This is a time of the year when we all hope for peace. Part of the job of an Ombudsman is promotion of peace, although it seldom appears in the specifications setting up the office. But fairness is often about restoration of harmony. Most of the major religions promote peace, and despite some of the stranger beliefs on the fringes, peace is a theme we can find in celebration of Christmas, Hannukah and Eid, and in others as well. We join in by listening, and respecting what people say to us. And we also want to join with family and friends in celebrating the peace we find, often by sharing a meal and gifts.
So we move to harmony by these human interreactions, and perhaps forget about the belifs that made us angry or hate other people for their views.
Whatever your beliefs and opinions, now we can sit back and share and celebrate.
I have just returned from Sydney where I visited the Sydney office of ICANN. I had the real pleasure of meeting the team based here and shared their Christmas lunch. This wasn’t quite as exotic as the boat ride enjoyed by our colleagues in Los Angeles but we did have a great time. So thanks to Pam, Maggie, Save and Ken for making me so welcome.
I also caught up with other colleagues which is always a pleasure. Sometimes here in Wellington I do feel as though I am on the edge of the world, so personal contact is good. But I do welcome any reaching out, by phone, email or even by comment on this blog and by Skype too.
At the risk of posting twice in a day, I just wanted to note a good article about cross cultural diversity at mediation.com
One of the central issues for an ombudsman is the issue of fairness. Fairness is an interesting concept, and means different ways of looking at questions before parties. For example, many newspapers and magazines have a policy that while a partisan article advocating a particular cause is part of the great tradition of journalism, someone who is criticised in that article should have an opportunity to reply. In New Zealand, this is part of the law for both broadcast and print media. There is a Broadcasting Standards Authority for broadcast media and the Press Council for all print media. Much of their diet is dealing with complaints about the failure to give an opportunity to reply, which is a central issue of fairness. There are similar organisations across the world, and most of the responsible media have policies in place to ensure that where a reply is required for reasons of fairness, then there should be an opportunity to have that reply published.
Internet media make this more difficult. There are many blogs and feeds where the discussion can get wild and furious. A moderator will sometimes review the replies and remove those which offend against good taste or policy. However, it is common for strong opinions to be published, sometimes with considerable attacks on individuals, which become widely known before the individuals have an opportunity to respond. The wide circulation can sometimes mean that a reply is meaningless if it is indeed permitted.
It can therefore be a cry in the wilderness to ask for people to think carefully before they publish articles or blogs with strong personal criticisms, because fairness may require right of reply. As an ombudsman I do occasionally have complaints about the situation. Often mediation techniques are appropriate, because the party expressing the strong views may not be aware of the hurt which has resulted, and making them aware of the distress felt by the criticised person and apologising if necessary, may restore the balance.
So I would ask, that if this occurs within the ICANN community, that you be aware that I am ready to listen and try to restore the balance of fairness.