Universal Principles of Media Ethics: South African and German Perspectives


  • Lea-Sophie Borgmann University of Hamburg


culture, Germany, universal media ethics, libertarianism, principles, protonorms, South Africa, ubuntu


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.

Author Biography

Lea-Sophie Borgmann, University of Hamburg

Lea-Sophie Borgmann is currently enrolled in a Master of Arts programme in Communication Studies at the University of Hamburg. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Media Studies in 2010 from the University of Hamburg. From July to October 2010, she worked as an intern at a German news magazine in Melbourne, Australia. An academic exchange programme brought her to the Stellenbosch University in South Africa from January to June 2012, where she focussed on media ethics and African communication theories. She is specialising in methods and research related to the following topics: international and transcultural media ethics, international communication, opinion leadership and online communication. She was born and is currently living in Hamburg.


How to Cite

Borgmann, L.-S. (2012). Universal Principles of Media Ethics: South African and German Perspectives. Global Media Journal - German Edition, 2(2). Retrieved from https://globalmediajournal.de/index.php/gmj/article/view/116