"Media ethics are in a mess", says Simon Jenkins on the Guardian. "Shock disclosure - journalists sometimes behave unethically," he writes, leaving secrecy and privacy as things of the past and electronic surveillance and the internet demand a new map of the boundaries, he argues.
New technologies and the infinite possibilities of the Web have changed the barriers of privacy. The present world is the realm of all being public: pictures, status updates, "what's on one's mind". Facebook rules.
Consequently it's becoming harder to define boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate, ethical and unethical, legal and illegal.
"Journalistic ethics, if not a contradiction in terms, are a mess. This is the downside of fierce media competition and weak legislation on surveillance technology. It is also a consequence of a thoroughly confused boundary between the public and private realms, between openness and secrecy, publicity and privacy, rapacity and trust," Jenkins said to this end.
It's up to who to fix these boundaries? The duty of journalists is to go after the story, scrutinize those in power, report the truth and follow the public interest. But what is the difference between news of public interest and news revealed in the public interest? Because there is a difference, of course.
Defenders of Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister, claim that the revelations behind the scandal is hitting him are only gossip. Some also claim the Public Prosecutor's Office have sent the entire wire tapping documentation to the Chamber of Deputies with the explicit intention of make them arriving on the newspapers' front pages. On the contrary, accusers say citizens have the right to be aware of their PM's behaviours because it is in the public interest and not only a matter of public interest.
The Wikileaks' whistleblower is a betrayer for someone and a hero for someone else.
Is Wikileaks affair a crime which endanger national and international security? The core of a democracy is the citizenship's right to know?
UK news industry is inundated with long lasting phone hacking scandal. Even more celebrities' voicemails appeared to have been hacked by reporters and phone hacking practice risks to appear as a widespread practice. Jenkins reported lawyers are trying to fix the line between legal and illegal in this case as he wrote that "at one point the Crown Prosecution Service told the police that it was illegal to hack into a message before, but not after, a recipient had heard it, a distinction that would have to be proved in court".
All these different cases show how difficult is to define the boundaries we've talked about before. The line is so thin. "In most cases, journalists have claimed "public interest" in defence of actions that others might consider unethical and lawyers illegal", Jenkins wrote.
And not all that is unethical is illegal as not everything illegal is to consider unethical.
A journalist's job stands in the middle of this confusion. In order to ask power to be accountable, newspapers and journalists have to be firstly accountable themselves, act properly and professionally. One of the main criticisms of Wikileaks, for example, was exactly that of not being transparent itself about its funding and its procedures.
Fix the line between legal and illegal is up to the law, to define what's in the public interest maybe is up to the public opinion, but the barriers between what's ethical and what's unethical is up to journalists. Public trust is the press' life blood.