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PR Watchdog blows the whistle on unethical journalism

Results of a new survey by the International Public Relations Association show that no region of the world escapes unethical editorial practices.

"Cash for Editorial" and other unethical practices are rife in the print and broadcast media of many countries around the world, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe, Central and South America. Those are the major findings of a new online survey of public relations professionals by the International Public Relations Association.

The IPRA Online Media Transparency survey asked respondents in 52 countries whether editorial matter from a variety of publications in their country was independent or appeared as a result of payment or influence by a third party.

Nearly two thirds of respondents in Eastern Europe said bribes for editorial were common in their countries, while in Southern Europe and the Middle East only 40 per cent believed their media to be free from such corruption.

The most transparent media regions appeared to be North America, Northern Western Europe and Australia, where 60 per cent or more said they believed that such practices were not common in their media industries.

However, each region appears to have its own specialist brand of corruption. More than half of African and Middle East respondents said it was common for advertisements to masquerade as editorial, without any indication to readers.

In southern Europe press releases were often published in exchange for a personal payment to a journalist or editor, according to respondents.

In South and Central America, 41 per cent of PR people said it was common for editors to be paid to keep negative stories out of the press. Even in Australia respondents claimed they knew of staff journalists who were also employed by PR agencies. This is another practice which can be found in the Middle East.

In northern Europe corruption usually appears to take the form of dubious journalist hospitality, particularly on the large newspapers. This region also had the highest percentage of reports that articles were published without acknowledging the travel or other benefits received by the journalist.

Middle East coutries which were represented in the survey included Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

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