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Universal Principles of Media Ethics: South African and German Perspectives

Lea-Sophie Borgmann | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: The increasingly globalised nature of media and journalism has led to a review of ethical standards, mainly to find universal ethical values which are applicable in a world with countless different cultures. This article attempts to address this field of research in comparing South African and German approaches to the topic of media ethics. Firstly, it outlines theories of universal and specific cultural ethical principles in journalism. Secondly, it shows how the conception of universal ethical principles, so called protonorms, is interpreted differently in the two cultures and how specific cultural values of media ethics are rated among the two cultural frameworks of Germany and South Africa. An online survey conducted among German and South African journalism students found significant differences in the ranking of media ethics principles as well as similarities and differences in the interpretations of protonorms. The results support existing normative theories of universal media ethics, such as the theory of protonorms, in contributing explorative empirical data to this field of mainly theoretical research.

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