Ethical Dilemmas in Reporting the 1989 Tiananmen Square Riot: A Case Study Analysis

By Mohammad Ali.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Ethical decision making is crucial for every journalist. Dealing with an ethical situation is much more vital in war or riot-related reporting than normal situation reporting. Different risks, dangers, and emotions make it difficult for a reporter to reach an appropriate decision more challenging during a time of war or riot. To gain a deeper understanding of the nature of such ethical dilemmas and journalistic techniques to deal with those dilemmas, this study examines the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing. The twenty-eight-year-old protest is still in discussion in Chinese and world media, but its reporting ethical issues are yet unexplored as a systematic analysis. This study examines a literary story titled “Tiananmen Square” written by veteran BBC war correspondent John Simpson to look into the ethical dilemmas in the Tiananmen Square riot. By using the qualitative content analysis method, the study identifies some major ethical dilemmas, and dealing with those is found to be very critical. As the paper uses only one literary story for this analysis, the findings encourage further research on ethical issues of the riot, taking other reporters’ literary stories and interviews into consideration.

Keywords: China, Ethical Dilemma, John Simpson, Riot, Tiananmen Square, War Reporting

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, Volume 12, Issue 2, June 2017, pp.13-21. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 695.087KB).

Mohammad Ali

Graduate Student and Teaching Assistant, Department of Communication, College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler, Texas, USA