A responsibility for objective, un-bias reporting, that is what journalists are taught. Unfortunately, we all have our biases and they creep in to written work, often re-enforcing stereotypes and prejudices.
For me, one of the biggest ethical issues I see in reporting is stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists. Newspapers are quick to point out if an arrested person is Muslim. They are equally quick to link detained Muslims to Al Qaeda even if police do not have anything official. Last weekâ€™s example was of an Australian doctor who was arrested with possible ties to a British doctor taken in to custody after a failed attempt to blow up the Glasgow Airport. Numerous stories have been printed about Dr. Mohamed Haneef who has been detained for over a week without charges. What, if any ties he has to Al Qaeda have not been established but his medical career has been seriously jeopardized.
This is just one example of bias in our media, which has often left me wondering what the other side of the story was. For example, I wanted to know how many Iraqi civilians have died because of US retaliation for 9-11? What has been the true cost of western occupation in Afghanistan? Are the Taliban as bad as the US claims? Is Iraq truly better off without Saddam Hussein?
While as a journalist we can work to avoid bias in our own writing (and one would hope we can progress beyond linking all Muslims to terrorists as suggested by so many stories), the best way to overcome bias is to see it from the other side. Here are some alternative views to mainstream reporting on for the â€œwar on terrorâ€:
â€¢ The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (the story of Afghan people before and after occupation)
â€¢ Hegemony or Survival by Noam Chomsky (a look at US foreign policy using media and other materials)
â€¢ Control Room directed by Jehane Noujaim (a documentary on Al-Jazeera, the Muslim news station and CNN/Al-Jazeera coverage of the Iraq War)
â€¢ Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureat (2002). She is an Iranian who has been working as an advocate for change within Iran, working mainly on the rights of children and women.