Can we rely on social networking sites for news!

By Hajira Bano Balkhang Leh, Apr 20, 2015
Leh :
Everybody is a journalist these days.Everyone has a news to share, does not matter how he got the news, from where did he get it and what is the credibility of such a news.One will say what one has to say.These words 'Freedom of expression', believe it or not, I hear so much that now its boring me to death.

Facebook, twitter, whatsapp etc imagine life without all these in today’s time.These are the channels people use to vent their 'freedom of expression' anger. I remember the story when once Ralph Waldo Emerson was walking on a footpath when another person came swinging his walking stick. Upon which Ralph told him it might hit someone walking on the footpath. The man promptly stated that it was within his right to do whatever he pleases. Ralph replied "your freedom to swing your stick ends where my nose begins"! Amusing as it is his answer but how thoughtful.

Social media is indeed an empowering tool. In many ways it has given voice to the voiceless, a source of  instant information but also a source of instant hate dessiminaton, instant mob mobilisation.That is why it can be a dangerous tool too.We can’t even spend a single day without logging into any of these accounts.It has become a major source of news.  Facebook is a social networking site where millions of people log in every day. With easy accessibility of mobile in almost every  person, everyone shares a news he has seen on someone's wall who had heard it from someone else and that someone had copy pasted it from someone.Confirming the credibility and actual source of the news is actually acquiring news the hard way. As more and more people are logging in for news and posting their own news, news becomes more misinformed.But a line has to be drawn somewhere between freedom of expression and public inconvenience and morality.

No doubt that it provided us message and news in just a click but it has led to credibility lost. On one had where social networking sites have been called as the reason why Arab spring actually became Arab spring.On the other hand many times it not only became the easiest way to defame and misinform the general public but also includes slurs based upon sex, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation etc.Credibility and morality is the price we paid for instant information.

In the recent case the picture of the half eaten body of a lady who was attacked by dogs in the village Saspol or the picture of a young teenager who committed suicide and left a suicide note was being circulated on whatsapp and facebook. This is a big question mark on the journalism ethics. But according to my knowledge it was not even a single professional journalist of Leh who shared those pictures, but by people who did not understand the ethical aspects  of  what to share. This has led to loss of credibility of a true journalist who spends their entire day and night in hunt for new stories and articles but has to curb the 'share it all' instincts either themselves or by the editor.Morality sometimes takes precedence over right to share you see!

Just few days back the picture of the Nepali woman who was raped and later set herself ablaze in Batalik was also shared by many people on whats app. Apart from leading to stress and trauma to the already bereaved family when they see pictures of their loved ones being circulated, it is also legally prohibited to reveal the identity of a rape victim.

It is a crime to circulate contents with ulterior motives aimed at hurting religious and caste sentiments and feelings, spreading any kind of rumours, tarnishing a person’s reputation of character, sending objectionable and defaming messages, commenting and forwarding the obnoxious contents. Anybody doing so will be booked be punished under law.

Social networking sites are a wonder of our age no doubt and a journalist today is living in an information paradise given the tools and means at his hand but journalistic ethos and moral standards has to match the lofty heights set by information at the same time.

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