Media helps shaping individuals and their continued interaction with each other. It is important to note that ethical journalism needs to be effective in promoting community welfare by means of its reporting capacity. This would help a society to grasp important facts regarding political and social issues affecting it. There is a need to identify a practical example that would help to understand better the aspect of ethical journalism. Specifically, the current events in Australia were selected with a primary focus on the topic of Ethics, Community, Representation, and Vilification.
In Australia, media created an environment that depicted Muslim women as those who do not deserve equal treatment a few years ago. As a result, not newsworthy issues were prioritized simply because they contained crucial information on the Muslim women. The establishment of the Muslim women’s gym through an exemption to the Anti-Discrimination Board requires significant attention due to the ethical journalism that revolves around its discussion and representation.
The gym served Muslim women only and made them feel free and safe despite some of the challenges they faced. For example, for most of them, English was not their first language, thus making it hard for them to interact freely with others. Further, while exercising, one was supposed to wear a gear. However, this is against Muslim culture; therefore, it means that many women could not use public recreational facilities.
Due to the existence of racism, media got interested in the issue and started publishing various opinions regarding it. Non-Muslim women had a different view and termed it as a way of separating themselves from the rest of people. Unfortunately, the article and other media sources did not explore the major reasons for this event. Rather, they rushed to a quick judgment about the need for special treatment of the Muslim women. People argued that they were detaching themselves from others despite complaining about being treated unfairly. The anti-Muslim environment already created by the media in regard to Muslim women made them outcasts who do not deserve respect and love.
Media is the main source of information, through which people acquire knowledge on different events. It is through media that one disconnects or connects with other members of community and society at large (Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, 2003). In regard to the conducted research, it is worth noting that Muslims have been facing harassment and discrimination in public places. Due to such attitude, many crimes and social issues have emerged resulting in a negative attitude to Muslims blaming them for their very existence.
It is evident that the media has the power to marginalize a certain group of people by shaping the manner in which others view it. The responsibility of the media is to air well-grounded information to the members of the society to avoid conflict (Beal & Beattie, 2007). To ensure fairness, certain rules and regulations have been established to monitor the process. The anti-discrimination board has been formed with an aim to engage media workers to produce nonbiased information and, at the same time, be able to streamline the whole process (Every & Augoustinos, 2007). In this way, the dissemination of information is regulated.
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Some of the questions asked in the media are formulated in such a way that they are meant to portray public opinion. For instance, an article published under the title “Muslim Must Open Doors and Look to the Future’ insinuates that the Muslims are isolating themselves from other people and that they should adopt proper behaviors (Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, 2003). The situation entails the attempts of the media to portray negativity.
Analysis of Laws and Regulations
The case of reporting Muslim women gym exemption by the Australian media contravenes the regulations of Special Broadcasting Services Act of 1991, section 10. This provision requires the broadcast service providers to deliver information that reflects community standards (Smith, 2008). Under the given Act, the content of media sources is supposed to conform to the community standards. Therefore, it should be inoffensive and free of any hateful, abusive or disturbing information to any member of the community.
Contrary to the regulations under the Act, many media centers strategically decide on the content to be included in and excluded from their coverage. Evidently, the article on the Muslim women’s gym is a perfect scenario. Rather than presenting the visiting of the gym by women as a step in the right direction towards equality, the paper expressed the move to grant an exemption to the Muslim women as purely discriminative as it was open to only one religious group. However, it failed to explore the usefulness of the facility for Muslim women considering the barriers to accessing and using the other gym services (Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, 2003). In this way, the content in the coverage of the gym was discriminative and negatively predisposed against the Muslims.
