Rulings

PRINT AND ONLINE MEDIA ETHICS COMMITTEE MEETING
PRINT AND ONLINE MEDIA ETHICS COMMITTEE MEETING

PRINT AND ONLINE MEDIA ETHICS COMMITTEE MEETING

Print and Online Media Ethics Committee of the Media Council of Mongolia held its regular meeting of the second quarter of 2021 on June 24, 2021. The Committee discussed complaints addressed to more than ten newsrooms

 

One. Complaint from “Tsoba” LLC addressed to Bolod.mn website has no ground
 
“TSOBA" LLC filed a complaint considering that the following articles disseminated false information about the company and defamed its reputation: “Tsoba LLC, that involved in the corruption case of Land Departments’ Heads, still destroys nature” article published in the bolod.mn website on April 12, 2021; and “Who will stop Tsoba LLC’s construction work that illegally damages nature?” article published in the page of bolod.mn website on April 16, 2021.

The Ethics Committee discussed the complaint and concluded that bolod.mn website did not make any ethical errors because the facts specified in the articles were based on the government authorities’ inspections or assessments.

 

Two. Isaid.mn website committed no breach
 
Citizen A.B filed a complaint considering that information titled “A man killed his brother by stabbing him 76 times with a knife and killed himself”, published in the isaid.mn website on May 7, 2021, clearly depicted a method and a tool of committing a crime and its depiction was enough to provoke committing a crime.
 
The news was sourced with Police. It's also checked, and no detailed depictions were found. Thus, the Committee concluded that the news did not breach the Code of Ethics' Article 4.1 "Reporting or broadcasting detailed presentation of crime methods and tactics shall be avoided.”

 

Three. Complaint from “Oyunii Undraa” LLC addressed to Tac.mn has no grounds
 
“Oyunii Undraa” LLC filed a complaint against the information published in Tac.mn on May 3, 2021, titled “See, a fact – Deputy Prime Minister S.Amarsaikhan lost in arbitration and should pay USD 4.7 million.”
 
The newsroom replied, saying that the complaint had no grounds. In the response, it's written that saying "defamed the company's reputation illegally" did not comply with the truth. Because the court did not say, the article was illegal. Also, saying "disclosed secret material" did not comply with the actual situation. Our newsroom did not obtain these facts illegally or any means that might violate the code of ethics. Facts specified in the tac.mn website were published at urug.mn website previously, and also, they reported it after resolved at the court. The court decision was uploaded officially in shuukh.mn website. They said that we disclosed the fact as found as open-source information and sent the court decision in the attached file.
 
Therefore, it's considered that the newsroom didn't breach the ethical code of "Informing the public by accurate information and maintaining human dignity are supreme values of journalism. Verification of information is the basic principle of accuracy in journalism.” Because the newsroom used information which are open to the public and verified all their information.

 

 

Four. Article titled "Who are the "dependent" candidates to intend for the Tsets (Constitutional Court)? 

On March 20, 2021, one of the news websites published the article titled "Who are the 'dependent' candidates for the Tsets?". A citizen named in the article filed a complaint. The complainant considered that the newsroom did not verify the information while preparing their article, disseminated false information, and defamed their reputation. The citizen's complaint has grounds, and the newsroom acknowledged their mistake and published a correction on June 24, 2021. However, the newsroom breached the ethical code of "Informing the public by accurate information and maintaining human dignity are supreme values of journalism. Verification of information is the basic principle of accuracy in journalism", the newsroom acknowledged their mistake and published the correction. Therefore, it's decided not to disclose the newsroom's name. 

 

Five. Tsahiur.mn website's article about Ts.Anandbazar didn't violate the code of ethics

Tsahiur.mn published an article titled "Sexual violence committed by MP Ts. Anandbazar" on April 26, 2021. Citizen G.U filed a complaint regarding that article, considering the following violations: The newsroom depicted violence too detailly in its article; No consideration about impacts to someone who exposed to such violence; It was unethical to display violence methods through comics because children are likely to watch or see contents with images more, Displaying violence in comics gave misimpressions to children that violence is a normal thing; but also placing the newsroom's logo on the inappropriate images was an unethical act to do branding by using violence. 

In the response from the newsroom, it says that while the article tells about many girls and women were abused due to Ts. Anandbazar's unethical behaviour, the article's primary purpose was to ask for responsibilities and systematical change regarding such violence since sexual harassment in the workplace was not specified in the laws. The next day after the article and program were published, the Prosecutor's General Office of Mongolia reported that they directed the National Police Agency's Investigative Unit to pay attention to the information specified in the article that might have crime features. They have started investigating by forming a working group. Then, the newsroom handed information of victims and witnesses who were in the program to the Police based on their consents. Also, the newsroom said that people who were in the program were testified, and the case has been under investigation. 

