Court cancels ethical breach fine on LTV show

The court has ruled against a fine imposed by the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) on Latvian Television's broadcast 'Aizliegtais paņēmiens' (Forbidden Method), LTV reported February 6.

The LTV “Forbidden Method” story on the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines was aired on March 29, 2021 in a politically heated atmosphere. As reported at the time, the Media Ethics Council identified a violation of the principle of integrity mentioned in paragraph 4.1 of the Code of Conduct, which states that it is not permissible to publish false, distorted, or misleading information, exaggeration, stereotyping, or to try to intentionally and secretly affect the audience.

In the episode in question, the Council of Ethics observed a variety of journalistic methods of research and data collection and analysis which do not allow conclusions to be drawn, such as multi-factor statistics, selective sampling, unjustified prioritization of sources and results of research, which are used inconsistently, thereby failing to reach the objective of approaching the truth during the study.

The Latgale suburb court of Riga City has now acknowledged that there are no false facts in the broadcast. They have reflected the extent that was available at the time, a diversity of opinions is displayed, and a journalist does not have to be a neutral reflection of events. The court judgment states that NEPLP has not assessed the case objectively.

Excerpt from the judgment of the Latgale suburb court of Riga City. Judge Laila Podoļska:

The decision gives the impression that the journalist should promote the policy chosen by the country and, in the case in question, praise and refrain from criticism of the selection of AstraZeneca for the vaccine in question. Such a view cannot be accepted.

The Court also acknowledged that journalists may be provocative and offensive and use different ways, including analysis of antibody tests, to encourage public debate.

NEPLP, on the other hand, had acted illegally, the court concluded.

Excerpt from the court's ruling:

The Authority, without taking into account the above and without evaluating the facts and the opinion in the program, imposed, in principle, a fine for expressing an “incorrect” opinion and using “unusual” methods, thereby infringing Article 100 of the Constitution and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and misapplying and misinterpreting the Electronic Media Act 24. paragraph 4.

The head of NEPLP, Ivars Āboliņš, has not yet commented but the NEPLP has promised to appeal the judgment so that the punishment requirement should be maintained.

"In any event, the Council adopted this type of decision in the public interest and in listening to public concerns. And not only. But we also listened to the conclusions of the five different institutions that the “Forbidden Method” broadcast did not, however, reflect accuracy and neutrality. And therefore this case is initiated," explained Ieva Kalderauska, NEPLP member, promising a wider comment once the proceedings have been concluded.

 

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