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Kommersant, August 3, 2004

"Editor-in-Chief Should Be Branded!"
Deputies Decided to Re-Educate Journalists

By Suzanna Farizova
The State Duma Committee for Information Policy held a roundtable yesterday on "journalist' professional corporate ethics and responsibility for materials published in the media. Problems and ways or resolving them." The discussion of issues of journalists' ethics almost developed into a brawl, but the participants were able to control themselves in time. The session resulted in a recommendation to journalists that they step up responsibility "within the creative collectives."

Opening the roundtable, Valery Komissarov (United Russia), head of the committee for information policy (Ed. O.R. a popular anchor of a TV talk-show before winning the elections to the State Duma), suggested it be seen as a "talk among friends" but to judge by the faces of those gathered together, a friendly conversation was not part of their plans. As if out of spite, an enormous number of parliamentary correspondents had come to the session and obviously enraged the discussion's participants by their very appearance. Deputy Komissarov meanwhile tried to explain what actually gave rise to the need for the roundtable:

"The beer corporations were unable to sort out their internal ethical standards in time, which led to the State Duma's adoption of a law restricting beer advertising in the media. If journalists are unable to work out internal norms of behaviour, the deputies will simply have to take steps".

Meanwhile the journalists were debating who would be the first to cite the example of the dismissal of Leonid Parfyonov from the NTV channel for violating "corporate ethics." Valery Komissarov was the first: "Parfyonov was asked to delay the broadcasting of the interview with Yandarbiyev's widow until the court ruling, but he handed the material to Kommersant, thereby possibly indirectly provoking the life imprisonment sentence passed on our boys.

The deputy also cited other examples of journalist violation of corporate ethics: "The flow of compromising information on the Internet," the creation of sites publishing unverified information and articles written to order. The latter point particularly upset "Marching Together" movement leader Vasily Yakimenko:

"Two months ago the Centre for the Development of the Free Press published paid information in several high-quality - I am not afraid of using the word - publications. We sent them a letter asking them to apologize, but we received no reply. Then we set up posters with the word "Lies" outside these publications' editorial offices, but that had no effect either".

In this connection Yakimenko suggested printing the warning "Our publication prints lies" in publications of this kind. "If an author has lied once, the inscription should be published in a
format the same size as the relevant article, if he has lied twice, then it should be published in centrefold, and if he has lied three times it should be on the title-page.

"And the editor-in- chief should be branded!" Komissarov said sarcastically in his summary.

Sergey Abeltsev (Zhirinovsky's LDPR) hastened to express dissatisfaction with representatives of the media, finding the example of the murder of the little Tajik girl in St Petersburg highly apt: "A little girl was killed and there was a lot of broohaha over the matter. The journalists raised a storm. But I made inquiries and found out that this family had been using its children for drug dealing. The drugs were of poor quality and a teenager died after using them. The murder of the little girl, against whom no criminal charges could be brought because she was under-age, was revenge!"

The participants in the discussion considered it their duty to note that "children should not be killed in any circumstances" and Boris Reznik (United Russia) even made so bold as to speak in defence of the media: "Our roundtable has become a kangaroo court for the press. We cannot resolve the ethics problem with any laws, this is a matter for the journalist community itself and we can merely make recommendations."

In the end, agreeing that journalists "do not earn much" and therefore print items that have been paid for, the roundtable participants adopted recommendations that "staffer responsibility be enhanced within the creative collectives for the publication of unreliable and unverified facts
and that assistance could be provided to colleagues when preparing and discussing publishable material." It is true that session participants were unable to explain how these recommendations could be implemented in practice.


See also:

Freedom of Speech and Media Law in Russia

Kommersant, August 3, 2004

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