Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Association to Stand Behind "Good Bloggers"

Well, it's official. Bloggers facing legal action will be protected by the UAE Journalist's Association if they abide by the ethical code of the association, wash behind their ears and are kind to small furry animals.

Mohammed Yousuf, the head of the Association, told Emirates Business 24x7's Dimah Hamadeh:

"Bloggers and "virtual" journalists have the right to be protected by the Journalists' Association, provided they abide by the ethics code, including stating of facts and sources of information, avoiding defaming without tangible proof, or provoking hostility arising from religious, sectarian or race discriminations."

Yousuf, displaying a remarkable lack of understanding regarding the 'online world', goes on to tell Hamadeh that audiences still mistrust online media, a lack of credibility that leads to online often being perceived as a channel for spreading rumours and destroying reputations.

Tell that to, and, will you? Or to the many, many people that intelligently sift online sources to arrive at an informed and wider picture than is often available through the 'traditional' media that Yousuf freely admits in the piece are subject to a greater degree of censorship than online media.

Yousuf tells Hamadeh (who must have been struggling to hold a straight face) that the Association's mission is to "invite bloggers and online reporters to adopt professional standards."

All this on the sidelines of a two-day event that invited bloggers from the UAE and around the region to discuss the role of new media and journalism. I didn't see anyone Tweeting from the conference and I don't know of any bloggers that were there. I certainly didn't get an invite (snif) - did you?

Isn't it funny that the UAE's bloggers NEVER seem to get invited to events where online and 'new' media are being discussed in... err... the UAE?

But I think we're missing quite a big thing in all this talk of protecting bloggers who abide by the ethical code of the UAE Journalists' Association.

Bloggers. Are. Not. Journalists.

The BBC's eminent Hossam Sokkari rather confounded the Arab Media Forum's Token Blogger, Algerian Issam Hamoud, by asking him if he had always wanted to be a journalist - as if being a blogger is something that can only be explained by a frustrated urge to journalism.

I know some excellent journalists that have become bloggers and some excellent journalists who blog alongside their more traditional, more papery, roles. And I know many excellent bloggers that are not, don't want to be and wouldn't dream of being journalists.

I do wish they'd get this into their heads! Bloggers. Are. Not. Journalists.

This is a new thing, not another face of an old thing. It follows new rules - and raises ethical questions and questions of practice that are not touched by old codifications of good journalistic practice.

While I'm sure the UAE Journalists' Association's offer is kindly meant, it's barking up quite the wrong tree.

This story in Gulf News today, that Saudi Arabia is mulling putting an electronic publications law on the anvil, is another and slightly more worrying take on this very topic. Take a look here.


Jen Gerson said...

While I do agree with your penultimate paragraph, I personally see my blog as an extension of my profession.

While tone and content are different from a newspaper, I extend the same professional considerations to my online work as I would the printed stuff. Obviously, the dead-tree rules don't encapsulate the unique problems faced by bloggers. But they're a good framework.

alexander... said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I happen to use pretty much the same rules on this blog as I would have used as a journalist - possibly a little more strict on myself, to be honest.

But that doesn't mean the rule book has to apply - and it certainly doesn't mean that bloggers (and other online commentators - Twitterers and all) should be treated as journalists or regarded as journalists.

Journalism, the reporting of facts and commentary are being redefined by online media - and online behaviours, styles and even, yes, rules are different.

It just ain't 'Scoop' anymore...

Seabee said...

I find two phrases in one sentence particularly interesting: ...stating of facts and sources of information, avoiding defaming without tangible proof...Sources of information? Does that mean bloggers - and journos presumably - must reveal their sources?

('My friend Jane told me at a Jumeirah dinner party' wouldn't pass muster I guess).

Defaming without tangible proof? My understanding is that the law here, unlike many other countries, does not allow for 'tangible proof'. Even if the statement is true, defamation is illegal. I have that from a lawyer but maybe other lawyers would care to confirm or otherwise.

By the way, I agree with you Alex, there's a huge lack of understanding of the new media and those using it. Am I a frustrated journo? No, never was and never will be.

Media Junkie said...

they obviously see new media as an electronic version of the paper stuff. gosh - how many more horrible journalists would be there should that argument hold weight?

Derrick Pereira said...

This is what the association just doesn't seem to get...

Newspapers report fact (for the most part), sure they may have an opinion section with a few topics, but the majority of the content is reportage. Blogs, on the other hand, are based on an individual's personal view of a subject and are largely opinion led.

So now, if I wanted to be protected from prosecution I have to abide by someone else's code of ethics? (Where is the associations code of ethics BTW?) Does that not defeat the whole purpose having a personal blog to begin with? People may have an issue or not agree with a blog post of mine, but that’s *fine*... You're entitled to disagree. The last thing I would want to do is go through a checklist (cultural sensitivities aside) before putting up a post.

Also how would this work on discussion boards, would site owners then be responsible for 'prosecutable' posts by other users? The deeper you dig, the more this system falls apart.

alexander... said...

Good point, Derrick! My bad, should have linked from the post - it's there now in the first para.


Spear The Almighty said...

I guess if you are a satirist you are screwed. Or would a disclaimer help?

Dubai Jazz said...

Derrick has already made the point I wanted to make. Tying bloggers up with journalistic code of ethics is pointless. I'm not a journalist, I merely state an opinion which has no sway whatsoever on public opinion. My effort is not paid for in terms of ads and subscriptions. I don't awe anyone any obligation to report coherent and rock-solid information. So why equalize me with a journalist that has all of the above responsibilities?

(darn, my comment almost feels like a disclaimer..)

Dave said...

So if you quote Gulf News in your next blog are you then in the s%#t for using an unreliable source??

who is said...

Be glad they're busy twisting themselves in knots trying to look all progressive, in control and in sync when it comes to Embracing this Ominous Threat of New Journalism....yucks and all... opposed to carpet-blocking the blogosphere a la SDD.

Doubt they spent much time articulating over whether she was a satirist, journalist or diarist. Or maybe they did, after adding her to The Blacklist.

Hosam Sokkari, حسام السكري said...

Alexander, I came across this months later. Apologies for the late response. I guess you have missed the point of my question here: "The BBC's eminent Hossam Sokkari rather confounded the Arab Media Forum's Token Blogger, Algerian Issam Hamoud, by asking him if he had always wanted to be a journalist - as if being a blogger is something that can only be explained by a frustrated urge to journalism..".
My question followed a comment from a member of the audience suggesting that bloggers are the journalists of this digital age. I found this an opportunity to challenge/examine this misperception. (knowing actually how Issam thinks about this). So... I agree with you that blogging is not necessarily a journalistic activity but it can be. Hosam

alexander... said...

Hey, Hosam!

Good to hear from you and glad we concur on the Great Debate, too!

From The Dungeons

Book Marketing And McNabb's Theory Of Multitouch

(Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I clearly want to tell the world about A Decent Bomber . This is perfectly natural, it's my latest...