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Tamar Karelidze

Do media exceed the ethical limits when covering murder?

29.07.2013 14:45

თამარ კარელიძე

Human tragedies along with yellow topics are materials of highest rating for media.  Human tragedies have many readers; the more horrible they are, the more interesting they are.  Rumors, truth, private life, photos, Facebook statuses, questioned neighbors, recordings of kindergarten parties and so on are the topics part of media gives a cheap sentimental image and sells.  Quite often it happens that press shows excessive interest to human tragedies; they sometimes become so pathetic that one may think that journalists are glad to see tragic incidents. 

Unfortunately such an example was the murder of the 16-year-old teenager girl in Batumi.  It seems like media forgot the main fact and with great passion started searching for such information about the girl as what the girl dreamed of, how her friends described her, what family members thought about her, if she was a good student, what statuses she posted on Facebook and so on.  Such news were posted by many news agencies and Internet portals within an hour after the information about the murder was circulated. 

Along with the “serious investigation” done by media (they would probably better show such passion and keenness to covering other topics not to researching private life of a deceased), in social networks we saw an “essay” titled “I’m Mariam, 16, I was murdered.”  It is not worth speaking about its literature, emotional or ethical value furthermore that many comments have been made although many news agencies took the essay to their websites with such desire that it seemed like it was not a senseless essay, but very important news. 
When I already thought that nothing would surprise me after online media nonsense interest, Imedi TV aired a hidden recording of a comment by a citizen who said the name of the eyewitness.  Let us suppose that the journalist made a mistake but editors are there right for correcting such mistakes (I just do not want to think that the editor, just like the journalist, did not pay attention to the given fact or even worse let it through intentionally)?! 

We have not agreed yet if Facebook is a public space or private.  The latest trend in Georgian media is creating news based on statuses posted there.  It is understandable that consumers may be interested in Facebook-opinions of celebrities but nobody thinks much of how ethical it is to publish private photos, comments, statuses or correspondence of a decreased teenager.  I recall last year’s incident when two people died when jumping from Maglivi Bridge.  Their Facebook correspondence went through all the media.  As a rule all this is part of private life and if it is purposed for a small circle of consumers, nobody has the right to publish it. 

I believe it is twice as unethical to make news and reports based on the Facebook page statuses of a deceased person.  When thinking about rumors and truth media forgets about a family that lost a member, forgets about friends and relatives of a deceased person for whom remembering all this information is an additional stressed. 

I am sure during trainings and seminars everyone agreed on ethical requirements for covering different topics but when they return to their offices they continue working as before.  

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