institute a self-regulatory mechanism that must filter the junk from the good.

There must be a peer review mechanism in which acts, especially those that violate code of ethics and continue to bring our profession under the spotlight are discussed in great detail and condemned if need be.

As watchdogs of society, we are cautioned to maintain high levels of integrity. Without high standings of veracity, then we fail on the obligatory duty cast upon us by the very nature of our profession

A few years ago, when an editor of a local vernacular paper was asked about his detention following an incident in which he had conned a businessman, he simply answered; “this is how we survive.”

This shows that many of our peers come into the profession not to serve the good intentions for which it is meant to, but rather to seek illegal ways of survival. They are the rotten tomatoes that must be offloaded. 

* This editorial first appeared on 3 July 2009.