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DECISIONS-ADJUDICATIONS

A TV REPORT ON THE ALLEGED SEXUAL ACTIVITIES OF A POLICE WOMAN

TRANSMISSION OF A NUDE PHOTOGRAPH OF A TEACHER

MISLEADING MATERIAL AND RIGHT-OF-REPLY IN THE UNOPS "BRIBERY CASE"

PUBLICATION OF PERSONAL DATA AND OBTAINING NEWS BY FRAUDULENT MEANS

REPORTING ON A RAPE AND INCREASING PERSONAL PAIN

 CAUSING GRIEVANCE AND INCREASING PERSONAL PAIN

 ALLEGED HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVITIES OF A PRIEST

COMPLAIN BY COMMISSIONER VERHEUGEN AGAINST CYBC

HANDLING OF THE AIR TRAGEDY OF AUGUST 14, 2005 BY THE MEDIA

PUBLICATION OF A PICTURE OF THE AIR TRAGEDY OF AUGUST 14, 2005

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A TV REPORT ON THE ALLEGED SEXUAL ACTIVITIES OF A POLICE WOMAN

The Cyprus Media Complaints Commission, acting under the clause of the Code of Conduct providing that it may, “exceptionally, deal on its own initiative with a case, which may be tantamount to a breach of the Code, due to its importance and seriousness” has examined the case of a TV report  and broadcast of pictures by the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation television about a police woman allegedly videoed in private moments with a man.

CyBC failed to respond to the request of the Commission, to state its views on the matter, as it was obliged to do under the Code of Conduct and the Commission thus watched a video taped record of the story and subsequent discussion on the story and took into consideration the views News Director Mr. John Kareklas had voiced on air.

The Commission noted the apology by Mr. Kareklas, who had expressed his regret for “words and unfortunate references”, made in the story and for any “unpleasant feelings caused to viewers and the individuals affected, in spite of the fact that care had been taken to conceal the identity of the woman”.

The Commission also took notice of his position that the story was aimed at exposing the culprit who had made public the video, but it concluded that it actually had victimized the woman.

The Commission decided that the story contained unwarranted personal data and references to the private life of an individual, in violation of the clause of the Code of Conduct providing that the reputation and private life of every individual is respected and that intrusions and investigations into the private life of individuals without their consent, including the taking of pictures are generally unacceptable and their publication could only be justified in exceptional cases an solely in the public interest.

It has also decided, in view of the outright denial by the Chief of the Police that measures were being taken against the police woman, as alleged in the report, that the story violated the clause of the Code providing that the Media should ensure that no inaccurate, misleading, imaginary or distorted news, information or comments are published.

The Commission further decided that the content of the story, the pictures which were broadcast and the actual broadcast of the story –the more so during the family zone and high ratings- do not comply with the provision of the Code that the conduct, dignity, honesty and professional standard of journalists should be of the highest level.

The Commission, noting the mission of the Media, calls upon the competent authority of the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation to take steps so as to avoid any repetition of like cases.

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TRANSMISSION OF A NUDE PHOTOGRAPH OF A TEACHER

 The Cyprus Media Complaints Commission reviewed a complaint regarding the television report broadcast by the stations Antenna, MEGA and Sigma, about a high-school teacher, whose nude image was stolen from her mobile phone by a student and sent out to other students and the public.

The Commission considered to review the case because it regarded it as being very serious, having already secured permission from the teacher in question to investigate the matter further.

During the review of the complaint, the Commission saw the recordings of the relative broadcasts and also took into consideration the facts as they were expressed by the teacher in question.

The Commission noted and condemned the unwillingness of the officials at Antenna and Sigma channels to respond to a request to submit in due time their views regarding the complaint.

The director of news at MEGA said that provisions were made so as not to divulge any data that would lead to the unveiling of the teacher’s identity and did not show her photograph.

After reviewing all the facts submitted to it, the Commission concluded the following decision:

-          The MEGA television station took provisions not to include in the report any information that would lead to the revelation of the identity of the teacher and did not show her photograph. Despite this, due to the extent of coverage given to the case, the teacher’s identity had already widely been made known and this fact should have been taken into consideration when preparing the report.

