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Media Check: conclusion as to story of “CHELine” “Rabbit breeder-amateur declared war against mass media”

In its story “Rabbit-breeder declared war against mass media” of March 18th, 2017, the editorial board of “CHELine” broke five out of six basic standards of news journalism, in particular the demands of clauses 6th, 9th and 10th of the Code of ethics of Ukraine journalist. This is the conclusion #3 of the project MediaCheck made by Detektor Media and the Institute of Mass Information on March 2nd.

On March 30th, 2019, IMI and “Media Detektor” received a complaint from Olena Bagudinova as to the story on web-site of “CHELine” dated of March 18th 2017. The author of complaint claimed the story had several defamations against me broke in significant way the standards of journalism”.

No author of the video story was named. The video story running time is 2 minutes 50 seconds, it was aired on several internet servers, Youtube including.
The story related the conflict occurred at a sitting of community council by Chernihiv regional administration opposing several journalists of “CHELine” and Olena Bagudinova, member of above-mentioned council. The journalistic story reported that “Bagudinova assaulted the “CHELine” cameraman with insults”.
Bagudinova claimed not to consider “CHELine” persons as journalists and she had been involved in several litigations against this mass media in the past.

Then the story related “such a dislike that Bagudinova had towards the press was due to a controversy opposing her against web-based edition which happened 5 years ago. Bagudinova was blamed for being unscrupulous “black realtor”. It was said moreover “negative attitude of the representative of rabbit-breeders was not supported by the majority of members of the council”. Then several quotations of these members followed.

The conclusion of media institutions is: there were observed breaches to the clauses 6, 9th and 10th of the Code of ethics of journalist of Ukraine:

. “Respecting public’s right to full and objective information on facts and events is a journalist’s first duty” (clause 6th).

2. “Facts, thoughts and assumptions have to be clearly separated from each other. Spreading information which contains biased or groundless accusations is inadmissible” (clause 9th).

3. “Opponents’ viewpoints including those who have become objects of a journalist’s criticism must be presented in a balanced way. Independent experts’ estimations must be presented in a balanced way, as well” (clause 10th).

1/ Viewing the fact this story was made public without mentioning who was its author and in a general newsline, we consider it as editorial text. Thus, the character of this story could not been explained as “author subjectivity”.

2/ Professional standard and respective demands of the Code of ethics on exhaustiveness of the information has to be seen in an extended sense, such as resulting in (fully or partly) a necessity to ensure the balance, accuracy and credibility of the information.

3/ Well-balanced manner of representing of viewpoints. The story speaks on the person whom they failed to give the floor in order she could explain her deeds. Instead of it, the journalists cited her confused words, without context, thus it did not represent her standpoint, reasons and background of the conflict (we got to know only account of “CHELine”). And the journalists accompanied it with emotionally tainted evaluations, as “declared war”, “stirrer up of the controversy”, “assaulted with insults”, “negative attitude of the representative of rabbit-breeders”, they make ungrounded assumptions as to reasons for her deeds : “dislike”, “insult”. If the person refused to comment on before the camera, this could not make journalist figure out what this person thought.

4/ Separating facts from comments. The authors of the story provided their assumptions on “dislike” of Bagudinova, assessed her actions and words, they added the “majority of members of the council failed to back her negative attitude”. One should have interrogate every member of the council of it with purpose to confirm it. At the end, they asked a rhetorical question (“It’s curious to know whose is behind the initiative to form community council affiliated to the regional administration?”, which is inappropriate in the news story.

5/ Credibility (reference to source of information). No source of information is indicated as to the controversy that opposed Bagudinova and the journalists.
6/Accuracy. The story has several inexactitudes. The journalists failed to say what article had caused “dislike” of Bagudinova towards the mass media outlet, who had been that person who blamed her for being “black realtor”. No information was about who was another party of the conflict. (…)
7/ Full information of facts. The journalists failed to provide information on Bagudinova’s position, there was no background on the previous conflict between Bagudinova and journalists. (…)

“Taking into account all above-mentioned we have to say the editorial board of “CHELine” violated five out of six basic principles of news journalism, in particular the demands of clauses 6th, 9th and 10th of the Code of ethics of Ukraine journalist in the story “Rabbit-breeder declared war against mass media” dated of May 18th, 2017”, this is expert conclusion.

We should remind IMI and the Detektor Media NGOs launched new tool allowing to make complaint about unprofessional journalistic reports which violate the law or professional standards. At the web-sites of the both NGOs there is the form which the author of complaint has to fill. Every user can complain, but anonymous complaints won’t be considered. This mechanism is going to serve to examine quickly to breaches in mass media. If the materials testified the situation is complicated, the NGOs are to transfer the complaint to the Independent media council and the Commission of journalistic ethics.

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