Communication Ethics and Universal Values
Publication Year: 1997
This volume is designed to revolutionize the field of communication by identifying a broad ethical theory which transcends the world of mass media practice to reveal a more humane and responsible code of values. The contributors, representing a diverse range of intercultural perspectives, defend the possibility of universal moral imperatives such as justice, reciprocity and human dignity. Through an examination of the values in which their cultures are grounded, they provide a short list of ethical principles which form the common ground from which to view contemporary issues in the media, interpersonal communication, mediation and conflict resolution.
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
Part I: Foundations and Framework
- Chapter 1: The Ethics of Being in a Communications Context
- Chapter 2: The Moral Dimension of Communicating
- Chapter 3: Discourse Ethics and its Relevance for Communication and Media Ethics
- Chapter 4: Universal Values and Moral Development Theories
Part II: Protonorms across Cultures
- Chapter 5: The Basic Norm of Truthfulness: Its Ethical Justification and Universality
- Chapter 6: The Arab-Islamic Heritage in Communication Ethics
- Chapter 7: Ethics and the Discourse on Ethics in Post-Colonial India
- Chapter 8: Communication Ethics in a Latin American Context
- Chapter 9: Communalistic Societies: Community and Self-Respect as African Values
- Chapter 10: Emergent Values from American Indian Discourse
Part III: Applications
- Chapter 11: Communications, Hope, and Ethics
- Chapter 12: Communication Ethics in a Changing Chinese Society: The Case of Taiwan
- Chapter 13: Japanese-Style Communication in a New Global Age
- Chapter 14: Vagaries of Time and Place: Media Ethics in Poland
- Chapter 15: Accepting the other: On the Ethics of Intercultural Communication in Ethnographic Film
- Chapter 16: Women, Welfare, and the United States Media
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Main entry under title:
Communication ethics and universal values / editors, Clifford Christians and Michael Traber.
Includes bibliographical references (p.) and index.
ISBN 0-7619-0584-7 (acid-free paper).—ISBN 0-7619-0585-5 (pbk.: acid-free paper)
1. Communication—Moral and ethical aspects. I. Christians, Clifford G. II. Traber, Michael.
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Communication ethics faces a monumental challenge at present. It has to respond to both the rapid globalization of communications and the reassertion of local sociocultural identities. It is caught in the apparently contradictory trends of cultural homogenization and cultural resistance. Therefore, ethics must confront these critical questions: Can theoretical models be developed that are explicitly cross-cultural? Can moral principles be identified that are universal within the splendid variety of human life? Will a multicultural comparative ethics replace the dominant canons, most of them North Atlantic and patriarchal? As the field grows empirically and matures conceptually, a new axis is needed to replace its mono-cultural one.
The comparative ethics represented in this book places Western and non-Western cultures, and those North and South, on a level playing field. It presumes that all philosophies of culture can offer unique insights into the fundamental principles of communication ethics and can thus make substantial contributions to normative discourse. Every culture depends for its existence on norms that order human relationships and social institutions.
To foster participation and equality, working sessions on multicultural ethics were held in various locations around the world. These colloquia were organized by the World Association for Christian Communication in London—cosponsor of the Sage monograph series “Communication and Human Values” and editorial home of the international journal Media Development. Sometimes, these forums were held alongside the conventions [Page ix]of the International Association for Mass Communication Research, as in Lake Bled, Slovenia, in 1990 and São Paulo, Brazil, in 1992. Other seminars were cosponsored by universities or professional organizations, such as the meetings in Moscow (1991), Seoul (1992), Dares Salaam, Tanzania (1993), Colombo, Sri Lanka (1994), and Munich, Germany (1994). In such venues, local and regional scholars presented the major discussion papers on the question: What are the fundamental ethical principles of human interaction in general and public communication in particular within one's native cultural tradition? Several of these papers, in revised form, are included in this volume; others were commissioned as a result of the debate.
During this process, it became obvious that the current problems (some would say malaise) of the mass media cannot be resolved by new press or broadcasting codes, let alone legislation, but by in-depth and systematic reflection about the fundamental norms that form the bedrock of ethical reasoning and moral choices. The decision, therefore, was not to study professional ethics in a narrow sense (which is being done by many other institutions) but to discover a normative vision or a broadly based ethical theory of communication. Such a vision transcends the world of mass media practice and makes a contribution to the public ethos, that is, to a more humane and more responsible code of values that society as a whole could and should adopt.
For a comparative communication ethics of this scope to be credible, questions need to be asked on three different levels of abstraction. In foundational terms, what is the rationale for normativity itself in an age of normlessness? Within the domain of particular cultures, are there common values underlying them that are similar to those of other cultural traditions? And, on the level of communication practice and policy, are there master norms that provide direction and boundaries for media morality? These various levels, although discrete for purposes of analysis, mix through one another as components of the whole. In a version of the hermeneutical circle, they serve as entry points into the overall project of systematizing a multicultural communication ethics.
The four chapters in Part I approach the foundational issues from four perspectives. In the face of philosophical relativisim, and contradicting the commonplaces that deny there are common values which transcend ideologies and culture, these chapters defend the possibility of universal moral imperatives. Although such norms are known to us in diverse languages, [Page x]geography, and history, the general argument in this section is that principles or protonorms, regardless of region and symbolic forms, are essential for maintaining human society.
In Chapter 1, ethics is grounded in being. The primal sacredness of life on earth is identified as the philosophical foundation of the moral order. The rationale for human responsibility is reverence for the organic realm in which human civilization is situated. Nurturing life has a taken-for-granted character; its purpose is embedded in the animate world, evident in its own reproduction. The universal sacredness of human life bonds us into an organic unity and imputes to humankind a privileged ontological status. As with parents' obligation to children, our universal solidarity is unquestioned—stitched into our being as a moral species.
Antonio Pasquali, in Chapter 2, calls for a new morality of intersubjectivity as the prime need of our time. He develops a multicultural model that accounts for shifting East-West relations and the ongoing confrontations between North and South. In his construction, human relations are recovered as nonnegotiable, and distributive justice replaces traditional social contracts constrained by nationalism. Intersubjectivity models situate morality in our everyday experience and locate the conceptual more closely to the way ethical judgments actually occur in the human community. This strategy enables us to be continually self-analytical from within rather than merely critical from the outside.
The discourse ethics of Karl-Otto Apel and Jürgen Habermas enjoy the widest critical attention at present in unearthing the universal structures of communication. Edmund Arens evaluates the concept of communicative rationality in Chapter 3 as a procedure for universally grounding norms of human action. His approach implies three universals for media ethics: orientation toward shared truth, authentic expression free of delusion, and social justice.