-          The Commission decided that the broadcast of allegations by students that the teacher herself had sent the photograph to mobile phones of other students, constituted a violation of the clause of the Journalistic Code of Conduct for respect of the reputation and privacy and of the personal status, as well as the obligation of the mass media not to publish or broadcast incorrect information. The allegations were not withdrawn, as should have been, and the brief mention at the end of the report that “the teacher denies all the allegations” of the students, cannot be considered as a satisfactory response to these allegations and does not lift the violation of the provisions of the Code.

-          In the case of the reports on Antenna and Sigma, the Commission noted that these contained many details that revealed in a clear manner the identity of the teacher, such as the references to age, her teaching specialization, the school where she worked and the broadcast of statements by people who had a direct relation to the school.

-          In the reports of the two television stations, the teacher’s photograph was broadcast repeatedly, in the case of Antenna without any alteration and in the case of Sigma with mild electronic shading.

-          The Commission decided that the reports of these two stations were a violation of the provisions of the Journalistic Code of Conduct as regards the respect of reputation and privacy and the personal status, as well as the provision against intrusion into the private life and the taking of pictures without consent.

-          It also decided that the acquisition and broadcast of the photograph, despite the fact that in the reports it was said that it had been stolen, was a violation of the provisions of the Code regarding obtaining information by false representation or any other fraudulent manner.

The Commission considers that the recording and broadcast of statements by under-aged students by all three television channels is a violation of the provision of the Code regarding obtaining statements from children without the consent of their parents or other adult who is responsible for them and that the broadcast reports did not comply with the provision of the Code that the professional standards of the members of the mass media should be of the highest possible professional level.

The Commission noted that the personal data of individuals should be respected and calls upon the media to show particular sensitivity regarding the personal data of individuals and should be careful in the handling of similar cases.

In conclusion, the Commission expressed its sympathy to the teacher for the violation of her private life and of her personal data.

The Commission called upon the television channels Antenna, MEGA and Sigma to broadcast this decision in accordance with Journalistic Code of Conduct.

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 MISLEADING MATERIAL AND RIGHT-OF-REPLY IN THE UNOPS "BRIBERY CASE"

 The Cyprus Media Complaints Commission reviewed a complained from Michalis Ignatiou, the U.S.-based correspondent of MEGA TV, that his colleague and journalist Makarios Droushiotis misused his report and came to unfounded conclusions and that he failed to give him the opportunity to reply to charges of broadcasting incorrect news and of misleading.

The issue arose after the distribution of Droushiotis documentary, “The Ambient Atmosphere” in the form of a digital disc and printed book with the same title and content.

After Ignatiou filed his complaint, Droushiotis filed a complained against Ignatiou and other journalists claiming that they had accused without any evidence citizens of being bribed to support the Annan Plan (a United Nations document in 2003 aimed at uniting Cyprus under a new bizonal, bicommunal federation of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots).

The Commission decided it could not review Droushiotis complaint as it was filed beyond the 30-day period stipulated by the Commissions regulations, especially as 18 months had lapsed from the date of the specific events and also, that the Commission had discussed the political issue at that time.

After the Commission reviewed the written positions of both journalists and viewed the documentary, it considered it necessary to invite them both to present their oral arguments and give supplementary information.

The Commission also reviewed the reports broadcast by Ignatiou from October 26 to November 1, 2004, including the report broadcast on October 27, 2004, which had been the source of criticism in Droushiotis’ documentary.

The report referred to a briefing by the U.S. State Department spokesman regarding the provision of funds to the UNOPS programme, and in particular the budget of 6.4 million US dollars reserved for the execution of bi-communal programmes in Cyprus.

The TV new bulletin’s anchorman introduced Ignatiou’s live report on the UNOPS funds with a reference to moneys that were provided in Cyprus “for bi-communal programmes, as well as for the promotion of the Annan Plan”.

In presenting his views to the Commission, Droushiotis said that as he had supported in the documentary, there was no falsification, as the amount of 6.4 million dollars was fully justified by the report of Nathan Associates, where it is clearly stated that the funds in question were available for bi-communal projects and not for financing individuals to support the Annan plan.

Droushiotis also said that during his briefing, the State Department spokesman did not accept the interpretation of another journalist that the report contained a list of names of persons who were financed and that he refused to publish the report, as was mentioned in the broadcast.

