Sunday, April 17, 2011

BG Journalists Ignore Code Of Ethics With Impunity

A news story on a national TV channel this morning, provoked me to sit down and write about the problem, which has bothered me lately.

A Bulgarian journalist, Petya Dikova, clearly ignored one of the principles of Code of Ethics (COE) in a news piece for the morning show "Tazi Nedelq", broadcast on the national TV channel, bTV.

Dikova did a standard news story on the forthcoming wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. She interviewed people from Bucklebury, Berkshire, UK, the place where Middleton grew up.

However, while showing the interviews with the local people, Dikova said that one of the interviewees did not want to talk on the record. It was a middle-aged British lady. The refusal of the lady to go on the record did not prevent Dikova from including her in her material, though. Dikova even said that the lady did not suspect that the cameraman, who was far away at that moment, was actually filming her and that Dikova was carrying a switched on voice recorder in her bag.

This harmless lifestyle news story leads to a broader problem - failure of journalists to comply with the Bulgarian COE. The Code states that journalists must gather their information by honest and lawful means. Needless to say, this way of gathering information does not qualify as honest means.

Lyuba Rizova, Head of News and Current Affairs in bTV, said in an interview after signing the COE in 2004, that the Code gives journalists not only freedom but also obligations. Easy to say, hard to follow.

The interviewed lady in Dikova's news piece would probably never find out that her conversation with a Bulgarian journalist was aired, as the interview was broadcast only in Bulgaria.

However, several rhetorical questions come to mind. Is it ethical for a journalist to disrespect the wish of its sources? Why are the editors of the media tolerating such an act? Why is the civil society silent about such disrespect of the rights of a random citizen?

Too many questions concerning the Bulgarian media arise from such a trivial news story. Sadly, this is not the only example. bTV is not the only media which does it. Just print a copy of the Code, sit in front of the TV, and cross out the violated articles. In an hour or two, the majority of them will be crossed out. Try it!


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