Chapter 4 examines moral development theories to understand what constitutes the content and process of moral growth. Moral development theories derive from the observation that people grow and change in their perception of what makes an action good or bad, right or wrong. Just as one's cognition and physical self change through growth and experience, so too does one's moral sense. Because valuing is presumed to be a basic activity in all conscious humans, theories of moral development rest on the assumption of universality. Their validity depends on a credible version of universal values.
[Page xi]Part II enters the field of comparative ethics from the perspective of particular cultures. From six different regions of the world in five continents, authors probe beneath the surface for bedrock values in which their cultures are grounded. In these philosophical reflections of ethicists and academics who analyze social communication within their own contexts, a short list of ethical principles emerges—many of them overlapping one another. Their focus is not on abstract, noncontingent axioms that exist in metaphysical isolation. These reflections center on protonorms or underlying presuppositions that are necessary for ethical reasoning. Proto- can mean first or initial, as in “prototype,” where a model is fabricated and engineers reproduce it in a second step in a process. However, Part II understands proto- in terms of lying beneath, as in the proto Indo-European language—a lingual predecessor underlying the actual languages that exist in history and one that can be reconstructed from languages we know.
Truth is one underlying principle about which there is cross-cultural agreement. The most fundamental norm of Arab-Islamic communication is truthfulness. Truth is one of the three highest values in the context of the Latin American experience of communication. In Hinduism, the supreme ideal is the state of moksha or liberation, and actions characterized by truth [satya] are essential for achieving it. Truth is the highest dharma and the source of all other virtues; it is unanimously recognized in all Hindu traditions. Deception destroys the social order. Living with others is inconceivable if we cannot tacitly assume that people are speaking truthfully. Lying, in fact, is so unnatural that machines can measure bodily reactions against it. When we deceive, Dietmar Mieth argues in Chapter 5, the truth imperative is recognized in advance: “otherwise, there would be no need to justify such exceptions as special cases. … those who relativize such a norm are indirectly recognizing it by offering reasons to justify their limitation of its categorical validity” (p. 89).
Respect for another person's dignity is a second underlying principle on which various cultures rest. Different cultural traditions affirm human dignity in a variety of ways, but together they insist that all human beings have sacred status without exception. Native American discourse is steeped in reverence for life, an interconnectedness among all living forms so that we live in solidarity with others as equal constituents in the web of life. In communalistic societies, one's own self-respect, by definition, entails a total commitment to the community's reputation as a whole, allowing nothing that would put others in disrepute. A philosophical analysis of Latin [Page xii]American societies sees in the insistence on cultural identity an affirmation of the unique worth of human beings. One of the features that both religious and secular Arab traditions have in common is insisting on every person's right to honor and a good reputation.
No harm to the innocent is a third protonorm weaving its way through the diversity of Chapters 6 through 10. In some ethical systems, protecting the innocent revolves around the search for a just society and the consequent revulsion if the powerless are abused. In communalistic and indigenous cultures, care for the weak and vulnerable (children, sick, and elderly) and sharing material resources and knowledge are a matter of course. The ability to forgive, to be reconciled and show compassion are also expressions of the principle that the innocent ought not be harmed. In Latin American axiology, this protonorm takes shape in appealing for nonviolence. Ahimsa [non-violence] along with truth in dharma forms the basis for the Hindu worldview as a whole. Ahimsa, closely associated with the virtue of compassion or universal kindness, is applicable to all beings and in all circumstances of life.
The efforts at grounded theory in Part 2 benefit from Kaarle Nordenstreng's extensive work on codes of ethics in an international setting (Nordenstreng & Topuz, 1989; cf. Juusela, 1991).1 This section shows some similarities to Thomas Cooper's (1989) study of international media ethics, which also identifies three protonorms for universal status.2 Cooper concluded that one worldwide concern within the apparatus of professional standards and codes is the quest for truth (though often limited in the literature to a concern for objectivity and accuracy; p. 20).3 A second concern based on the available research data, Cooper defines as “a desire for responsibility among public communicators” for the social mores and cultural features in which they operate (p. 20). This sense of obligation is more diffuse than protonorm three (no harm to the innocent) described earlier. However, Cooper's vision of justice, equality, and protection of privacy overlap with, and arise from, a self-consciousness that the innocent ought not be harmed. Cooper also concludes that freedom of expression is a possible third imperative across the professional media practices that he and his colleagues investigated (p. 21). Although its scope is narrower than the protonorm of human dignity, free speech is an important component of maintaining human uniqueness. The emphasis on cultural identity in Latin America and the concern for a public voice of indigenous integrity in Native [Page xiii]American discourse are illustrations of how human dignity and free expression are part and parcel of one another.
Part 3 asks whether protonorms across cultures make any difference in contemporary mass communications practice. Steeped as they are in tradition and social philosophy, do these ethical protonorms have any practical relevance for the urgent media issues of today? Do protonorms help us build a theoretical model that is multicultural but with little chance to influence particular communication systems? Chapters 11 through 16, in fact, argue the opposite; protonorms for them are a vital resource in facing today's media crises and conundrums.
Pedro Gomes in Chapter 11 calls on mass media professionals to break away from established social codes that mask unfairness and to follow instead the demands of a liberating ethics. Journalists, producers, and editors in a complicated world must keep their eyes on the horizon of utopia to serve society effectively. Ethics codes and organizational canons are insufficient; they ordinarily protect the status quo and stultify action. Over the long term, professionals need a moral conscience inscribed by such principles as justice, reciprocity, and human dignity.
In Chapter 12, recent changes in Taiwan offer author Georgette Wang a rare opportunity to examine the relationship between media morality and protonorms. As old political and social taboos collapse, media professionals are prompted to reexamine the codes and behavior that typically have defined acceptable practice. A rich and broad definition of truth-telling as comprehensive understanding of reality is critical, while a new participatory public sphere takes shape and journalistic definitions of accuracy and objectivity are discredited as too narrow for the sea-changes underway.
For Hideo Takeichi, in Chapter 13, the traditional Japanese emphasis on group harmony is too insular and weak for dealing with the globalization of the economy and internationalization of communication. The Japanese challenge for the new age, as he sees it, is reaching beyond its national borders to the ethical principle of human solidarity, transcending the differences of nationality and culture.
Starting with the Solidarity revolution of 1980, Polish society—media practitioners among them—have struggled with the question of what value system to recognize and follow; this is the topic of Chapter 14. Whereas moral values such as justice, equality, truth, and human dignity dominated the agenda during the 1980s, these values have been traded [Page xiv]away for a laissez faire system since a Solidarity-led government was elected in 1989. Journalists have tended to retreat to a standard market model. However, if they are to genuinely serve the public interest, they should invigorate their journalistic conventions with such universal principles as truth-telling, free expression, and justice.
