YPC Weekly Newsletter

2009


MEDIA ETHICS OBSERVATORY RENDERED JUDGMENTS ON TWO COMPLAINTS

On May 12 a session of the Media Ethics Observatory took place at the office
of Yerevan Press Club, on which judgments were rendered on two complaints. The
first one addressed by the “Heritage” party was dealing with some publications
in several media, and the other one – from ”168 Zham” newspaper and “Aravot”
daily was on the piece published in “Azg” daily. As it has been reported, Media
Ethics Observatory (MEO) was formed on March 10, 2007 by the heads of Armenian
media who supported the YPC self-regulation initiative (see YPC Weekly Newsletter,
March 9-15, 2007).The mission of MEO consists in considering
the complaints-appeals regarding the violation of the Code of Conduct of Media
Representatives and rendering judgments on them. Recently, the Code of Conduct
and its addendum, the Declaration on Election and Referendum Coverage Principles,
were also signed by CS Publishing House, which issues “TV-Mol” weekly, “Yes!”
and “Naneh” magazines. As of today, 38 media join the initiative and 8 journalistic
associations support it.

The complaint of “Heritage” party referred, specifically, to pieces published
by “168 Zham”, “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun”, “Haykakan Zhamanak”, “Zhamanak”, “Hraparak”
newspapers. According to the applicant, the pieces contained false information,
misinformation, or offensive expressions for the party. To “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun”,
“Haykakan Zhamanak”, “Zhamanak”, “Hraparak” newspapers, who are not members
of the self-regulation initiative, the MEO addressed letters, offering its mediation
in the conflict. Since the aforesaid newspapers did not respond to the proposal,
the appeal of “Heritage” party was considered only partially, regarding two
articles of “168 Zham” newspaper, which has signed the Code of Conduct.

The subject of the complaint became the pieces “The Client Is Always Right”
and “Citizen, Are You a Marker?” published by “168 Zham” on March 19, 2009.
By examining the first piece the MEO considered the title “The Client Is Always
Right”, offensive, in the applicant’s view, to be “just an evaluating opinion,
the truth or agreement to reality of which cannot be proved”. As an argument
MEO brought one of the provisions of the decision of European Court on Human
Rights on the case of “Lingens vs. Austria”.

Regarding the second piece, “Citizen, Are You a Marker?”, MEO noted that the
expression, containing false information, in “Heritage” opinion, is an assumption
made by the author of the piece, which she had a right to. The expression, assessed
by applicant as misinformation, contains a reference to anonymous sources of
information (allowed by Point 2.2 of the Code of Conduct). On the basis of these
sources the author makes evaluating opinion. The other expressions challenged
by “Heritage” party are a conclusion, which is not subject to any prove.

Thus, MEO defined that in the aforesaid pieces of “168 Zham” on March 19, 2009
“there are no violations of Code of Conduct and international norms of professional
ethics”.

At the same time, MEO noted that it shares the concern of “Heritage” about
the surge of negative information about the party at the period when the question
whether “Heritage” will participate to the Yerevan Council of Elderly elections
on May 31, 2009 was being settled. “Nevertheless, the absence of accurate information
always gives raise to assumptions, which cannot be considered as a violation
of the Code of Conduct”, the MEO judgment said.

The subject of the complaint of Chief Editor of “168 Zham” newspaper Satik
Seyranian and Chief Editor of “Aravot” daily Aram Abrahamian was the piece ”Campaign
of Armenian National Movement launched on the “Chief’s” Order” published by
“Azg” daily on March 11, 2009. In the applicants’ opinion, the piece contained
untrue passages about “Aravot” and “168 Zham” newspapers. The article coarsely
violates a number of the Code of Conduct provisions, signed by the conflict
parties, the appeal of heads of “168 Zham” and “Aravot” noted.

By examining the piece of “Azg” daily MEO concluded that Points 1.1 and 1.3
of the Code of Conduct have been violated. Point 1.1 stipulates: “Prior to publishing,
to check the accuracy of information from any source, not to conceal and not
to distort facts, and not to publish obviously false information.” According
to Point 1.3, it is necessary “to rely on accurate facts when making analysis
and comment”. MEO considered “the party affiliation (to Armenian National Movement
Ed. Note) attributed to “168 Zham” and “Aravot”
newspapers not to be an evaluating opinion, but nothing else than not proved
false information”. The author of the piece should have checked the information.
Thus, the comments of the author regarding those newspapers are based on untrue
information.

At the same time, MEO called “Azg” daily and the other media, members of the
self-regulation initiative, “not to allow the political struggle between the
party groups to become a struggle between the media, to refrain from pieces,
discrediting each other, and to adhere to ‘common standards of professional
journalism’, as the preamble of the Code of Conduct says”.