|SS pamphlet ‘The Sub-Human’, using photographs by Associated Press. Photograph: AP|
Does a news organization have a moral obligation to fulfill when it comes to the retailing of human events or is it sufficient that it should take what it can get from sources demanding a truncated version of local -- and sometimes unpleasant -- truths?
Historical research seems to show (vis a vis Nazi Germany)
The New York-based agency ceded control of its output by signing up to the so-called Schriftleitergesetz (editor’s law), promising not to publish any material “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home”And as to more recent connections in North Korea:
When the French news agency Agence France-Presse signed an agreement to open a bureau in Pyongyang in January this year, AP’s former Pyongyang bureau chief Jean Lee commented that it was a sign of the regime’s “increased confidence in its ability to keep foreign journalists under control”.
The AP spokesperson denied that the agency submitted to censorship. “We do not run stories by the Korean Central News Agency or any government official before we publish them. At the same time, officials are free to grant or deny access or interviews.”
Nate Thayer, a former AP correspondent in Cambodia who published the leaked draft agreement, told the Guardian: “It looks like AP have learned very little from their own history. To claim, as the agency does, that North Korea does not control their output, is ludicrous. There is naturally an argument that any access to secretive states is important. But at the end of the day it matters whether you tell your readers that what you are reporting is based on independent and neutral sources”.And the Guardian piece does not even make reference to the increasingly common unwillingness of news organizations to ask hard questions at purportedly public political press conferences. The risk of being denied future participation or access to the candidate is simply too great.
"Freedom of the press" is something that news organizations love to flaunt and stand tall for. The fact that its luster happens to rub off on those organizations is a minor matter ... NOT.
I think that for all its drawbacks, the Internet is a good thing when it comes to investigating the distrust consumers can feel for the news media and its wares.