In coming to grips with issues of power among visual anthropologists and in ethnographic film making, Keyan Tomaselli and Arnold Shepperson (Chapter 15) turn to global criteria articulated by Agnes Heller. The basic common values in her notion of dynamic justice are freedom and the protection of life. As a communicative practice, ethnographic film is explicitly multicultural and intercultural. The standard appeals for “professionalism” ignore the ideological questions and obscure the oppressive practices. Therefore, a normative system rooted in dynamic justice is necessary to insure that this genre affirms the humanist project.
Chapter 16 examines the welfare debate currently taking place in the United States media. It argues for an ethical approach able to address issues of stereotyping and visual association and of dehumanization and polemical discourse. Morally acceptable welfare coverage requires a theoretical model able to shed light on the discursive formation of social identity, bias, and such practices as scapegoating. The three pillars of this model are the protonorms of human dignity, unconditional acceptance of the Other, and solidarity with the weak and vulnerable.
In conclusion, the atmosphere of the new millenium has temptations and its own challenges. The temptations are to succumb to the pessimism of the fin-de-siècle ambience, and to look for scapegoats, including the mass media, that could be blamed for the ills of our time. The final chapter postulates that the current lack of certitude that marks the extraordinary age in which we live should, instead, encourage us to engage in a rigorous analysis of the crises in values around us. As Hans Küng (1991) reminds us, today's complex and fragile world needs “global ethical standards to survive. … [It] does not need a unitary religion and a unitary ideology, but it does need some norms, values, ideals and goals to bring it together” (pp. xvi-xvii; cf. Kidder, 1994). The urgency of common values for a sustainable 21st century is especially apparent among the powerful transnational media and information systems.
Needless to say, consensus about ethical principles of communication has broken down in some countries and is under assault in others. This book [Page xv]is not a rescue operation to recover these principles of times past. Its aim is to reintroduce them into the current normative discourse and reconceptualize them as systematically as possible for the modern institutions of mass communication.
The multicultural comparative ethics developed here does not aim at geographic representation. The approach is topical and issue oriented. The study process for this book has demonstrated that cultures in all their differences also reflect common humaneness and humanity. This book thus shows the many different entranceways that can lead to a common ethical discourse on a global scale, centered on truth-telling, human dignity, and no harm to the innocent.Notes
1. Nordenstreng's (1984) The Mass Media Declaration of UNESCO was a pathbreaker in understanding professional ethics internationally through codes of ethics; cf. also Nordenstreng and Topuz (1989). For a summary of the common values expressed in journalistic codes and how they can account for diversity at the same time, see Nordenstreng (1989). Juusela (1991) adds to this analysis from the perspective of human rights with his research on journalistic codes of ethics in the 23 countries of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe; Juusela also lists some of the earlier work on codes of ethics (pp. 5–6).
2. Cooper's Communication Ethics and Global Change was the first comprehensive survey of media ethics across cultures by an international network of media professionals and teachers from 13 countries. Nordenstreng, Topuz, and Juusela investigated codes of media ethics empirically, and Cooper evaluated the state of the art in professional morality, whereas Communication Ethics and Universal Values is more philosophical in orientation.
3. In his research on human values among indigenous peoples. Cooper (1994, p. 338) identified truthfulness as one of their primary principles. Truth-telling is the moral centerpiece of the Shuswap bands in Western Canada.ReferencesCooper, Thomas W. (Ed.). (1989). Communication ethics and global change. New York: Longman.1994). Communion and communication: Learning from the Shuswap. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 11(4), 327–345. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15295039409366909(1991). Journalistic codes of ethics in the CSCE countries. Tampere, Finland: University of Tampere, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication Publications, Series B.. ([Page xvi]1994). Shared values in a troubled world. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.(1991). Global responsibility: In search of a new world ethic (Trans., JohnBowden). London: SCM.(1984). The mass media declaration of UNESCO. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.. (1989). Professionalism in transition: Journalistic ethics. In Thomas W.Cooper (Ed.), Communication ethics and global change (pp. 277–283). New York: Longman.. (Nordenstreng, Kaarle, & Topuz, Hifzi. (Eds.). (1989). Journalist: Status, rights and responsibilities. Prague: International Order of Journalists.
Conclusion: An Ethics of Communication Worthy of Human Beings[Page 327]MichaelTraber
One of the characteristics of the preceding chapters is their grounding in human nature and personhood. Their arguments are based on genuine humanism—in the sense that the very essence of human createdness defines the horizon of people's moral stance. To be human is being moral; to be moral is being human. Morality means conduct befitting human beings.
A second feature of this book's approach to communication ethics is its social dimension. Humans are social beings. They cannot but be members of communities and societies. The good life of the individual cannot, ultimately, be realized unless it is at least intended or envisaged for all members of a society. The good life, therefore, encompasses a vision of the good society.1 Communication ethics always envisages social justice.
[Page 328]A third theme that runs through most chapters of this book is the question of freedom in solidarity. Freedom, an essential attribute of the human being, encounters in communication the freedom of others. Without the acknowledgment of mutual freedom, no genuine communication is possible. Communicative freedom, however, can only blossom in solidarity: that is, in an attitude of responsibility for each other. The claim of unassailable freedom in universal solidarity is one of the most vexing questions in contemporary ethical discourse.
Fourth, the cross-cultural approach is the hallmark of this book. It attempts to situate ethical protonorms of communication in different, particularly non-Western, cultures. This approach, however, is not ethnographic but philosophical. It asks, how do different cultures reveal such protonorms about communication and, more important, how are these norms connected to the nature of human beings?
These four insights emerging from the chapters of this book should not be seen as a summary of their contents. The rich and variegated understanding of ethical protonorms of different cultures cannot possibly be summed up in a few pages. The four themes merely highlight the central arguments in the debate about a communication ethics that is based on universal human values.
The four themes shall now be discussed in turn. But teasing out the essence of the arguments is one thing. Analyzing them in terms of their applicability to real-life world practice is another. The ultimate test of the validity of ethical protonorms lies in their relevance for practical principles that can guide everyday human interaction, including the purposeful interactions of mass communication practitioners and their counterparts, mass media users.Communications Befitting Human Beings
Until around the middle of the 18th century, communication was a comparatively straightforward matter. The communities to which people belonged were geographically circumscribed, and the print media—books and newspapers—were the prerogative of the elite. The technical means of electronic communication had not yet been developed. Communication ethics has reflected this situation; it has been confined principally to interpersonal communication.
