Global Pandemics and Media Ethics: Issues and Perspectives


  • Tendai Chari (PhD), Senior Lecturer, University of Venda, South Africa
  • Martin N. Ndlela (PhD), Associate Professor, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway & Northwestern University-Qatar

The mass media have an enormous responsibility to disseminate truthful, accurate and up-to- date information to the public during pandemics. Yet, pandemics pose serious ethical conundrums to the media in that their informational role can easily be undermined by their tilt towards sensational reporting and scare-mongering, thereby undermining public trust (Thomas & Senkpeni, 2020). Pandemics are in great measure evolving, highly unpredictable, and in most cases panic inducing. This makes the media’s capacity to disseminate balanced and credible information timely more compelling than ever. Covid 19 has reawakened the media to their ethical responsibilities by bringing to the fore unique ethical issues, challenges and dilemmas, and has also reincarnated ethical debates associated with reporting of previous pandemics such as negative stereotypes, stigmatisation, protecting the confidentiality of sources, dealing with bereavement, privacy issues, thus underscoring the fact that pandemics are not just health crises, but information crises as well. While the media have played a positive role in helping shape positive public health behavior, and by extension promoting human security, there has been fear that media reporting of pandemics is fueling “infodemic” epitomized by fake news, conspiracy theories and apocalyptic prophecies, misinformation, disinformation, thus posing a threat to human security. In the age of social media networks whereby information spreads very fast, the deluge of information may make it difficult for citizens to separate reliable information from false information.

Centralization of information about the pandemic by governments and international bodies and the concomitant over-dependence on ‘expert analysis’ have opened the floodgates for patriotic discourses and appeals for ‘collective action’ mantras which impinge on media independence. In addition, health protocols constrain the media from accessing critical information, thus predisposing journalists to politically correct ‘accredited’ sources while jettisoning unpalatable voices from the news agenda. As the media become more embedded in official narratives, journalism may be reduced to a public relations exercise, resulting in the proverbial echo chamber. Pandemics predispose the media to overt and covert influence and control, yet the ability to obtain and disseminate information without external interference are two fundamental tenets of media ethics (Hooker, Leask & King, 2012). As Covid 19 has demonstrated, nature of ethical dilemmas confronting the media during global pandemics, relating to both media content and the professional conduct of media practitioners are becoming more complex and have elicited diverse responses using different philosophical lenses in different contexts. As the contours of ethics shift during pandemics, it is necessary to critically reflect on existing ethical norms, issues, practices, challenges and dilemmas confronted by the media during global pandemics. This proposed edited volume explores ethical issues confronted by the media during global pandemics. The aim is to enhance the media’s capacity to report pandemics and similar emergence situations ethically by drawing lessons from the current and previous pandemics. What ethical challenges have confronted the media during health pandemics? What dilemmas have the media faced? To what extent have these impacted on the media’s role? What philosophical approaches can be used to address these challenges and dilemmas? What lessons can be drawn for reporting future pandemics? How can the media be better equipped to deal with ethical issues during pandemics?

We are looking for innovative original works which critically engage with different aspects of ethical issues in the context of global pandemics using different theoretical and methodological approaches.

Contributions can focus on, but are not limited to the following topics:

  • Ethical Issues in the representation of pandemics
  • News Sourcing and Ethics
  • Fabrications, Falsehoods
  • Confidentiality and protection of sources
  • Privacy and the Public Interest
  • Ethical Dilemmas
  • Trauma reporting during pandemics
  • Health protocols, government restrictions and journalism ethics
  • Language and Reporting Pandemics
  • Pandemics, Racism and Hate speech
  • Sensationalism and propaganda
  • Journalism ethics and “infodemics”
  • Conspiracy theories, misinformation and fake news
  • Ethnocentrism and Stereotyping
  • Patriotic Journalism
  • Social Media
  • Medical remedies, Advertising
  • Ethical philosophies, media and pandemics
  • Media law and ethics during pandemics

Articles should not be more than 7000 words, including references

Important Dates

  • Deadline for Accepted Abstracts: 30 November 2020
  • Deadline for Full Papers: 31 March 2021
  • Deadline for Submitting Revised Chapters: 30 May 2021
  • Expected Date of Publication: 31 September 2021

Targeted Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Interested contributors are invited to submit a 500-word proposal and a short biography by 30 November 2020, to Tendai Chari, and Martin Ndlela,

Final chapters of approximately 5000-7000 words will be due by 31 March 2021.

Please note that all submissions will be peer-reviewed. Abstracts must clearly state the aim and objectives of the study, the theoretical and methodological approaches contemplated in the study.