Media join hands for new code of ethics

  • 2001-05-17
  • Rita Bubina
RIGA - On May 14, representatives of seven newspapers and one radio station met in Riga to sign Latvia's first professional inter-media code of ethics.

The code was signed by Russian-language dailies Cas and Respublika, the Latvian evening newspaper Rigas Balss, the sports paper Sporta Avize, Latvian dailies Neatkariga Rita Avize and Jauna Avize, the business daily Dienas Bizness and the radio station KNZ. Copies have been sent to all the largest newspapers, and television and radio stations as well as the regional mass media. Every other medium is welcome to join the code and participate in an open discussion of media ethics, the signatories said.

Juris Paiders, editor in chief of Dienas Bizness, explained that the code is very similar to the Swedish code of ethics for journalists of press, radio and television.

"It is internationally approved and very similar to codes of ethics in other democratic countries," he said. "The code contains the minimum requirements, and if needed every medium can interpose stronger regulations in their internal codes."

Anita Daukste, editor in chief of Rigas Balss, agreed, saying that her newspaper would use the code as a basis to draft the paper's own code of ethics.

The code consists of six basic principles, such as giving correct news, being open to critics, following personal integrity, being lenient to illustrations, not deprecating anyone without having listened to him and being careful with words.

Every principle is explained in detail, covering all the most problematic spheres faced by the Latvian media - publishing hidden advertising, incorrect information, misleading the reader by manipulating photos, and so on.

Particular interest in this subject was paid because international anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International's Latvian branch, Delna, recently released research proving there was plenty of hidden advertising in the media during the local election campaign in March. Some media named by Delna were among the initiators of the new code of ethics.

Concerning hidden advertising the code says, "The interests of readers, listeners, viewers are superior to those of media owners, news sources or advertisers."

As for possible punishment, said Paiders, one way could be following the example of Sweden where every journalist who publishes an unethical article has to admit publicly his mistake. Whether Latvia will take over this tradition, depends on the journalists.

The new code of ethics was opposed by the largest Latvian daily Diena, which has its own code of ethics.

"The implementation of the principles declared in this document would mean a revolution in some of Latvia's media," Diena's commentator Anita Brauna wrote in her editorial on May 15. "This code contains several important, so far disregarded, standards of journalistic work. Unfortunately, there is nothing to prove that the revolution will happen," she wrote.

Daukste disagreed. "The Latvian media have been working in accordance to these principles for the last 10 years," she said.