Scarves on Screen: Navigating Woke and Media Ethics

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TV presenters wear keffiyehs and Palestinian symbols during broadcasts (Photo: IGG Maha Adi)

by :  IGG Maha Adi*

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s longest-running and most deeply divisive conflicts, with far-reaching implications across the globe. Amidst the ongoing violence, a surprising controversy emerged as television anchors in Indonesia began wearing scarves adorned with symbols of support for Palestine while broadcasting news of the conflict. The move has sparked a debate, touching on issues related to woke culture, media ethics, and the role of media in shaping editorial policy.

Woke Culture

The term “woke” has entered the global lexicon in recent years, signifying heightened social and political awareness and a commitment to social justice and equality. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the influence of woke culture is evident as individuals, organizations, and media outlets worldwide express their solidarity with either side of the conflict.

Wearing a Palestinian scarves or keffiyeh during broadcasts is seen as an expression of woke culture, where individuals, including media professionals, use their platforms to convey their stance on various social and political issues. In this case, Indonesian television anchors don the scarves to demonstrate their solidarity with the Palestinian people. It’s important to recognize that this gesture is not limited to Indonesia; it is part of a global trend where individuals and organizations publicly align themselves with a cause or group that resonates with their values and beliefs.

Ethics and Impartiality

Media outlets and journalists are expected to uphold a set of ethical principles that include objectivity and impartiality. These principles are particularly important when reporting on contentious issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Critics argue that the act of wearing symbols like Palestinian scarves compromises the perceived neutrality and objectivity of the media. Such actions can be interpreted as taking sides, thereby undermining the trust of the audience in the media’s capacity to provide balanced and unbiased coverage. In journalism, the concept of impartiality implies that reporters should not exhibit personal bias or prejudice, nor should they take a stance on the issues they report. The core idea is to provide a fair and balanced account of events, allowing the audience to form their own opinions based on the information presented.

The ethical question is this: Can a journalist separate their personal beliefs and political inclinations from their professional role when reporting on a conflict as emotionally charged as the Israeli-Palestinian one?

Understanding this controversy requires considering cultural perspectives, which can shape how media organizations and their employees approach sensitive topics.  Different cultures have distinct norms and expectations when it comes to expressing solidarity with a particular side of a conflict or issue. While wearing keffiyeh may be perceived as a show of support in some cultures, it could be deemed inappropriate and a breach of journalistic ethics in others.

Media managers play a pivotal role in shaping editorial policies and guiding their employees on how to navigate these cultural nuances. The media landscape in Indonesia, like many other countries, is influenced by the values and expectations of the local culture. It is, therefore, crucial for media managers to strike a balance between accommodating cultural perspectives and upholding the principles of ethical journalism.

It’s also worth considering the political positions and affiliations of media managers. Media organizations often reflect the views and values of their owners and top executives. In some cases, these individuals may have strong political or ideological leanings, which can influence the editorial direction and policies of their media outlets. This, in turn, can shape how news is presented and what is considered acceptable behavior for their employees.

The intersection of cultural perspectives and the influence of media managers becomes particularly evident when covering issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Media outlets may differ in their approaches, with some emphasizing the importance of objectivity and impartiality, while others may prioritize advocacy and raising awareness of a particular cause.

Advocacy and Journalism

Media outlets can serve as powerful agents of change and raise awareness about pressing issues. However, it is essential to draw a clear line between reporting and advocacy. Advocacy journalism, where reporters actively promote a cause or agenda, is a distinct form of journalism. While it has its place, it must be clearly labeled as such to prevent confusion among audiences.

Some argue that advocacy journalism is essential in covering conflicts and injustices, as it can bring attention to marginalized voices and spark important conversations. However, others believe that the primary role of journalists is to provide impartial and objective reporting, allowing the audience to form their own opinions based on the facts presented.

Common Ground

In addressing this issue, media organizations should aim to strike a balance between providing objective news coverage and recognizing their employees’ right to express their personal beliefs. This can be achieved by clearly distinguishing between news reporting and opinion pieces. It is also crucial for media managers to consider the cultural context in which their organization operates and ensure that their editorial policies are in line with the expectations of their audience.

The intersection of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, woke culture, and media ethics presents a challenging terrain for media professionals and organizations. The role of the Press Council and Journalist Association are paramount in upholding ethical standards and ensuring that media practices align with cultural values while maintaining journalistic integrity.

As the world continues to grapple with these complex issues, it is essential to foster a robust and ongoing dialogue on how to navigate these challenges while upholding the principles of journalism and respecting cultural perspectives. Only through such discussions can we hope to find common ground in an increasingly polarized world.

 *IGG Maha Adi is the Chairman of Green Press Indonesia and The Bertha Challenge Fellow 2024














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