Ethics, standards of personal morality


The Dharma-Charkra or ‘Wheel of Law’ is the most important symbol Buddhism. In an individual’s life, ‘Dharma’ becomes manifest as ‘good’ or noble conduct. Chakra means the wheel and symbolizes a constantly changing universe. The 8 spokes of the wheel correspond to the 8 paths to enlightenment, namely: 1. Right view 2. Right resolution 3. Right speech 4. Right conduct 5. Right means of livehood 6. Right effort 7. Right mindfullness 8. Right concentration.

Ikat Textiles of India, by Chelna Desai (Puting Women First, World health organization)

In Buddhism, as in other religions or cultures, there is a clear difference between good and bad, and there is always a symbol, or a list of commandments or a code of conduct that shows the “right” path to follow to perform good.

In the past, a code of conduct was necessary to be able to cohabitate in a community and don’t kill each other. And even more with the early idea of respecting the “space” of the other. Likewise, in the Public Relations and Campaigning discipline, as in all the other disciplines, a code of behavior is required to provide a proper service respecting the rights of the parties involved. For instance, in the Public Relations and Campaigning discipline, a code of ethics has established in order to provide “the highest standards in the practice of public relations” worldwide. (IPRA, international public relations association)

Particularly in the Public Relations and Campaigning discipline we are dealing with issues that threat human lives, therefore “ethical principles are important to prevent harm” (Adhering to ethics in campaigning, UN Women)

Defining ethics

As the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains: “The field of ethics, also called moral philosophy, involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior” Moreover, apart from distinguishing between what is right and wrong, they define what it has to be valued.

Public Relations ethics include values such as honesty, openness, loyalty, fair-mindedness, respect, integrity, and forthright communication (Ethics and public relations, Institute of Public Relations).

According to the World Health Organization, “ethics can be defined as a system or code of moral values that provides rules and standards of conduct”.The organization also defines the “three primary ethical principles that should guide all inquiries involving human beings” are as follows:

1) Respect for persons, which relates to respecting the autonomy and self-determination of participants, and protecting those who lack autonomy, including by providing security from harm or abuse.

2) Beneficence, a duty to safeguard the welfare of people/communities involved, which includes minimizing risks and assuring that benefits outweigh risks.

3) Justice, a duty to distribute benefits and burdens fairly.

(Adhering to ethics in campaigning, UN Women)

IPRA don’t describe themselves as a police force, nor do codes of morals and ethics. As IPRA states, “every PR practitioner should aspire to observe the principles which the Code elaborates. Each practitioner has to be free to interpret and apply their own standards of personal morality and conscience in observing them in their own cultural context”.

However, sometimes the moral and ethics have to be undermined to be able to defend them.

Does the means justify the ends?

In class, we put into question whether nonviolent direct action (NVDA) was justified or not and we also questioned the moral difference between transparency and accountability. I would like to show some examples that can make one think about the limits of the ethics in this discipline.


Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist resistance group that use the medium of punk music and culture for protesting the regime of Vladimir Putin. Among different actions, we can highlight the performance on the altar of Moscow’s main orthodox church. The women appeared in the church, masked with the intention of praying to the Virgin Mary to remove Putin from power.


And then there’s Femen, the grassroots feminist protest movement in support of women’s rights. The women involved use the nudity to draw attention to their protests.

Both groups are choosing actions that are against the code of ethics of the countries they are performed, even though they are highlighting the violation of ethics from the governments and people of those countries.


World Health Organization. 2007. Putting Women First: Ethical and Safety Recommendations for Research on Domestic Violence Against Women. Available in:

UN Women. Adhering to ethics in campaigning. Available in:

Institute of Public Relations. 2007. Ethics and public relations. Available in:



2 thoughts on “Ethics, standards of personal morality”

  1. I really enjoyed this post and in particular your final paragraph. I suppose it highlights a good class discussion we could have, on whether in instances where actions are against the code of ethics – could another tactic which is within the code of ethics be used to highlight the violation of ethics from the governments and people of those countries. Is their protest actions serving themselves, rather than the issue they seek to impact on? How much do these stunts create change? Much to consider!


  2. Great ending (at beginning and middle). I think it’s so hard to articulate in a campaign slogan or soundbite the notion that sometimes NVDA is a necessary move to challenge and highlight the hegemonic violence of a patriarchal society. It’s how we answer questions that follow (perhaps non-ethical) stunts that will help raise awareness…no?


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