On October 22, the Media Ethics Observatory released an expert judgment on the complaint of Shahen Khachatrian, Director of “Kankor” medical center, regarding some stories of “Shant” TV channel.
The complaint dealt with the TV reports, aired on “Horizon” news program on October 3, 4, 2012, and on “Sunday Horizon”, October 7, 2012. The stories told about the patient, who was transferred to “Kankor” and passed away later, as well as about the conflict on this matter between the deceased’s relatives and the doctors. Shahen Khachatrian alleged that the information provided in the reports was not accurate and presented false data, while the coverage of the conflict was biased and one-sided.
On October 9, the Media Ethics Observatory considered the above-mentioned complaint and adopted a judgment on it.
The MEO judgment notes that the story of “Horizon”, October 3, presented only the victim’s position, therefore the coverage was one-sided. This runs counter the Articles 1.1 and 1.3 of the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives: “prior to publishing, to check the accuracy of information from any source, not to conceal and not to distort facts (..)”, and “to rely on accurate facts when making analysis and comment”. Even though, the subsequent TV stories showed some pieces from Shahen Khachatrian’s press conference, the MEO finds that, overall, the parties to the conflict were not provided equal opportunities. This is a violation of Articles 6.1 and 6.4 of the Code of Conduct: “to support the free exchange of opinions, regardless of any differences between such opinions and the editorial views”, and “to encourage the public to express their criticism of the media and to be ready for a public discourse on matters of journalistic ethics”. Since one of the parties to the dispute is a journalist of “Shant” (the deceased patient was his father), there might be some conflict of interests and abuse of position by the media outlet, the MEO stresses. As a result, the public perception on the issue’s significance may be distorted. Therefore, the judgment notes that it would be reasonable if the employee of “Shant” and the TV channel sought other means of covering the issue, say, on another – neutral – media.
Later, the MEO concerns about the possible bias in the coverage of “Shant” were confirmed. On October 9, after the MEO session, the TV channel aired a story about a press conference of doctors regarding the incident at “Kankor”. In its comments to the story, the TV company, specifically mentioned that it will further cover the numerous complaints that it receives against Shahen Khachatrian. This only reinforced the impression that “Shant” does not limit itself by the objective coverage of the issue, the MEO stresses.
Reminding that courts should be a last resort, the MEO recommends Shahen Khachatrian to refrain from filling a suit, and suggests “Shant” provide the Director of “Kankor” medical center with a right to reply, in terms prescribed by the law, i.e., with no comments, or release the given judgment on its air.
The full expert judgment of the Media Ethics Observatory is available in Armenian at http://ypc.am/self_regul/ln/eng.
The Media Ethics Observatory was formed on March 10, 2007 by the heads of Armenian media, who supported the YPC initiative on establishing a self-regulatory system in Armenia and signed the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives and its Appendix, the Declaration on Election and Referendum Coverage Principles. The MEO considers complaints and appeals regarding the violations of the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives and makes judgments on these. As of today, the Code of Conduct and the Declaration are signed by 45 entities, representing 48 Armenian media; the initiative is supported by 9 journalistic associations (see details at http://www.ypc.am/self_regul/ln/eng). MEO contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel. +374 10 53 76 62, 53 35 41, 53 00 67; Fax +374 10 53 56 61. Complaints and applications to MEO can be addressed online, by filling out the form in Armenian at http://www.ypc.am/self_regul/ln/am#form.