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Notably, the decision to provide an exemption to Muslims anchored on the provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1977 under the race provision. According to the Act, it was justified to organize special programs and activities for people of a certain race if they encountered a disadvantage in accessing public life. Since the 1994 Amendment to the ADA regulations identified Muslims as an ethnic-religion race, the Muslim women were given the exemption in the gym because of the challenges they experienced in accessing other similar facilities due to their ethnic and religious effect (Fisher McKew, 2004). Some of the disadvantages included in the exemption of the facility for the women were dress code barriers, language barriers, and inadequacy of facilities intended to be used by them. For this reason, the Anti-Discrimination Board established that they experienced challenges in accessing the services as much as other people and there was a need to grant them such a request.
The media’s coverage of the Muslim facility was also contrary to the racial and religious tolerance Act of 2001 for two reasons. Firstly, it contravened the division 1 section 7 of the Act, which made it illegal to engage in the conduct that promoted hatred against, revulsion to, or extreme ridicule of another person due to his or her race (Smith, 2008). In this context, the racial vilification towards Muslim women as an ethnic and religious racial group was discriminative. Further, it violated section 8 of the Act that made it unlawful to engage in the actions that elicited hate, serious contempt, or revulsion against other people because of their religious beliefs (Smith, 2008). In the case of the Muslim women, it was illegal to vilify against them because of their religion.
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Another Act applicable to the case was the Equal Opportunity Act. Moreover, assisting and encouraging discrimination was unlawful considering the regulations of Equal Opportunities Act, 2010, section 7, which prohibits anyone to encourage, induce and instruct another person with the use of discrimination (Allison, 2013). The media in Australia carries the discriminative message and encourages discrimination against Muslims which is contrary to the Act (Cook, 2010). The Act agreed with ethical concepts since it disregards discrimination of people in different settings.
It is unethical for people to form a negative attitude towards a particular group of individuals who are marginalized. In this case, the media strategically chooses information to include in their discussions so as to reflect their opinion on the issue. It is evident that the event featuring Muslim women is more likely to make headlines and receive more criticism as compared to any other story that was made public (Smith, 2008). There is also the lack of intensive investigation, which results in marginalization.
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Similarly, it is not ethically correct to criticize people because of their beliefs. Out of 499 gyms available in South Wales, only one gym has been specially designed for the Muslim women due to their religious differences (Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, 2003). Unfortunately, this raised criticism on behalf of Muslim women as they were accused of excluding themselves and being treated in a special manner, which is not the case. The fact that they are not treated as equally and fairly as the rest raises an ethical concern. It is ethically correct to treat every person as required by the law irrespective of their race or religious background.
Whether the Issue Is More Supporting the Legal or Ethical
The way media portrays Islamic women in a discriminative manner definitively proves that this is a legal and an ethical issue. However, it is more ethical than legal since it reflects the outcomes of the vital interactions between human beings (Hage, 2004). Nevertheless, there is an aspect of legal component related to the lacking clarity in the laws regarding community standards of contents reported in the media (Lawrence, 2012). As a result, what may be a standard or right practice in some contexts may also be offensive to the different audience (Pearson, 2014). The concept of passing information to appeal to a larger audience is a critical ethical issue as it undermines the significance of applying the media countrywide.
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Racial and religious intolerance propagated in the case is completely unethical because it demeans certain individuals due to their beliefs and stereotypes towards them. It disregards the fact that all human beings are a big family from the scientific perspective, and things like color and religion do not represent sufficient grounds to disrespect other people (Poynting & Noble, 2003). It is therefore not surprising that anti-discrimination regulation dominates most of the laws in Australia. They are focused on supporting favorable interactions and communication between people of different races (Imtoual, 2006). Responsible media should encourage socialization and tolerance rather than propagate discrimination against certain group of people because of their religion.
Media can alter the manner in which people view and understand some of the situations that take place in their daily lives. It is capable of discriminating against one group; an action that is largely unethical and unlawful. Hence, it is the responsibility of those formulating the laws and regulations to ensure that the information covered in the media is well analyzed and that it does not promote discrimination. Various acts have been proposed to ensure equal treatment irrespective of one’s race or religious background. Through the provision of acts that prompt equal opportunities, every person has a right to receive fair treatment and, at the same time, enjoy the available public resources.