[Page 329]The world of interpersonal face-to-face communication, as distinct from the mass media, is depicted in several chapters of this book. Thus, the question arises whether interpersonal communication is a solid enough base on which to construct a communication ethics for the modern world of mass media. When lying is seen as unnatural, as evidenced by the bodily reaction that can be measured by a lie detector, is it then reasonable to assume that broadcasters or advertising copy writers also blush when telling lies? As Jürgen Wilke (1992) points out,
[That] mass communication is mostly indirect and one-way communication is of structural importance. Although forms of two-way communication have increased, journalists and audiences are largely separated from each other. This also has consequences for the journalists' professional ethics. People feel less bound to persons they do not know personally. … Therefore, mass communication needs a form of ethics that is still applicable even if certain effects on the audience cannot be observed directly. (pp. 4–5)
The contributors to this book argue that when humans engage in their most natural and most essential activity, communication, certain ethical principles are nonnegotiable. This position assumes that mass communication is first and foremost communication rather than a media product. When media are seen primarily as commodities for sale, similar to sugar and soap, they surreptitiously escape the field of moral judgment. Coupled with this widespread trend of commoditizing of the media (Hamelink, 1994, pp. 7–9), audiences are relegated into passivity. As Raboy and Dagenais (1992) observe,
Can we claim that “being there” through the eye of the camera (as in Beijing, and so forth) provides meaningful information, usable in the exercise of democratic citizenship? For local populations perhaps. If publics were to be informed of pending political choices, rather than after the fact, their intervention could perhaps influence these choices. As it is, we are allowed to see only that which we can no longer do more than absorb. This is consumerism in its purest form. (p. 60)
There is a further assumption behind the consumerist view of the mass media, namely, that they are value-free. This is constantly suggested by reference to consumer choice. The moral burden, as it were, is then put on audiences, whereas the media go scot-free: they are only offering choices. It may be worth recalling that the large-scale study by the National Institute [Page 330]for Mental Health (1982), combining more than 2,500 research projects, concluded that U.S. television is indeed a source of values. U.S. television, and most television elsewhere, is steeped in values that are ideologically determined, as Robin Andersen's chapter illustrates.
Regardless of these truly de-moralizing trends, there is no escape from the fact that communications, both interpersonal and mass mediated, are human actions and therefore, like all other human actions, subject to ethical norms. But acting is not the same as doing. Journalists, for example, use technical know-how in the construction of stories; they use journalistic techniques. As such, techniques belong to the realm of doing, like the work of all other artisans. But if journalistic techniques are developed in ways that condition and co-determine the contents of the messages, they become part of acting, that is, part of the intended interaction with others. The so-called professional criteria for news (timeliness, conflict, importance of persons, and so forth) are examples of this. They may serve as a quick reference guide for the selection of news and are therefore techniques. But at the same time, they select the situations worthy of reporting (conflicts, accidents) and choose VIPs as the prime social actors, often to the exclusion of others (mainly women, children, and manual laborers). Thus, the willfully chosen “criteria” of news are not merely techniques but indeed part of human actions.
Communications as human actions are grounded in the very nature of human beings, or the humanum. What distinguishes human beings from other animals is their ability to use language. Aristotle already made the distinction between sound and language. Whereas other animals may utter sounds to express pain or lust, only humans possess language that they use “to tell each other what is good and bad, and what is just and unjust” (Politics I,2 1253a 16; see also Pfürtner, 1992, p. 39). Language then is essential for the humanum, containing, as it does, the potential for a full development of human nature, both for individuals and groups or communities.
Language makes relationships possible. Relationships are based on the exchange of experiences, of joys and anxieties, of hopes and fears, of commitments and admissions of failure. Such sharing includes information about the world we live in, which is usually presented in story form. But communication is always more than just information. In the stories we tell each other about the world in which we live, we participate in the lives of others. Not all communication, however, is life enhancing. There is communication [Page 331]that de-humanizes. The task of ethics is to reflect on, and subject to reason, the life-enhancing and dehumanizing acts of communications, both interpersonal and mass mediated.
The acknowledgment through communication of a person's human dignity is minimally defined by laws in most, if not all, cultures. Each person is entitled to a good reputation or honor. Any statement, hint, or suggestion that a person's character is disreputable or his or her behavior dishonorable are subject to laws covering defamation and slander. An ethical protonorm, namely human dignity, has been translated into a legal framework with practically universal application.
Similarly, most countries have laws prohibiting, to various degrees, the publication or exposure in public of sexual acts that are likely to offend the public. Obscenity laws intend to protect against abuse what is most personal and private in peoples' lives, their sexual intimacies. But more fundamentally, they aim at safeguarding, again minimally, the respect owed to all women, men, and children by virtue of their human dignity.
These examples, however, also illustrate the ethical dilemmas of our time. Libel cases now center on the cost of litigation rather than the restoration of a person's reputation. The media, not merely the lawyers, are partly to blame for this. As the University of Iowa study on libel and the press shows (see Christians, Ferré, & Fackler, 1993, pp. 73–74), many plaintiffs originally wanted an apology or correction by the media. When the media refused that, they contacted a lawyer. The question of compensation then takes over, and the moral dimension of a person's injured reputation moves backstage.
Similarly, pornography. Many magazine editors and media proprietors are pushing the pornographic pose and content to the limit, testing what might still be permissible under the law. They totally miss the point about human dignity nor are they concerned about the likely offense to the public. Obscenity laws can therefore be counterproductive. Rather than stopping violations of human dignity, which is their ultimate raison d'ětre, various media have become obsessed by sexuality. The dignity of women and men is now under sustained media attack.
These examples show that laws, to say the least, are unsatisfactory guides to morally appropriate behavior. Ethics allows for no shortcuts. Ethical principles are either grasped and acknowledged in full for what they are and meant to be, or they turn into moral charades, adding insult to injury.[Page 332]Communication Ethics is Social Ethics
Communication is by definition oriented toward others; it is an intersubjective, dialogic process. And mass communications, by virtue of their public roles, are a public service that is essential to the community and society of which they are part. The MacBride Report (Many Voices, One World, MacBride, 1980, p. 34) compares communication with the nervous system. If the nervous system breaks down, proper coordination in the body is no longer possible, pain is no longer registered, the body becomes dysfunctional. Communications in modern democratic societies play a similar role: When public communications fall below a certain minimum level, societies start disintegrating. According to Selbourne (1994), communication is “the only means to maintain the discourse between citizens without which the civic bond itself is mute” (p. 212). Selbourne explains:
When the excessive power of particular interest in the control and dissemination of information is able, in free pursuit of such interest, to impose upon the sovereign civic order systematic falsehood, or values which degrade the citizen who receives such information, the civic order, under its duty of self-protection and protection of the citizen, is obligated to prevent such abuse. (p. 213)
For Selbourne (1994), “civic order is both ethically and historically prior to the state, whose interests the latter must serve: and the moral status of the citizen-body and its collective power greater than that of the state, however armed” (p. 90). When communication's role in society and the moral status of civil society are interpreted in such a way, communication ethics takes on a new profile. Individual ethics that is concerned with principles that guide individual actions and refer to questions of personal choice is unable to cope with mass mediated communication. One of the problems of communication ethics is that considerably more attention has been given to individual than to social ethics. This has meant that many institutional practices of the mass media have not been subjected to as critical an ethical discernment as have individual practices. Social ethics develops principles that guide institutional and societal morality and refer to issues of social policy.
