The Middle East Public Relations Agency took the unprecedented step of fining one of its members for an ethical violation. As detailed in The National:

The fine … comes just weeks after the firm won four accolades at MEPRA’s industry awards, including Agency of the Year.

The agency, d’pr, was fined after it sent out an image of its staff, taken at the MEPRA event and in which it had airbrushed out the names of the event sponsors and inserted its own logo. The photograph was sent to local newspapers and websites, several of which published it.

This is a monumental move on the part of MEPRA and for ethical standards in general. Truth-telling should be a fundamental value in any field, but particularly in the communication business. PR agencies should never engage in lying or deception — even if it benefits themselves or their clients.

More broadly, this region is replete with tales of shoddy professional standards for both public relations practitioners and journalists. And this move directly confronts the cultural taboos against public embarrassment. Those taboos often dampen any calls publicly right ethical lapses or other derelictions of duty.

The fine will benefit the PR business in the Mideast, leading other firms to pause before they flippantly engage in deception or other unethical practices. And having a debate about the underlying cultural values should help as well. What should we value more — ethical principles or public standing? Perhaps that’s a conversation we should start.