What is yellow journalism?
The purpose of journalism is to uncover the truth about a situation and to bring it to the readers and viewers. This truth, however, may be a dark story someone else is trying to hide. This opens the opportunity for either the journalist or even the party associated with the news to exaggerate or even fabricate the entire story for their own benefit. This is what gives rise to yellow journalism.
Yellow journalism is the use of extraordinary headlines, rather than factual news. This type of journalism does not report much real news, any relevant source, proofs or facts. Instead, it uses shocking headlines with eye-catching powerful words on the front page whenever possible in order to generate public interest and curiosity. When the term “Yellow Journalism” was coined in the late 1890s, it was used to describe the signature styles and methods used by New York City newspaper giants Joseph Pulitzer (The New York Word) and William Randolph Hearst (The New York Journal). In order to capture the attention of the readers and to promote their newspapers, huge sprawling headlines covered each of their newspapers with alarming exclamations of war, crises and money rewards.
Modern yellow journalism runs widespread through the internet, daring people to click on outrageous stories or shocking headlines. Clickbait is the modern version of yellow journalism. The term “clickbait” is a negative term that describes web content that is only concerned with generating revenue from advertisements. Yellow journalism can also be interpreted in a few different ways. It can be a very biased story that only covers one side without pointing out relevant and even harmful facts. It can also be a story that has been published strictly for the "shock factor" and have no basis behind it. When the truth isn't there and the facts are missing or twisted, this is when you have yellow journalism.
Yellow Journalism in Maldives
In the Maldives, yellow journalism started from a comic name “Aabaaru” in the late 1970’s in the form of cartoons. Later in the 1980’s, the control of journalism and publications was taken over by the government, and as there was no freedom of expression till the amendment of the new constitution in 2008, only the voice of the government was heard. Yellow journalism became even more common when internet was introduced and online journalism came to life. In Maldives, this type of journalism is mostly seen by state controlled medias and journalists and some of these channels are experts to furnish, fabricate and falsify the whole picture. The past few years, yellow journalism has been used mainly to safeguard illegal acts done by the government, to promote their strategies, and to spread their political agendas. When political parties were legalized and the multi-party system came to life, yellow journalism turned to another level and diverted towards political parties. The main objective was to defame political leaders and parties, and to create negative images about politicians among the society. False news and press conferences were telecasted from TV channels which were funded and supported by the government itself.
Yellow journalism can also be seen in news related to gang fights, kidnapping cases, sudden deaths, accidents, sexual harassments and domestic violence.
With the development of the country, day by day the number of media centers are gradually increasing. But the question arises about the credibility of these centers as they are owned or run with the full support of the country’s leading politicians and businessmen.
There are some examples of yellow journalism in the news. A recent ongoing headline on the news has been focusing on the Maldives national football team’s Captain Ali Ashfaq, who had been dismissed from the squad. As soon as a video report regarding the issue was telecasted on one of the TV channels run by the government, the video report went viral on social media with comments of dissatisfaction by frustrated viewers and supporters of the player who they believe is a national hero. The viewers consider the report as being based on baseless issues and the purpose of it to bring a bad impression on the player’s image and profession, and to defend the act of his dismissal from the national squad.
There are few other examples of yellow journalism in Maldives: the murder of the Maldives Member of Parliament for Ungoofaaru constituency and famous religious scholar Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012, the abduction and the trial of Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan who went missing since August 2014, and the death of a Maldivian model and medical student in Bangladesh in 2017. There are occasions when the media under the control of the government play a dramatic role intentionally to hide out the facts about the massive support getting for the oppositions, such where they cover the news about rallies and protests organized by the oppositions, specially by falsely reporting a reduced number of people who are participating in the activities. By twisting facts and publishing news the way they wanted to achieve their goal, media not only breaches the right to privacy of those who are being wrongly portrayed but is also dismisses the right to receive information of and for the general public.
What leads to yellow journalism?
What leads to yellow journalism? A good question with an answer so simple. “Poverty brings the journalism to yellow journalism” by Dr Hatef Mokhtar, founder and CEO of ICPJ, and the founder of The Oslo Times. In his interview given to the Nepal TV channel News 24 on January 26th 2015 Dr. Mokhtar gave details about “yellow journalism.” According to Dr. Mokhtar, journalism is a poor community and politicians specially in South Asian countries take advantage of this. They tried to buy the journalism with money and power. Journalists should be independent and should not belong to any political party or political group because it is their responsibility to give the reality and facts without bias to the public. “Journalism is the eyes of the community where everyone can see himself in journalism,” as quoted by Dr. Mokhtar. This quote clearly highlighted the importance of an independent journalism. It is an unfortunate site to see in today’s media which often reveals non-issues as real by fabricating, polishing and twisting the actual facts to make it look more controversial, stimulating and authentic.
By Maryam Nashida, 7th August 2018.
INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR THE PROTECTION AND FREEDOM OF JOURNALISTS