During his deposition, Ignatiou clarified that part of the information he broadcast within the series of reports from October 26th to November 1st 2004, that referred, among others, to the financing of individuals in order to support the Annan Plan, came from the informal briefings by the U.S. State Department spokesman or other sources. He also said that from his reports it is evident that he was referring to another report that he had in mind and other amounts that were provided for the promotion of the Annan Plan and did not come from the budget of 6.4 million dollars.

From the review of the broadcasts, the Commission noted that in his report of October 26th, Ignatiou referred to the provision of amounts to individuals and organization in order to promote the Annan Plan. In the broadcast of October 29th, when the anchorman referred to the report in relation to the 6.4 million dollars, Ignatiou clarified that the information regarding the financing of individuals in Cyprus referred to another report, different from the one that mentioned the 6.4 million dollars.

This clarification was not included in the broadcast of October 27th and as a result it was not clear whether the anchorman referred to the funding of UNOPS and Ignatiou referred to other funds and a different report, causing confusion on the whole matter.

The Commission concluded that Droushiotis’ documentary made a selective reference to Ignatiou’s broadcast of October 27th, and as a result it was possible that a wrong impression was created as per the real subject of the broadcast.

However, the Commission concluded that there was no misleading use of the October 27th broadcast, as nowhere throughout the bulletin was it clarified that mention was being made of different subjects and the impression that was given was that the subject was the distribution of the 6.4 million dollars.

As per Ignatious complaint for the non-inclusion of his views, Droushiotis argued that the subject of his documentary was what was said or done regarding the allegations of financing of individuals in order to support the Annan Plan and not why this was said or done.

Droushiotis informed the Commission that following the views that were expressed during his meeting with a sub-committee of the Cyprus Media Complaints Commission, he decided to include, and has subsequently included Ignatiou’s views in the electronic page where the documentary is available and that he will do the same in the case of a further edition of the documentary.

Ignatiou maintained that as he has been accused of broadcasting incorrect and misleading news he should be allowed the right to reply within the context of the documentary itself.

He also informed the Commission that the inclusion of his views on Droushiotis electronic page does not satisfy him.

The Commission concluded that Ignatiou should have been given the opportunity to reply to the allegations against him, as specified by the Journalistic Code of Conduct.

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PUBLICATION OF PERSONAL DATA AND OBTAINING NEWS BY FRAUDULENT MEANS

 The Cyprus Media Complaints Commission has dealt with a complain by Ms Kiki Papasozomenou, a sister of the National Guard helicopter pilot Andreas Papasozomenos, that “Phileleptheros” newspaper, in reporting the death of her brother in a helicopter crash, had published personal data about herself and her family and that the newspaper had resorted to obtaining information by undercover means contravening the journalists’ deontology.

It was alleged in the complain that a journalist of “Phileleptheros” obtained information presenting himself as a person who had gone to give his condolences to the family on the death of pilot Andreas Papasozomenos.

The newspaper replied that the journalist who had visited the house of the deceased, actually went there to express his sympathy on the loss of the family, since he lived in the same village, and that the reporter who actually wrote the story about the crash and the family circumstances was a different person, who had obtained his news though his own sources, without having any contact with his colleague.

The Commission, taking into consideration the explanation of the newspaper, has concluded that the complain about obtaining news by false representation or fraudulent manner could not be sustained.

The newspaper had apologized for publishing personal details relating to the complainant and members of her family and for any pain caused as a result and proposed that any citation of personal data “was made in the process of a journalistic investigation and report”, without any intention of intruding in anybody’s personal life or violation of the Code of Conduct.

The Commission commended the prompt cooperation of the newspaper in investigating the complain and also the fact that it had apologized for the publication or personal data though “there was no intention either of intruding in anybody’s personal life or violation of the Code of Conduct” and intruding in the personal life of the complainant and her family.

The Commission decided that, independently of any intention or aim, the publication of personal data is contrary to the clause of the Code of Conduct providing that iintrusions and investigations into the private life of individuals without their consent are unacceptable.

The Commission has also decided that the allegation made in the headline of the story that the complainant is fighting for her life is contrary to the clause providing that the Media should ensure that no inaccurate, misleading, imaginary or distorted news, information or comments are published.

The Commission, taking into consideration that similar news were published or broadcast by other Media, calls on the Media and journalists to fully respect the private life and personal data of people.

