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Journalist is Censored – What’s the harm?

"What's The Harm?" Video Vignette Series Part 6 “Eric” is being pressured by his editor to drop his story. Ask yourself: Is your publication trying to find the truth and earn trust — or just earn money? To learn more about "What's the Harm?" visit: https://yali.state.gov/whats-the-harm…

August 1, 2017

Read the transcript in Spanish, French, and English.

In the video, “Eric” is being pressured by his editor to drop his story. Censorship is a problem journalists all over the world have faced for a long time, says Charles Lewis, a journalism professor at American University in Washington. Governments, corporations and other powerful interests often put pressure on media either to keep information from becoming public or to promote their own agenda.

“The most disturbing element is it’s not just small publications, it could be some of the most elite, respected publications in a country. There’s no formula for which types of organizations are susceptible to this. It can happen anywhere,” Lewis said.

What’s the harm? For a journalist like “Eric,” it saps morale and professional pride. Journalists could go public with how they are being pressured, but that could risk destroying their careers. “They’ll be ostracized and other publishers will be nervous about them as well, frankly,” Lewis said.

Instead, some choose to self-censor to avoid this type of scenario, and this “has a way of killing your soul or at least damaging it over time.” Lewis said that if you are a principled journalist and find yourself being frequently censored, sometimes the only solution is to leave.

“There are some newsrooms where the culture has been so poisoned that it has basically become a mouthpiece for either a political party or for a political faction or in some cases … an organized crime entity that happens to own the publication,” Lewis said.

Media consumers can help by supporting publications with higher standards of journalistic ethics and which have internal checks and balances that prevent one editor, owner or other individual from having too much power within the organization.

Ask yourself: Is your publication trying to find the truth and earn trust — or just earn money?

Stop, Reflect, and Verify before you share information, and take the pledge to protect your reputation and your community at https://ylai.state.gov/verifies.

Integrity Starts With You. Join #YLAI For Integrity by taking the pledge at https://ylai.state.gov/integrity.

Video Transcript


Hey Eric, my office.
Eric just landed headfirst into the biggest story of his young career. It’s all there- the witnesses, the evidence. It’s all lined up. Except for one thing- As for as I’m concerned…

And there are a lot of very important people involved-

Some stories just don’t need to be told.

So in order to protect my job and my quarterly bonus, I need to threaten Eric that he could lose his job. It’s just business. I mean my threat is nothing compared to what he’s getting himself into. In the end, he’ll thank me.

So where’s the harm in that?

[TEXT: Journalism is about finding the truth and earning trust- not censorship.]

[TEXT: Learn “What’s the harm?” at ylai.state.gov/integrity]


Eric, mon bureau s’il vous plaît!

Eric est arrivé tête baissée dans la plus grande histoire de sa jeune carrière. Tout est là, les témoins, la preuve. Tout s’est bien déroulé. Sauf, pour une chose. En ce qui me concerne…

Et avec des personnes très importantes impliquées

Certaines histoires n’ont pas besoin d’être racontées.

Alors pour protéger mon emploi et ma prime trimestrielle, je dois menacer Eric de perdre le sien. Ce n’est pas personnel. Et de toute façon, mes menaces ne sont rien comparées à ce qu’il fait. Il va me remercier.

Où est le mal en ça ?

[TEXT: Le journalisme consiste à trouver la vérité et à gagner la confiance—pas la censure.]

[TEXT: Apprendre “Où est le mal en ça ?” à ylai.state.gov/integrity]


¡Eric, ven mi oficina, por favor!

Eric acaba de involucrarse en la historia más grande de su joven Carrera. Tiene de todo, los testigos, las pruebas. Todo está alineado. Excepto, una cosa. En lo que a mí concierne…

Y para otras personas muy importantes involucradas

Algunas historias no necesitan ser contadas.

Así que, para proteger MI empleo y mis bonos trimestrales, yo necesito amenazar a Eric a que abandone la historia. Es sólo negocios. De todos modos, mis amenazas no se comparan a las cosas que él mismo se está metiendo. Él me agradecerá después.

¿Qué hay de malo en hacer eso?

[TEXT: El periodismo se trata de descubrir la verdad y ganarse la confianza — no la censura.]

[TEXT: Aprenda “¿Cuál sería el daño?” En ylai.state.gov/integrity]