A social ethic of communication is the very opposite of the economic-industrial rationality that is commonly applied to the mass media—the pursuit of profit, technological efficiency and effectiveness, and competition [Page 333]in the economic marketplace. In contrast, social ethics of communication is based on a social rationale or raison d'ětre, of the mass media:
- They are primarily a service to their publics, to which they are ultimately accountable;
- They are holistic, relating to the whole person in the whole community and the whole of society, treating audiences as people rather than objects; and
- They are committed to social justice, which means exposing injustices and cultivating active solidarity with the marginalized and disadvantaged sectors of society.
Social ethics, among other things, is concerned with the mass media as institutions and communication as part of social systems. One of the arguments frequently advanced against communication ethics is that the mass media are not guided by persons who can make independent choices and take autonomous actions. Instead, they operate as an intricate network of interrelated roles and functions for the sake of an integrated process. The media are therefore considered institutional systems beyond the reach of individual morality (see, e.g., Saxer, 1992).
Boventer (1986) comes to the conclusion that “journalism functions largely as a self-sufficient and self-centered organizational structure … which is reminiscent of feudalism rather than democracy” (p. 253). Feudalism refers to the media's relationships with the power elites. “They agree upon their mutual interests without being held responsible for them” (p. 254).
We therefore have to distinguish between the mass media's institutional working procedures and their systems of power in a societal context. The first, as explained earlier, belongs to the realm of techniques, the second to the sphere of morality; but both are interconnected. Social ethics subjects mass media systems to moral reasoning in so far as they address their publics, that is, as acts of communication. It is the relational rather than the technical aspects of media enterprises that are the concern of ethics. In addition, social ethics scrutinizes the mass media about the type of society that they project, often implicitly. If they hold up a mirror of society in which, for example, the weak and vulnerable hardly exist, or in which women have no say, or where money is the highest good, then moral choices about society have been made. These choices are translated into policy decisions. And such decisions are made by policy makers. It is precisely [Page 334]in the field of policy making that the protonorms of communication ethics are crucial.
Based on principles that consider being-in-community as essentially human, social ethics aims at the transformation of society. “The theory of media ethics that we advocate … makes transformative social change the end. … It gives priority to civic transformation as the press's occupational norm” (Christians et al., 1993, p. 14). Social ethics, therefore, gives the media a new meaning and allots them a central place in society. This cannot be dismissed as advocacy journalism. It flows directly from the duty that the mass media owe their communities and societies. This duty, however, implies dialogue. Rather than proposing a sociopolitical program of action, the media are to tease out the views of their audiences on the type of society in which they want to live and the type of social order they hope to bequeath to their children. Christians et al. (1993) call them normative communities:
Nurturing communitarian citizenship entails, at a minimum, a journalism committed to justice, covenant and empowerment. Authentic communities are marked by justice; in strong democracies, courageous talk is mobilized into action. Covenant bonds rather than contractual calculations make genuine community possible. In normative communities, citizens are empowered for social transformation, not merely freed from external constraints, as classical liberalism insisted. (p. 14)
Social ethics does not abrogate or suspend individual ethics. Media workers, together or alone, still make dozens of moral decisions every day. But these decisions assume added weight and importance if judged from the vantage point of social ethics.Persons in Solidarity
Humans as social beings are meant to be with and for others. But humans are also persons, and as such are autonomous. Personhood signals the independent self and its freedom.2
Human freedom is axiological. It needs no proof. It is part of life experience and can only be reflected on. Reflection reveals that freedom is an integral part of human nature and thus a precondition for humans to be moral beings. Freedom makes all specifically human actions possible, including [Page 335]communications. It includes the possibility of self-determination and self-development. But the self that is to be developed directs us back to human nature. The rationale for freedom is to become more truly human and humane. Freedom is both part of being human and of becoming humane. “The range of choice open to the individual is not the decisive factor in determining the degree of human freedom, but what can be chosen and what is chosen by the individual” (Marcuse, 1968, p. 23).
In determining the object of choice, one should remember that humans are not born free. Humans take their places in already existing relationships, family relations included. Humans therefore encounter other freedoms, that is, the freedom of others. Freedom must accept other freedoms unconditionally rather than merely tolerating them. Freedom must seek out, and intentionally open up to, other freedoms. In brief, freedom is not oriented toward objects of desire but toward people. Only in the free encounter with others can genuine freedom be experienced.
The unconditional acknowledgment of the other's freedom takes place in symbolic structures. They are made up of stories, images, signs, laws, religions, and work practices that, taken together, are called culture. This symbol structure can enhance or limit freedom. Therefore, those who use the symbols have a duty to create and cultivate conditions whereby the freedom of all is commonly acknowledged and enhanced.
Communicative freedom always implies solidarity, a solidarity that is universal, that is, extends to all people and peoples. The reason for this does not lie in the fact that the present generation understands the interconnections between peoples in one world. Here, the concept of universality is based on the fundamental equality of all human beings and their identical claims to freedom. In the context of specific sociopolitical conditions, the abstract concept of universal solidarity becomes quite concrete. It is, above all, solidarity with those whose freedom has been taken away, or seriously diminished, thus rendering them less than human. In these cases, solidarity becomes, as it were, operational, that is, transforms itself into concrete communicative actions. Commenting on the work of Emmanuel Levinas, Christians (1995) describes this ethical transformation:
In responding to the Other's need, the baseline for justice is established across the human race. Ethics is no longer a vassal of philosophical speculation, but is rooted in human existence. We seize our moral obligation and existential condition simultaneously. (p. 88)
[Page 336]Solidarity then is not so much a feeling as a particular way of being. The concept expresses
a sense of togetherness with others, a unity of interest … fighting together for an idea, an interest, for mutual help.
Like all forms of communication, solidarity is of course situation-bound. It takes place within determined concrete conditions. In short, one is in solidarity with other people and subjects about a matter, in a situation. (Thomassen, 1985, p. 143)
If active solidarity means participating in the lives of those whom society has relegated to the gutters and ghettos, it also implies joint suffering and remembrance. Both suffering and remembering are existential. They connect past with present, they ascertain the causes of injustice and the scope of suffering, they are marked by the physical and symbolic annihilations of past and present, they are aware of guilt and call for repentance and restitution. Solidarity has an anamnestic quality. If solidarity of remembrance is used selectively, it contradicts itself. Anamnestic solidarity can only be applied universally.
