Ethics Of Withholding Information
In general, an organization that withholds pertinent crisis-related information by stonewalling, offering only selected disclosures, creating ambiguity, etc., is considered unethical.
However, there may be legitimate reasons to withhold information temporarily. For example, it’s ethical to withhold the names of dead victims until the families are notified. Sometimes it is necessary to withhold strategic information because of concerns of national security, for instance, a case involving ongoing investigation of a terrorist plot. Or sometimes it is a good choice to temporarily withhold information that might unnecessarily panic the public.
According to O'Malley, the following types of information might justifiably affect how information about risk is communicated:
- information that jeopardizes national security or an ongoing police investigation
- information that unnecessarily violates the privacy and confidentiality rights of individuals
- information that might lead to undue stigmatization of individuals or groups within society, and
- information that, if released, might lead to behaviors that would result in increased spread of disease.
Eventually, the reasons for knowingly withholding information should be fully defensible and based on ethical considerations.Next Page: A Dialogic Approach In Addressing The Public’s Concerns