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Council of Media Ethics reacts to cases of unethical, unprofessional coronacrisis reporting

Two-thirds of violations reported to the Council of Media Ethics (CMEM) are related to news regarding the coronavirus pandemic. 39% of reported cases involve publication of inaccurate and unverified information, while 35% are related to publication of sensationalist information.

Skopje, 9 June 2020 (MIA) – Two-thirds of violations reported to the Council of Media Ethics (CMEM) are related to news regarding the coronavirus pandemic. 39% of reported cases involve publication of inaccurate and unverified information, while 35% are related to publication of sensationalist information.

“Inaccurate information and sensationalism can further increase anxiety and panic and encourage irrational behavior among citizens,” the Council of Media Ethics said in a press release Tuesday.

From the moment the state of emergency was declared until today, 47 cases of unprofessional and unethical reporting have been reported to the Press Complaints Commission at the Council of Media Ethics.

“Of these, most of the complaints (31 or 70 percent of cases) relate to reports of coronavirus pandemic. Violation of Article 1 of the Journalists’ Code, which refers to the publication of accurate and verified information, was found in 39% of reported cases, while violation of Article 8 of the Journalists’ Code, i.e. sensationalist information was found in 35% of reported cases,” the press release read.

The public has also reacted to attempts for politicization of the coronavirus crisis in the media and in some of the cases reported to the CMEM, journalists do not provide professional distance from the political entities, i.e. Article 14 of the Code of Journalists is violated (32%).

“The media must not be used to divide people via various political calculations and the coronavirus must not be a ‘weapon’ used by any politician, whether in the Government or in the opposition, for political gains,” added the press release.

16% of the cases refer to violation of Article 12 of the Code of Journalists, according to which plagiarism is unacceptable and quotations may not be used without indicating the source or the author. If the information is copied, the source must be indicated.

In this context, the CMEM urges media to clearly and explicitly mention the source and author when using content from another media or social networks.

“A positive practice is that the number of cases resolved through mediation is increasing and, in this regard, the Press Complaints Commission at the CMEM welcomes the readiness of the media to make a correction when a mistake in the content is identified,” the press release read.

CEMM continues to monitor the way the media inform, both those who are part of the membership and those who are not yet members, and calls for consistent adherence to the Code of Journalism as a prerequisite for professional reporting.

Self-regulation, the press release concluded, is the only certain way for the media to improve their reporting practices, while protecting freedom of expression, without facing other mechanisms of control or “trial” for their work.

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