Solidarity is also anticipatory; it is oriented toward generations still unborn. At a time when the consequences of science and technology can hardly be foreseen, when rearmament and militarist competition show no sign of abetting—despite rhetoric to the contrary and at a time when few dare to predict the future of basic social institutions such as the family or the future availability of natural resources due to the exploitation of the physical environment—at such times, a feeling of insecurity is spreading that generates fear of the future. Anticipatory solidarity, instead, aims at generating hope. It anticipates a world in which humane conditions for all prevail. It is engaged in the building and rebuilding of social and political structures that can best promote justice for all. Hope in the future and hope for all is the hallmark of universal solidarity.
Ultimately, solidarity is similar to love.
It is exclusively occasioned by the other person (or persons), and calculation of thought involving personal advantage ruins it. … It is unconditional respect of the other person(s). … It has an ethical definitiveness. It is a giving of oneself that is so unreserved that it excludes cognition and evaluation of the other person(s). And finally, it is an anonymous, suprapersonal force in our life that emerges as an undeserved gift—or grace. (Thomassen, 1985, p. 145)
[Page 337]Obviously, love entails much more than solidarity. But both love and solidarity are steeped in freedom and express an essential human condition, altruism. Altruism means to be directed toward the other. Like love, it is reciprocal. And both love and solidarity are a force for liberation—of self and other.Universal Values in Different Cultures
A unique feature of this book is the recognition that ours is a multicultural world. This is not just a statement of fact but implicitly of values. Different cultures are the heritage of humankind and form a kaleidoscope through which we can look at human nature. What is essentially human can only be retrieved culturally, that is, by empathetic discernment and analysis of the culturally conditioned humanum. Any talk about universal values is meaningless unless they are culturally validated.
But culture can also become an ideology. The most widespread cultural ideology is that of the “superiority” of the Caucasian race, the apex of which supposedly are the Anglo-Saxon people of the North Atlantic. In Egypt, Sudan, and other parts of Africa, cultural ideology defends and makes “respectable” the genital mutilation of girls. Cultural ideologies, cutting across almost all nations, have dictated gender relationships and are invoked to justify the suppression of women. Cultural ideology had led to ethnic cleansing and, at its worst, to genocide.
One of the merits of the international human rights debate has been the exposure of cultural differences in the approach to rights. The most obvious difference lies in the very definition of human rights. In some cultures, only an individual can have rights, whereas in others, the emphasis is on group, community, and other collective rights. International human rights conferences have also highlighted the tensions between the “is” and the ethical “ought to be.” There is a growing consensus that certain universal standards for the social accordance of human dignity must be upheld, regardless of cultural differences.
The debate about ethics and culture has brought to the fore the realization that personhood transcends all cultures. This is, in fact, the ground of ethics. Personhood implies the capacity of free choice, the ability to reflect and argue rationally, and the endowment of its inner and intrinsic worth. Personhood thus brings together freedom, rationality, and equality in dignity, [Page 338]all of which are ethically definitive characteristics of human beings. As to personhood's transcendence of culture, Fleischacker (1994) sums up the argument as follows:
Morality concerns what people should do as people, rather than as Ibos, Italians, whites, Blacks, women, men or other subsets of people. Presumably, this claim derives in part from the overriding importance we attach to what we call “morality,” on the assumption that what all people should do will naturally trump, in cases of conflict, what this or that subset of people should do. Above all, however, it points out a deep connection between the use of the word “moral” and the use of the word “person.” For the universalist, that connection is immediate and clear: the moral “should” always applies to persons and never to types of persons. Most human groups with which we are familiar have a conception of how all human beings should behave, which may coincide with, or more probably will run alongside, their conception of what their members, in particular, should do. If the group believes that all people should do precisely as it does, we can call their entire code of behavior “morality.” If not, we reserve the term for that part of the code they do universalize, and call the rest “manners,” “folkways,” “ritual,” or the like. (p. 8)
The second ontologically constituting element of human nature, community, has already been discussed. What is at stake here, however, are the ways in which communities are organized in different cultures and the value systems that are relevant to them. The preceding case studies from Asia, Africa, and Native America are essentially communitarian, and their value systems are based on a communitarian ethics. But they also show a transitional character: Communitarian value systems are under assault by the assertion of individualism. In spite of this historical process—which is largely due to the spread of Western education and Western mass media—the communitarians have not lost the intellectual argument. There is indeed a counterweighing trend led by three intellectual movements: critical or cultural studies, feminist theory, and a new type of applied ethics (Christians, 1991, pp. 15–21). All three trends are represented in this book. Names associated with the first are Arens, Christians, Elliot, and Pasquali. Feminist theory is the framework of Robin Andersen's and Deni Elliott's chapters. Gomes, Jakubowicz, Takeichi, Tomaselli and Shepperson, and Wang show, albeit from widely different perspectives, that the journalistic profession has an intrinsically moral character. These chapters on applied ethics put functions and performance of media on an ethical scale and try to redefine the media's fundamental purpose.
[Page 339]The communitarian rationale is substantiated in several chapters of this book. Communication ethics is based on a definition of human nature that conceives of humans as members of a community. This does not simply mean that the community is supreme and that individuals have to subordinate themselves to it. It does, however, mean that there is a moral commitment to community, aiming at both civic order and civic transformation. Communication guided by communitarian social ethics provides a sense of certainty and direction rather than leaving community members in ambiguity and fear of chaos.
A precondition for being-in-community is truth-telling. Conviviality is only possible on the assumption that people are telling the truth, whereby mutual trust is possible. Both truth and trust are expressed in different ways across cultures. But truth-telling nevertheless remains the foundation on which relationships are maintained and cultivated. The protonorm of truth-telling is unchallenged by any culture. But as Dietmar Mieth's chapter shows, the application of this norm can be complex.
The communitarian principles of social ethics further locate communication in the field of social justice. No genuine conviviality is possible when social conditions persist that disrespect, marginalize, and oppress certain groups or sectors of the community. The mass media fail in their moral duty if they disregard this problem. But beyond that, solidarity means an active engagement in the struggle for a more just and more equitable social order, both nationally and internationally. The protonorm of universal solidarity is, therefore, derived from the very nature of social being. However, the ways in which the struggle for social justice is waged depends on situations, circumstances, and the demands of culture.
Just about everybody seems to agree with the ethical protonorm of human dignity, and yet our daily experiences—including mass mediated experiences—attest to the contrary practice. Why do people torture, maim, and kill—to single out just the grossest violations—when they are universally convinced that humans have a dignity of their own? Peter Berger (1979) addresses this paradox by referring, perhaps typically, to atrocities committed in non-Western countries.
