The Council for Media Ethics (CMEM) is concerned about the frequent cases of unethical and unprofessional reporting and, in particular, about the spread of speculation in some media about the coronavirus pandemic, which could further increase public concern and anxiety based on inaccurate information and sensationalism.
From the moment of declaring the state of emergency until today, 27 cases of unprofessional and unethical reporting have been reported to the Press Complaints Commission at the CMEM. Of these, most of the complaints (19 or 70 percent of cases) relate to reports of coronavirus pandemics. Violation of Article 8 of the Code of Journalists, i.e. sensationalist reporting, as well as violation of Article 1, which refers to the publication of accurate and verified information, is identified in 32% of the reported cases.
We point out to the editors that sensationalist reporting has no advantage over professional and ethical reporting and the media should act in a way that distinguishes them from ordinary transmitters of information and facts and apply their role as actors that can reduce the panic and anxiety with professional reporting.
The public also reacts to the attempts for politicization of the coronavirus crisis in the media and in some of the reported cases to the CMEM journalists do not provide professional distance from the political entities, i.e. Article 14 of the Code of Journalists is violated (32%). The media must not be used to divide people through various political calculations, and the coronavirus must not be the 'weapon' used by any politician, whether in the Government or in the opposition, for political gains.
Journalists must also be careful about the ways in which they publish and cover agency news and information from foreign media based on unconfirmed information that, in some cases, is used as an epilogue to the crisis. In some of the cases reported to the CMEM, the source of the information is not stated in the headlines themselves, which gives the impression that this is an obvious fact.
A positive practice is that the number of cases resolved through mediation is increasing and, in this regard, the Press Complaints Commission at the CMEM welcomes the readiness of the media to make a correction when a mistake in the content is identified.
At the same time, CMEM strongly condemns hate speech and discrimination present on social networks, and we call on the media to distance themselves from further transmission of such speech or to participate in its professional disclosure. We reiterate that the fight against hate speech is regulated by law and it is not only a violation of the Code, but also a crime and, in such situations, the institutions of the system are first called upon to investigate and sanction.
CEMM continues to monitor the way the media inform, both those who are part of the membership and those who are not yet members, and we will call for consistent adherence to the Code of Journalism as a prerequisite for professional reporting.