It is generally known that journalism ethics includes values and principles largely known among journalists as code of ethics. The basic ones are easily to be found on websites of professional journalism associations or any other news organizations. The most common elements of those basic principles are truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability.
That’s why people strongly believe that next to teachers, journalists have the noblest profession. If teachers selflessly share their knowledge to students, journalists also educate and inform people and provide a venue for them to take part in sustaining the good, changing the bad and transforming the society to a better one. In one word : civic journalism that aims to encourage and involve communities in solving issues and helping them to tackle better local, national or international issues. However, a story that has been on international media focus over the last three days shows that unfortunately, there are still some journalists ( and sometimes well known) who do not hesitate a second to violate flagrantly that code of ethics for the sake of money. Too sad.
In fact, two French journalists Eric Laurent and Catherine Graciet co-authored a book about King Mohammed VI but allegedly thought they could make more money keeping it unpublished.
“A sum of money was handed over and accepted,” the source said, adding that the journalists were being investigated for attempted extortion and attempted blackmail.
At the request of the Moroccan government. a French lawyer filed a lawsuit against the two and a second meeting was arranged in which the two journalists, who did not know police was monitoring them, signed contracts and received 800,000 euros in cash.
A lawyer for the Moroccan government told France’s RTL radio that Mr Laurent contacted the royal palace in July to demand €3 million (£2.2m; $3.4m). They are now free on bail, but restricted from talking to each other or parties involved in the case.
“Meetings were filmed and recorded between the journalists and the king’s representatives… under the supervision of the police,” said Dupond-Moretti on Thursday.
The French judicial source told Reuters the two freelance journalists, who had previously published a book criticizing the monarch, were placed under investigation on Friday evening and released from custody overnight. Under French law, being placed under formal investigation indicates there exists “serious or consistent evidence” pointing to probable implication of a suspect in a crime.
These journalists could face France’s penal code, where extortion is penalized with up to 7 years in jail and a 100,000 Euro fine. Charges for blackmailing are also punished with up to 5 years in jail and a 75,000 Euro fine.
Let’s hope that this unacceptable blackmail case will not jeopardize again Moroccan-French relations. It is worth noting that Morocco broke off legal cooperation on February 27, 2014 because of several legal complaints filed for torture and complicity in torture in France against a senior Moroccan official.
Morocco’s “strong and quick reaction to freeze judicial cooperation with France” was a sign that the kingdom will not tolerate “tampering with its dignity” by an ally. France is unlikely to jeopardize its ties with Morocco.
France and Morocco enjoy powerful and historical relations and similar incidents should never jeopardize them. The legitimate question now is whose interest is it in the current geopolitical context to create such a spat between two strong allies? Morocco has total confidence in the French judicial system and looking forward to a just verdict in that case. Moroccans do not tolerate any harm against their institutions.
If proven true, the two French journalists are blameworthy of violations of the code of ethics. This unwholesome behavior should be widely denounced. It should be every journalist’s duty to adhere to highest ethical standards, professional competence and good behavior in order to win the credibility of the public. This blackmail case should be a lesson to all the media community who should immediately take action and probe into the activities of journalists violating the Code of Ethics. Stringent punitive sanctions against members of the media found culpable of similar acts are highly recommended.