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REPORTING ON A RAPE AND INCREASING PERSONAL PAIN

 The Cyprus Media Complaints Commission has dealt with a complain concerning almost identical  news reports published by “Politis” and “Phileleptheros” newspaper concerning the rape of a young woman, which contained detailed description of the crime.

The Commission, having examined the publications and the views of the two newspapers that no provisions of the Code of Conduct had been violated, concluded that by the detailed description and the reproduction of the scenes of the rape, there has been a violation of the Code.

The commission has decided, in particular, that the news reports in the aforementioned newspapers were in contravention of the clauses providing that journalists should be particularly careful in presenting issues such as violence, crime and human suffering and  display discretion and sympathy, and avoid acts which are likely to increase human pain.

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CAUSING GRIEVANCE AND INCREASING PERSONAL PAIN

The Cyprus Media Complaints Commission has dealt with a complain about a news report in “Politis” newspaper lodged by the family of a minor allegedly sexually molested by her step-father.

The complainants alleged that the minor was identified in the news report, and that despite the fact that the trial of the step-father was held in camera for the protection of the child, details were published which had caused her to suffer a psychological  shock.

The Commission, having regard to the points raised by the newspaper, has reached the conclusion that no details were published leading to the identification of the minor to the general public.

It has further decided that the newspaper published details of the crime, in violation of the clauses of the Code of Conduct stating that journalists should pay special attention and sympathy “in presenting issues such as violence, crime and human grief” and avoid actions which are likely to increase human suffering and pain.

Taking into consideration the fact that the trial had been held in camera with the purpose that no details would be made public, other than those the judge would deem proper to divulge, the Commission stresses that the Media should take particular care in publishing news of similar nature.

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ALLEGED HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVITIES OF A PRIEST

The Cyprus Media Complaints Commission has dealt with a complain concerning a news report an photographs published by “Politis” newspaper, about an alleged homosexual relation of an Archimandrite of the Limassol Diocese with a youth.

The Commission, having examined the news report, all relevant material placed at its disposition and the views of the two sides, concluded that the church official named in the report,  as a result of his post as second in the hierarchy of the Limassol Diocese, in charge of the fund giving assistance to needy people, in charge of the children’s’ summer camping installations and as a confessor is a public figure whose private life is directly related to his post and functions and thus the newspaper had a right to deal with it, taking, however, into consideration the writing and spirit of the Journalists\ Code of Conduct.

Consequently, the Commission has decided that the details contained in the news report, the way the subject was presented, the style of the story and the publication of photographs taken without the knowledge and consent of the priest violate his human rights and contravene the relevant provisions of the Code of Conduct.

The Commission further decided that the content of the news contravene the provisions of the Code of Conduct on the presumption of innocence and the public ridicule of people.

The Commission has also decided that there was a violation of the provisions of the Code of Conduct against taking of pictures in a deceitful manner.

The Commission did not deem it necessary for the purpose of examining the complain, to decide whether the pictures were genuine or not.

The Commission decided that in spite of the fact that the Bishop of Limassol had been apprised on the issue through an associate, the matter should have been brought to the knowledge of the priest himself, in order to give his views, according to the relevant provision of the Code of Conduct.

The Commission considers as an ameliorating factor that the respondents had taken a series of actions in order to establish the truthfulness o their information, a fact however, that does not annul the aforesaid violations of the Code of Conduct.

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COMPLAIN BY COMMISSIONER VERHEUGEN AGAINST CYBC

The Cyprus Media Complaints Commission has dealt with ex officio and examined a complaint against the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation in connection with "the charges by European Commissioner Guenther Verheugen that he had been prevented from appearing in a TV programme or TV programmes of Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC), prior to the [April 24, 2004] referendum, with the aim of preventing the objective and comprehensive information of the public" with relation to the Anan plan (the U.N.-proposed plan for the solution of the Cyprus problem).

The complaint was examined by a sub-committee in two sessions, where the Director General of CyBC, Mr Marios Mavrikios, and the Director of TV Programmes, Mr Andros Pavlides, appeared and gave testimony. The sub-committee also reviewed written statements submitted by the Head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus, Mr Adriaan van der Meer, and CyBC journalist, Mr Costas Yennaris, as well as other relevant documents submitted to the sub-committee.

The sub-committee submitted a report to the board of the Cyprus Media Complaints Commission, which discussed the matter at length, on Wednesday, July 21, 2004.