When we condemn the horrors inflicted on the people of Cambodia by [the Pol Pot] government, we need not do so by reference to Western values alone. Cambodia is a Buddhist country, and it is Buddhism that has as its highest moral tenet the “respect for all sentient beings.” Similarly, the atrocities [Page 340]inflicted on the Chinese people in the course of various Maoist experiments, such as the physical extermination of entire classes of the population or the separation of children from their parents, are not just violations of Western notions of morality; … rather, they are violations of the entire corpus of ethics of the Chinese tradition, which holds, among other things, that government should be “human-hearted” and that “filial piety” is one of the highest human goods. And if we pass moral judgment on a Muslim ruler … for acts of cruelty, we may do so, not alone in the name of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but in the name of the ethical core of Islam itself: every call to prayer, from every minaret from the Maghreb to Java, begins with an invocation of God who is al-rahman al-rahim, whose nature is to be compassionate and who has compassion, and who commands men to be compassionate also. (pp. 9–10)
There seem to be two reasons for the divergence between principle and practice. The first is the arrogance of state power with its monopoly of force. Governments or self-proclaimed quasi-governments abuse their powers of punishment and thus wantonly injure life. The second explanation is more subtle. Human dignity means that the human being is always an end in itself and never a means. Humans cannot become instruments for something else. When they are used, they are abused. In using others, we render them less than human. The argument of the ethnic cleansers and torturers is indeed that their victims are subhuman and therefore not deserving of respect or compassion.
This paradox can also be explained in terms of communication: When dialogue stops, violence starts. Violence is the ultimate failure of communication, both interpersonal and intergroup. If human beings refuse to enter into, or continue to maintain, a communicative relationship, that is, when the other is no longer considered an equal partner and when intersubjectivity wanes or disappears, humans condition themselves for using violence. Thus, every interpersonal and intergroup conflict can be analyzed in terms of its faulty communicative structure.
An ethical framework for human dignity is grounded in a universal culture of respect for life, which in turn is based on core values from many different and specific understandings of human dignity. Respect for life is unconditional and fundamental. It is not tied to achievement, age, gender, race, or class. It is life itself that is respectworthy. Although human life has a dignity of its own, as life, it is part of the web of life. It cannot be detached [Page 341]from animal life or plant life. The dignity of the created order must be affirmed in its totality.
All affirmation of human dignity takes place through various modes of communication: through intrapersonal reflections and interpersonal and social communications. As the mass media are an important source of meanings for many people, they contribute to our understanding of human dignity and respect for life. When their images and messages rob people of their dignity, we do not remain unaffected. The way they describe and depict acts of violence—from street crime to wars—are of special relevance. They disclose what life is worth and how human dignity is valued or devalued.Conclusion
When speaking about universal human values, we do not use the word universal in a Kantian or even Habermasian sense. Nor do we think that universal values could be cross-culturally empirically verified. We are not dealing with a scientific or pseudoscientific generalization. The evidence that emerges from the chapters of this book is of a different nature. The chapters demonstrate that certain ethical protonorms—above all, truth-telling, commitment to justice, freedom in solidarity, and respect for human dignity—are validated as core values in communications in different cultures. These values are called universal not just because they hold true cross-culturally; in fact, there may be cultures or there might be future cultures where such evidence is spurious. The universality of these values is beyond culture. It is rooted ontologically in the nature of human beings. It is by virtue of what it means to be human that these values are universal.
This implies another observation, namely, that regardless of culture, all human beings share the same nature. This is not an assumption but an observation that is self-evident. In the search for ethical universals, we are thus not primarily concerned with anthropology as a social science but with anthropology as a philosophical discipline. We are in search of the ultimate and unconditional characteristics of human life from which the meaning of human actions can be derived. Communication is one such act. It qualifies the entire human being.[Page 342]Notes
1. The Good Society is the title of a forthcoming book of John Kenneth Galbraith. When asked what it would be like to live in a good society, Galbraith explained:
To summarize: everybody has a sense of personal security, a basic income, basic health care, basic protection against unemployment, and we have a tolerant attitude toward immigration. We see the enormous importance of education, not purely in technical terms, but as a way of deepening the enjoyment of life. And going on to a sense of responsibility in the rich countries for what is happening in the poor countries. (The Independent, London, January 8, 1996, p. 11).
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About the Contributors[Page 379]
Robin Andersen, PhD, is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Media Studies at New York's Fordham University. Her research interests include the informational media and their impact on public opinion, the social and political impact of television, and the influence of advertising and media marketing on popular culture. She is the author of the book Consumer Culture and TV Programming, and has published in such scholarly journals as The Media Reader, Journalism and Popular Culture, Media Culture and Society, Latin American Perspectives, Social Text, EXTRA! and The Humanist. She has also produced radio and video documentaries and continues to work with WFUV radio 90.7 FM at Fordham University.
Edmund Arens studied philosophy and theology at the Universities of Münster and Frankfurt, Germany. He is author of The Logic of Pragmatic Thinking: From Peirce to Habermas (1994) and of Christopraxis: A Theology of Action (1995). He is also the author of several books in German, among them Kommunikative Handlungen: Die paradigmatische Bedeutung der Gleichnisse Jesu für eine Handlungstheorie (1982), and Bezeugen und Bekennen: Elementare Handlungen des Glaubens (1989). He has edited several books, including Habermas und die Theologie (1989) and Anerkennung der Andern: Eine theologische Gunddimension interkultureller Kommunikation (1995). He currently holds the chair of Fundamental Theology at Hochschule Luzern, in Lucerne, Switzerland.
[Page 380]Muhammad I. Ayish is Associate Professor of Communication at the Department of Mass Communication, the United Arab Emirates University, United Arab Emirates. He obtained his PhD in international broadcast communication from the University of Minnesota in 1986. His research interests are in international and Arab communication, especially broadcasting. His published research is in Arabic and in English, appearing in such journals as Gazette, Abhath Al Yarmouk, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, European Journal of Communication, Media Development, Middle Eastern Studies, and Mass Media in the Middle East.
Anantha Sudhaker Babbili is Professor and Chair of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Texas Christian University. He is on the guest faculty of Mexico's Universidad de las Americas, the United Kingdom's Oxford University and Regent's College, and India's Osmania University and the University of Hyderabad. He speaks several Indian languages, including his Dravidian and Sanskrit-based mother tongue, Telugu, as well as Hindi and Urdu. He holds an MA in journalism from the University of Oklahoma, and a PhD in mass communication from the University of Iowa. He has published numerous book chapters and essays in such journals as Codigos, Interaction, Newspaper Research Journal, International Third World Studies Journal and Review, Media, Culture and Society, Journal of Communication Inquiry, and Journalism Quarterly. He is the co-author of the British Film Institute study, Bosnia by Television.
