While observing the media reporting on the latest political turmoil and citizens’ reactions, the Council of Media Ethics is once again reminding the media not to abuse its role and serve as a platform for inflaming the situation and hovering tensions in the society. Considering the fundamental right of freedom of the media, we are reminding journalists and editors that media coverage must contain the truth and shall not initiate debates and discussions that would inflame tensions and worsen relations between citizens.
The media must act in a fashion that makes them different from common transmitters of information and facts, and should apply its role of soother of tensions in the society, especially in cases when assessments for possible escalation of situation are presented. They should provide explanations about the facts, participants in the events, various positions and issues, and carefully analyse and investigate the developments. Developing and building debates based on lies and falsehoods have nothing to do with journalism, it would only result with misleading citizens. Transmitting and enabling space for speculations is equal to spreading falsehoods and propaganda versus balanced and professional coverage. The media must offer the real picture and present the objective needs and concerns to the public, especially given that citizens who have not been part of certain developments use the media as their only source of information.
The media, especially Internet portals, must not be abused and used as a tool for propaganda and calls for uniting individuals and groups around radical behaviour and actions that threaten public order and peace in the society. By supporting the right of civil society activists, to serve as sources of information about the events, we remind the media of their role and the special attention they need to pay to the credibility of the source of information, to mandatorily use multiple sources of information, to report in a credible and fair fashion and to present developments in a balanced manner, in their proper context. The level of professional conduct must not be lowered and allow lies, half-truths and one-sided information that would be served to citizens as verified and accurate news. In this context, we remind the media of their obligations to report professionally and according to the principles of the recently signed Council’s Charter for ethical media reporting.
Comments and analyses are an important part of journalism, given that citizens need the interpretation of situations and circumstances. However, media must not misuse these genres to place misrepresentations of reality and encourage tensions and unacceptable behaviour of various actors in the society. Professional journalism and the role of media as active and objective observer of developments must not suffer from the battle for gaining a larger audience, and the lack of media freedom must not be used as a reason for misconduct and placing falsehoods. The Council of Media Ethics, warns the signatories of the Charter for ethical reporting that it is closely monitoring the fashion of their coverage, as well as the media who are not its members, which in the future will be one of the main arguments for membership in the Council, being our joint professional media self-regulatory body.