LTV broadcast found guilty of ethics violation in conducting experiment with vaccines

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The Latvian Media Ethics Council has identified a violation of the Code of Conduct in the “Forbidden Method” broadcast of Latvian Television, which was dedicated to Covid-19 antibodies and vaccines, LTV reported May 17.

The Council said that Guntis Bojārs, creator of the “Forbidden Method” (Aizliegtais paņēmiens) broadcast, had addressed the Ethics Council asking for an evaluation of the episode aired end of March about antibodies against Covid-19. The broadcast, after conducting an arbitrary experiment, concluded that some people's blood did not show Covid-19 antibodies after receiving vaccines. Bearing in mind the polarization of views on the content of the episode in question, Bojārs asked the Council for an opinion on the right of a journalist to carry out tests with no scientific basis in the interests of the public.


Latvijas Mediju ētikas padomes atzinums


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The Ethics Council has 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.

The Ethics Council explained that journalists have an obligation to study the problems that exist in society, but in the absence of a sufficient scientific basis for research, journalists should be confined to a journalistic study which does not lead to scientific conclusions but obtain and identify the arguments and considerations needed for an in-depth study and discussion of the issue. Hasty research, which lacks a scientific base, may allow divergent research approaches that do not contribute to convincing and unambiguous research results.

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 broadcast, according to the Council, has not conducted a randomly controlled experiment, which is the only method for determining causation, and the only method that determines the effect of medicines and vaccines. Such experiments can and must also be carried out by journalists, but in the case of any research, consistency must be strictly withheld during data collection and analysis, but the generalization of the conclusions must respect fundamental ethical principles, including not allowing publication of information in a misleading form or exaggerations.

The assessment of professional media practices is crucial in the case at hand, said the Council.

Although the ideological question raised in the broadcast on unanswered issues in the organization of the vaccination process and raising public interest is important and its in-depth research is supported, it is important, from a professional ethical point of view, to assess the ability of the programme-makers to carry out quality scientific research in order to base conclusions in a verified and science-based analysis, rather than in conclusions derived from fragmented, scientifically unconvincing and contradictory information.

The Ethics Council recommended that, in cases where journalists have a need to carry out such research, independent scientific advisers with knowledge and experience in carrying out such studies should be attracted prior to the launch of the study in order to assess the intended data sources.

The Ethics Council concluded that the study, which has not been conducted with due diligence, causes greater damage to the overall quality of journalism, undermines confidence in professional media and scientists, and organizing socially important vaccination processes to a greater extent than it benefits the public.

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