Clifford G. Christians is Research Professor of Communications and Director, Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois, Urbana. He is the coauthor of the third edition of Responsibility in Mass Communication; Jacques Ellul: Interpretive Essays; Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning (four editions), and Good News: Social Ethics and the Press. He was the editor of Critical Studies in Mass Communications, serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Media Development, and the Journal of Ethics, Law and Society, and he is an advising editor for Media Ethics Update. He has presented research papers and addresses on communication ethics in 20 countries.
Cynthia-Lou Coleman, PhD, pursues research related to health and risk communication and is particularly interested in how these issues affect Native Americans. She also studies how social values are constructed in [Page 381]the mainstream and advocacy press. An enrolled member of the Osage nation, she teaches communication theory, research methods, and public relations at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon at Eugene.
Deni Elliott is Professor of Ethics at the University of Montana and Director of the Practical Ethics Center there. She served 5 years as the first director for the Institute at Dartmouth. Her work in applied ethics spans the fields of education, journalism, science, and policy. Her works include edited and coauthored books, video documentaries, book chapters and articles for the academic press, magazine articles for the trade press, and newspaper pieces for the popular press.
Pedro Gilberto Gomes, PhD, is Titular Professor and the Director of the Center for Communication at the Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (Unisinos), São Leopoldo, Brazil. He also directs the MA program in Semiotics at the same university. He is President of ACIESTI (Association Catholique Internationale des Enseignants des Sciences Techniques de l'Information). He is the author of Direito de Ser: A Ética da Comunicação na América Latina (1989); O Journalismo Alternativo no Projeto Popular (1990); A Comunicação Cristã em Tempos de Repressão (1995); and Televisão e Audiěncia: Aspectos Quantitativos e Qualitativos, in Cadernos de Comunicação, No. 1, 1996.
Karol Jakubowicz is Lecturer at the Institute of Journalism, University of Warsaw. He is also Chief Expert for the National Broadcasting Council of Poland and holds the position of Deputy Chairman, Supervisory Board, Polish Television Ltd. He received his MA in English and PhD in media studies from the University of Warsaw. His research interests include media and broadcasting policy, comparative broadcasting systems, transformation of broadcasting systems, and the role of the media in social change. He has published widely on these subjects in Poland and internationally.
Dietmar Mieth is Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Tübingen and Director of the Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities at the same university. He is also Speaker for the European Network for Biomedical Ethics, member of the Group of Advisers for the “Ethical Implications of Biotechnology” at the European Community in [Page 382]Brussels, and a member of the Foundation for the Journal Concilium. He has written about lies and lying in his book Die Neuen Tugenden (1984) and he has published 20 books on such subjects as the mystics, experimental ethics, narrative ethics, social ethics, and bioethics.
Andrew Azukaego Moemeka is Professor of Communication at the Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut. A native of Obamkpa, Nigeria, he has a PhD in communication-sociology (New York), MS (Edinburgh), and BA (Lagos). He was Associate Professor of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos until 1992; since 1993, his publications include Local Radio: Community Education for Development (1981); Reporters Handbook: An Introduction to Journalism (1989); and Development (Social Change) Communication: Creating Participation and Building Understanding (1993). He is the editor of Communicating for Development: A New Pan-Disciplinary Perspective (1994).
Antonio Pasquali taught philosophy and communications at the Central University of Venezuela, Caracas. From 1984 to 1986, he was Assistant Director General of UNESCO, responsible for the communication sector; and from 1986 to 1990, UNESCO's Coordinator for Latin America. In 1974, he chaired the National Commission for a “Venezuelan Radio and Television Public Service” (Proyecto Ratelve). He is the author of Comunicación y Cultura de Masas (1962), Sociologia e Comunicaçao (1970), Comprender la Comunicación (1974), La Comunicación Cercenada (1990), and El Orden Reina (1992).
Gabriel Jaime Perez is Dean of the Communication School at Javeriana University, Bogotá, Colombia, where he heads the UNESCO Chair of Social Communication and teaches communication ethics. He has managed the Javeriana Radio Station (1979–1983), the Communication School's Department of Expression (1984–1988), the Graduate Program in Communication Research, and the Latin-American Course of Communication for Pastors (1989–1995). He has an MA in philosophy and theology and is currently working on a PhD thesis in communication ethics.
Haydar Badawi Sadig is Assistant Professor at the Department of Mass Communication, United Arab Emirates University, The United Arab Emirates. He obtained his PhD in mass communication from Ohio University [Page 383]in 1992. His research interests are in communication law and international communication.
Arnold Shepperson holds a research appointment in the Centre for Cultural and Media Studies, University of Natal, Durban, South Africa. He has published on semiotics, communication, and visual anthropology. He was formerly an electrician and draughtsman in the South African mining industry, an experience on which his continuing interest in cross-cultural encounters in economic and civil affairs is based.
Hideo Takeichi is Professor in the Department of Journalism at Sophia University in Tokyo. He worked for the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper for 10 years, and was a Fulbright visiting scholar at the University of Missouri in 1980. His main fields of interest are international and intercultural communication, the history and development of American journalism, and communication law and ethics. He is the author (in Japanese) of Fathers and Children: The Future of Communication (1981) and Comparative History of Newspapers in Japan and the United States (1984). In Japanese, he coauthored Introduction to Mass Communication (1982) and An Introduction to the American Mind (1985). He has jointly translated several books from English into Japanese, among them works of Denis McQuail.
Keyan G. Tomaselli is Director and Professor in the Centre for Cultural and Media Studies of the University of Natal, Durban. He is the editor of the journal Critical Arts: A Journal for Cultural Studies, and author of The Cinema of Apartheid (1988).
Michael Traber studied philosophy and theology in Switzerland and communications in New York (Fordham and New York University, PhD in 1961). He worked as a journalist and book publisher in Zimbabwe and taught journalism in Zambia. From 1978 to 1995, he was on the staff of the World Association for Christian Communication in London. His last post was Director of Studies and Publications. He also edited the international journal Media Development from 1976–1995. He has written (in German) three books on Africa, numerous book chapters on communication ethics, and on the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO). Among his edited books is The Myth of the Information Society (Sage, 1986).
[Page 384]Georgette Wang is Professor in the Department of Journalism, National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan. She received her PhD from Southern Illinois University in 1977. She worked at the Communication Institute of the East-West Center in Honolulu and taught at universities in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Her major English publications are Continuity and Change in Communication Systems, coedited with Wimal Dissanayake (1984); Information Society, coauthored with Herbert S. Dordick (Sage, 1993); and Treading Different Paths: Informatization in Asia (1994).