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How Citizen Journalists Cross The Ethical Line for Viewership, Must Check

The rise of citizen journalism alongside the emergence of social media and new media platforms has brought both opportunities and challenges to the field of journalism. Recent events, like the tragedy in Gandbal Srinagar where a boat capsized in the Jehlum River, shed light on the ethical dilemmas faced by citizen journalists. While their presence at the scene aims to capture real-time events and emotions, their approach, particularly in engaging with the families of victims, raises concerns about ethical standards and accountability.

Unlike formal journalists who adhere to professional standards and obtain permission before using or capturing footage, citizen journalists often operate without such constraints. This lack of oversight raises questions about the ethical responsibilities of citizen journalists and the need for similar expectations regarding accountability and professionalism as those imposed on formal journalists.

In Kashmir, where citizen journalism has surged, it has outpaced formal media outlets, limiting the reach of traditional journalism. This dominance poses a challenge as it may hinder the public’s ability to access accurate and unbiased information, essential for making well-informed decisions.

Social media platforms have empowered individuals to report news instantly, bypassing traditional gatekeepers. While this democratization of media is commendable, it also opens the floodgates for misinformation and biased reporting, especially when citizen journalists lack formal education or training in journalistic ethics and standards.

The Gandbal Srinagar tragedy highlights how some citizen journalists may prioritize sensationalism over accuracy, especially when interacting with the families of victims. Instead of approaching them with empathy and respect, some exploit their emotions for the sake of viewership, crossing ethical boundaries and undermining the integrity of journalism.

The absence of accountability exacerbates the problem, as citizen journalists often operate without oversight or regulation. Without repercussions for unethical behavior, sensationalism and emotional manipulation can thrive, eroding public trust in media and hindering the dissemination of accurate information.

To address these challenges, clear guidelines and ethical standards must be established within citizen journalism. Emphasizing empathy, respect, and sensitivity in reporting, especially on sensitive issues like tragedies, is crucial. Citizen journalists should prioritize the well-being of those affected, seeking consent before interviews and refraining from exploiting emotions for the sake of a story.

The Gandbal Srinagar tragedy serves as a poignant reminder of the ethical responsibilities inherent in citizen journalism. While it has the potential to democratize media, it must also uphold ethical standards and accountability mechanisms to maintain public trust and integrity in reporting sensitive issues. My heartfelt condolences go out to the grieving families, and it’s unfortunate that in Kashmir, mourners struggle to find a space to mourn amidst these challenges.

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