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СJE issued friendly warning to DW Ukrainian desk

15.09.2020, 17:46
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The Commission on Journalism Ethics (CJE) issued a friendly warning to the Ukrainian desk of DW, for an inaccurate report, that could reinforce some negative stereotypes about residents of occupied territories and, all told, to contribute to discrimination of these persons.

The CJE analysed the news item “More than 950 thousand of persons in DPR/LPR had Ukraine biometrics IDs dated of February 24th 2020” (signed by Dmytro Gubenko, Mariya Dumanska).

This was reported on the website of CJE. 

The news was about the number of passports for travel abroad that had been issued to citizens of Ukraine, which domicile address were registered in the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions not controlled by the Ukrainian authorities, as well as in the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol.

Lyudmyla Yankina, the author of the complaint sent to CJE, found that the title did not correspond to the data presented in the story itself, did not reflect the real facts and artificially incited hatred towards the residents of the temporarily occupied territories who were citizens of Ukraine. 

In March and April, the author of complaint sent an inquiry to the Ukrainian edition of DW asking for clarification. However, the editorial office did not respond to her e-mail.  

After having analyzed the impugned news item, the Commission noted that the story was based on the response of the State Migration Service of Ukraine to the request of the Ukrainian edition of DW and contained samo date on the number of passports issued to Ukrainian citizens who were registered in several districts of Donetsk or Luhansk regions. 

In particular, the news said that "as of mid-February 2020, 950,405 passports of Ukrainian citizens for travel abroad were issued and delivered to Ukrainian citizens registered in certain districts of Donetsk or Luhansk regions."

The news also said that "as of February 12, 150,466 passports for travel abroad were issued and delivered to Ukrainian citizens registered in the Crimea or Sevastopol."

“When reporting such information, the authors referred to an official source, but from these data they draw the wrong conclusion in the headline. Registration of permanent residence in the occupied territory is not identical to actual residence in this territory. Internally displaced persons who have moved from the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions not controlled by the Ukrainian authorities shall retain prior registration in their passports and indicate this address when receiving administrative services. Including the services on registration of the passport of the citizen of Ukraine for departure abroad ", - as the CJE noted, adding that the headline didn't correspond to the content of the answer of State Migration Service. 

Thus, the commission notes, the authors of the publication violated Art. 8 of the Code of Ethics of Ukrainian Journalists - “Editorial processing of materials, including photos, texts, headlines, compliance with video and text support, etc. should not falsify the content. One should inform the audience about the rehearsed and reconstructed news. " 

Moreover, the CJE drew attention to the fact that, referring to the response of the State Migration Service, the authors of the publication mentioned the number of passports received, but did not specify the exact period for which such documents have been issued by citizens registered in the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions. 

The authors of the publication failed to compare these data with the same ones for the previous period or to compare it with the number of passports issued to citizens registered in other administrative-territorial units of Ukraine for the same period, in particular per 100 thousand population. Statistics without proper context leave a wide field for interpretations that do not always correspond to the current situation. 

According to CJE, it is also unclear from the text of the publication why the authors focused on a certain category of Ukrainian citizens. At the end of the news, the background did not specify information on the specificities in the procedure of obtaining passports for travel abroad for residents of the occupied territories.  

"The assertion that" over the last year they (passports. - CJE ) also were issued to more than 16 thousand people in occupied Crimea "is inaccurate because the State Migration Service uses only the documents for registration of residence, not the actual address. That is, it is impossible to determine the number of Crimeans with biometric passports who actually live on the territory of the peninsula and who are internally displaced persons, according to the SMS statistics, ”the Commission on Journalistic Ethics noted. 

Thus, the news item did not meet the criteria of completeness and accuracy of information, which was violation of Art. 6 of the Code of Ethics of Ukrainian Journalists - " Respecting public's right to full and objective information on facts and events is a journalist's first duty. " 

The CJE also noted that the news did not have any criticism of specific individuals, so it did not require any opinion of another party or an independent expert. However, the Commission noted that news that had some incomplete and inaccurate data might reinforce negative stereotypes about residents of the occupied territories and ultimately contribute to discrimination against these citizens. 

At the same time, the commission did not find a violation of Art. 12 and 19 of the Code of Ethics of the Ukrainian journalist, as they did not confirm whether the journalists knowingly violated the code or refused to correct the mistake after the reader's request. 

“The Commission on Journalistic Ethics emphasizes the need for responsible media coverage of sensitive issues. Including - by a balanced presentation not only of the official point of view on a certain topic, but also the point of view of the inhabitants of the occupied territories or internally displaced persons. The separation of a certain category of citizens of Ukraine on the principle of registration of residence should be justified, and not used for an excessive sensationalism, "- the CJE said in its statement. 

When using statistics, in particular those obtained from official sources, the CJE advised journalists to compare indicators for different periods or in different regions in order to give the audience an all-in-one objective picture.

“In today's media landscape, the headline of the story becomes crucial: a significant number of site visitors or social network users will read only the headline without opening the news. When filling the information tape of the site, the editors should choose headlines that reflect as accurately as possible and do not distort the content of the news, ”the conclusion of CJE read.

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