Riga, November 21, LETA. To ensure the development of the media sector and increase media accountability, the Cabinet of Ministers on Wednesday adopted conceptual support for the establishment of media ethics monitoring mechanisms – the self-regulating Ethics Media Council.
The report, compiled by the Ministry of Culture (KM), emphasizes that the media sector has not been united to date, therefore, has shifted to the country, with the aim of providing state financing 53,250 euros every year starting 2018, to promote and motivate industrial mergers. Self-organization media policies and the development of a code of ethics for the Latvian media sector, as well as the creation of a media ombudsman, who will also ensure compliance with a code of ethics, provide Media Policy Guidelines.
It has been emphasized that to ensure the development of the media industry and to promote media responsibility, an integrated media code of ethics, which applies not only to print or electronic media, but which binds all media, is needed. The report explained that the creation of the media ombudsman at the same time would create a single code of ethics for the media industry, which meant that the industry would set standards that they would obey. The Media Ombudsman will be given an institution that specializes in disputing media ethics violations. In the view of the Ministry of Culture, the Media Ombudsman will play an important role in improving the quality, reliability and accountability of the media environment by implementing independent, impartial and intermediary functions, while strengthening relations between the media and the public, making the Media Ombudsman a mediator between media, the state and the public.
So far, various complaints of violations of media ethics or journalists have also been addressed to the National Electronic Media Council, but their competence in media ethics is very narrow. NEPLP competencies are limited to evaluating violations of media ethical standards, which are explicitly specified in the law – basically, generally accepted journalism and media ethics standards overlap with the regulatory framework for electronic media, but this does not mean that the main function of NEPLP is to consider journalist and media ethics issues.
Looking for solutions to this situation, several options are considered. One of them is the Media Ombudsman – one person approved by Saeima. The second option is to appoint the Media Ombudsman, and the third is to create a Media Council or Media Ethics Council. During the discussion of possible solutions for the Ombudsman for the media, it was ensured that the sector had a general view that supported the formation of the Media Ombudsman Institute and the Code of Ethics. While some members of the debate supported the state-run media ombudsman, most sectors explicitly opposed this option, stressing that their media and monitoring must be separate from public administration.
These variants were discussed in a group of media initiatives which included the Latvian Journalists Association, the Latvian Press Publishers Association, the Latvian Broadcasting Association, the Latvia Advertising Association, the LETA national information agency, US Delfi and AS Latvijas Media. The initiative group has supported the introduction of a joint self-regulation mechanism, the Media Council, which shows its willingness to be responsible and launch activities to unify and build such mechanisms.
According to the report, the Media Council will have several advantages. First of all, it will ensure maximum media organization involvement and cooperation, and promote media representation and media loyalty. Second, the Media Council can provide more flexible management and sharing of competencies between board members, the possibility of interesting decisions. Third, thanks to such a format, it will be easier to distance themselves from political influence, while at the same time fundamentally funding from sector funds, attracting national co-funding. One disadvantage of this form is the consequence of the principle of voluntary involvement, that the decisions of the Media Council will not bind the entire industry, but only to those media, journalists involved in the association.
The Media Council will be a non-governmental organization based in this sector. It will be up to the industry to establish a detailed structure of the council, determine the key elements of the country. Every decision developer and / or acquirer must have a reputation and perfect experience in the media field. The Media Council must accept and investigate complaints about violations of ethical standards, provide opinions, and carry out educational work on issues of mediation and disinformation. The competence of the Media Council will include, voluntarily, electronic media, print media, and internet media. Annual reports to the Media Council must be submitted to the Saeima Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee, and published on the Internet.
This report emphasizes that the Media Council, as a mechanism for self-regulatory colleagues, is the most widely used and implemented in Estonia, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Norway and Sweden. It should be noted that although the press council in Denmark in international research is considered self-regulation, it is still a form of joint arrangement.
To implement the Media Council, it is necessary to change the Statute of the Ministry of Culture, with the ministry having the task of regulating and controlling the intended use of the state budget. Also, the Ministry of Culture will tender for the media ombudsman to delegate certain tasks from public administration within the framework of the partnership agreement. Given that monitoring media ethics is not a national function, the independence of the Media Council mechanism must be ensured. The Ministry of Culture, in accordance with the partnership agreement, will delegate to the media ombudsman the task of certain public administrations, whose implementation must be ensured in accordance with established regulations and examples of international best practices, including conflict prevention and ethical issues.
The establishment of the Media Ethics Council still has to decide on the government.