Bulgarian Media Council Can Initiate Investigations to Ethics Violations

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(Credit: Council for Electronic Media, screenshot)

We wrote last month when Bulgaria’s Council for Electronic Media (CEM) ruled on a Bulgarian TV host’s ripping up a newspaper on air.  In that case, TV7’s Nikolay Barekov was trying to make a statement about “publications” reports on “Bulgaria’s policy in the pharmaceutical sector.”

The council ruled that Barekov didn’t break any laws, but that since “media outlets ought to treat each other with respect and must not engage in unfair competition” Barekov may have been unethical in tearing the paper up and calling it a “rug.”

We had written to the council to learn more about its work and recently heard back from CEM’s chairman, Georgi Lozanov, with more information about the group.

According to Lozanov, the Bulgarian ethics code, published here, doesn’t give any “powers to the ethical committees” but when ethics codes are violated, the public can complain to the commission.  The ethical code states that “everyone has the fundamental right to freedom of expression, access to information, protection of personal dignity and privacy and right to safety and security.”

The commission can call for media outlets to “publish/broadcast an amendment, to provide a right of reply or to apology appropriately.”  If “the media does not comply” with the Council’s guidance, it will call the media outlet “publicly.”  Lozanov noted the council can pursue cases “on its own initiative.”

We asked more about the Radio and Television Act and its guidelines.  Lozanov explained: “The Radio and Television Act (RTA) ensures the independence of media service providers and their activities from political and economic interference, avoiding censorship of media services in any form. It does not allow the media services to incite hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality, and punishes the violations of fundamental principles that should govern the media service providers which are set out in detail in Art. 10 (RTA).

According to Lozanov, the Ethical committees “monitor the compliance” of the ethics code, handle the public’s complaints and promote both “high professional and ethical journalistic standards.”

UPDATE: 5/17/2012 8:38 PM EST: In a follow-up e-mail, Lozanov told iMediaEthics that one of the more high-profile ethical issues the council has encountered in Bulgaria’s media is invasion of privacy.

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Bulgarian Media Council Can Initiate Investigations to Ethics Violations

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