Helsingin yliopiston kirjasto, Suomen kansalliskirjasto
kansi   lukijalle   esipuhe   kirjoittajat   galleria

Kirja  tietoverkkojen maailmassa











Freedom of Information, Journalism and Libraries
1 Introduction
2 The principle of freedom of information
3 The legislative practice of freedom of information
4 Libraries and freedom of information
5 Journalism
6 Ethical difficulties of journalists
7 Conclusion
* References
tulosta Printable version
Although journalists and librarians both work within the freedom of information paradigm, their ethical domains are not shared to the same extent. This is partly a function of the character of the professions themselves. People enter librarianship to earn a living, to be useful and to avoid, rather than to seek, public exposure. People enter journalism to earn a living and to be useful, but in the light of public attention. The former tends to produce a purer ethical climate, whilst, as we have shown, the latter is potentially diseased.

The investigative journalist can, of course, turn for inspiration to relevant codes of journalistic ethics as guidance through the obstacles and temptations of their controversial professional area. The Society of Professional Journalists, for instance, has an excellent code, the preamble of which sets out the core values of the profession as follows –

Public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialities strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. (Journalistic Ethics, 2002)

All of this is fully within the definition of the idea of freedom of information sketched out at the beginning of this paper. Yet, statements in codes of ethics are important, but they are seldom sufficient in their own right. Assistance in maintaining ethical standards from as many sources as possible is also valuable. It is in this area that the library and information profession is capable of providing some help to the journalist. The American Library Association’s code of ethics provides perhaps the clearest commitment to freedom of information to be found in the profession’s many codes, when it says,

We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.

The clarity of this commitment, though it may bring other problems with it, makes a kind of promise that any citizen, the journalist included, can expect to find libraries a totally dedicated freedom of information zone.

The evidence that this promise is to be believed is not in the code of ethics, like that of the ALA, itself: that might be just rhetoric. There are many ways to show that the profession means its commitment to a full definition of freedom of information. To continue with the quality theme present in most of this paper, the profession has taken a great deal of trouble to clarify the difficult issues arising from the identification of quality information on the Web. Cooke’s work on evaluating websites (Cooke, 2001) can stand as just one recent example of this strong tradition, and similar cases could be built on the basis of other aspects of the ethical commitment of librarians. What librarianship can offer journalism is not only technically appropriate research support, but an ethically clean environment in which to pursue useful investigations. In this way librarianship can help fulfil both professions’ freedom of information aspirations.

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