Despite the fact that from the evidence obtained there was no proof of interference, the Cyprus Media Complaints Commission concluded that the internal procedures at CyBC and other reasons, which are beyond the jurisdiction of the Commission, did not allow Commissioner Verheugen's request to give an interview on CyBC to be satisfied, a fact which can be deemed that it is not fully consistent with the word and spirit of the Code of Practice, as this is exercised by the media industry and professionals in Cyprus.

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HANDLING OF THE AIR TRAGEDY OF AUGUST 14, 2005 BY THE MEDIA

The Cyprus Media Complaints Commission held an extraordinary meeting on August 24, 2005, during which it expressed serious concern and strong disapproval of the continued violations by the mass media of a number of basic provisions of the Journalistic Code of Conduct, as regards their handling of the news surrounding the tragic airline crash of August 14th, 2005.

The Commission, taking into consideration that the right to expression is a fundamental cornerstone of the journalistic profession, and noting that the citizen's right to have objective, comprehensive, accurate and timely information is an obligation of all the media and journalists, concluded as follows:

1.      Under extreme conditions, the mass media and their representatives accomplished significant work to inform the public about the tragedy and to exercise public control.

2.      During the reporting of the tragedy there was, especially on the part of the television stations and other media, a lack of due sensitivity to human suffering and death.

3.      There was a lack of discretion and sympathy and unnecessary intrusion in the private life, during moments of mourning, grief and mental shock, of the relatives of the victims.

4.      In some cases, accuracy of information was sacrificed to a large extent to the altar of  sensationalism, resulting in a climate of prejudice and confusion, due to the absence of discrimination between fact, comment and conjecture.

5.      The right of reply was violated, particularly as regards individuals who were directly affected, and who, due to the seriousness of the reports, were not called to respond or give their own views simultaneously with the reporting of any allegations.

6.      The presumption of innocence of individuals or organisations was violated, resulting in their being condemned by the public opinion without being heard first and before any independent investigation into the causes of the tragedy had even either begun or been concluded.

7.      The provision of the Code preventing the publication of photographs of children and information about their personal situation or welfare was also violated.

The Commission noted that most of the violations of the provisions of the Journalistic Code of Practice occurred by the rebroadcast of programmes or the republication of information and emphasised that this fact does not relieve the mass media organisations of their responsibility to uphold the provisions of the Code.

The Media Complaints Commission calls upon all responsible parties of the mass media and journalists to respect and uphold the provisions of the journalistic Code of Practice and emphasises that any violation undermines and seriously jeopardises the concept of self regulation of the media and the journalists and also poses risks to the freedom of expression and the exercise of the journalistic profession.

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PUBLICATION OF A PICTURE OF THE AIR TRAGEDY OF AUGUST 14, 2005

The Cyprus Media Complaints Commission, at an extraordinary session, dealt with numerous complaints against "Phileleftheros" newspaper for publishing a photograph, on August 15, 3005, showing the impact point of the "Helios Airways" plane which had crashed on the previous day at Grammatikos, Greece, and a charred body with clear face characteristics and other bodies strewn on the ground.

The Commission decided that the picture was likely to cause horror and abhorrence and expressed strong disapproval of the fact that, in violation of express provisions of the Code of Practice, by publishing the photograph, the newspaper had shown unacceptable lack of sensitivity in presenting human pain and death.

The Commission further deemed unacceptable the justification printed on the following day, August 16, 2006, by the newspaper, for publishing the picture  e.g. that the purpose of the publication was to convey the magnitude of the tragedy "so as to give the clear message: never again such tragedies" and that its purpose was "the avoidance of a new tragedy".

The Commission concluded that it was evident that the publication of the photograph, far from contributing towards the avoidance of new air crashes, contained an element of sensationalism and in only resulted in causing unbearable human pain, horror and abhorrence.

The Commission decided to call upon the newspaper to comply with the obligation of the Media to publish the full decision within a period of four days after it has been serviced.

NOTE: The photograph in question had been supplied by Reuters photo service. The Commission drew the attention of Reuters legal department, which replied that the picture was indeed terrible and had been transmitted with the advisory "Attention Editor". It further stated that Reuters, as a neutral news agency its job was to record and transmit all newsworthy events and that it was up to its clients "to exercise their judgment in deciding what they publish, which they are best placed to do, because they know their audience and the particular context in which a photo would be published".

 

 

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