The Committee discussed the complaint and concluded that tsahiur.mn worked within the framework of professional ethics. In particular, the website did not disseminate misinformation because this article and program delivered the information that exists in the society as open and in a hidden way, and that should be prevented. Delivering such information doesn't mean disrespectfulness to ethics or humanity. The newsroom followed the media code of ethics to make the victims' images, audio and video recordings unrecognizable by technical tools when disseminating them to the public. The article criticized the hidden issues in society. However, the article informed the public, delivered the victims' speeches, and showed their speeches in the way of images; it did not straightforwardly depict the events. If we see it in the big picture, the article explained that this kind of problem might arise and should be prevented. Placing its logo on the comic images is not a hidden advertisement. But it's clearly saying that they do the work. Therefore, the newsroom didn't violate the code of ethics. 

 

Six. Ubn.mn website made no ethical errors

Citizen A.B filed a complaint on the article titled "He killed his divorced wife by stabbing her 13 times", published on the Ubn.mn website on May 17, 2021. The complainant argued that words and sentences used in the article might provoke to commit any crime and the detailed reporting of the crime, which could have provoked others to an idea that they could commit crimes, too.

The Committee reviewed the article in accordance with the journalistic code of ethics and concluded that the article did not violate "Reporting or broadcasting detailed presentation of crime methods and tactics shall be avoided." Because the article was transferred the police information and no things specified depicting methods of committing crimes

 

Seven. "Zuunii medee" newspaper made no ethical errors

"Zuunii medee" newspaper published an interview titled "D.Byambasuren: Now we understand that a person carrying a pig[1] does not work for the government" was published on May 4, 2021, issue №89 (6566) of the newspaper "Zuunii Medee". Citizen B.E filed a complaint related to the interview. In the complaint, he/she said that the interview was manipulated and made politically sensitive. The interview was taken in January when it was not certain who were presidential election candidates. But they published the interview now related to the election. So, they arbitrarily changed the interviewee's opinion and stance. However, the interviewee, D.Byambasuren himself, contacted the newsroom several times and said that things he told were changed after the interview was published, the newsroom didn't respond yet. 

The newsroom sent its response to the complaint and stated that they didn't make any violations. However, in order to discuss the complaint, an audio recording of the interview was received from the newsroom. After comparing the audio recording with the published interview, it's confirmed that "Zuunii medee" newspaper violated the code of ethics.

 

A journalist can publish interviews taken from sources at any time. However, if the situation described in the interview has changed since the interview was taken, it should be re-clarified with the interviewee or publishing the interview with additional description about the date when it was taken, and the change in the situation would be helpful to deliver the interviewee's stances accurately and not mislead the readers. But, in this case, "Zuunii medee" newspaper didn't make any further descriptions. 

In the interview published at "Zuunii medee" newspaper and zms.mn website, it's written as "I understand that U.Khurelsukh, MPP[2] Chairman and former Prime Minister would run for the Presidential Election. It had become clear since MPP organized its party conferences and made a decision to support U.Khurelsukh." But, after listening to the audio recording received from the newsroom, the interviewee did not say anything like, "It had become clear since MPP organized its party conferences and made the decision to support U.Khurelsukh." 

Also, in the audio recording, he said that "In case of Democratic Party, there is a possibility for current President Kh.Battulga. He can serve again for a six-year term if he serves his four-year term, then runs for the Presidential election. In 1997, Tsets[3] made the decision that P.Ochirbat was eligible to run for the Presidential Election of 1997, even though he had been President for two years according to the Constitutional law of 1992 and served as the President from 1993 to 1997. Therefore, I think Tsets might make a favourable decision for Kh.Battulga. There is a precedent example." But it's written in the article as "On the other hand, DP's current President Kh.Battulga had a chance to serve for a six-year term one time after serving his current four-year term. In 1997, when President P.Ochirbat runs for the Presidential Election, Tsets decided that P.Ochirbat was eligible to run for the election again in 1993 and 1994, even though he had been President for two years according to the Constitutional law of 1992. Therefore, I thought Tsets might decide the same, but it didn't happen." 

Therefore, it's concluded that the Code of Ethics, Article 1.1 "To verify accuracy of information whether it complies truth and avoid making accidental errors", was violated.

[1] Mongolians used to call big bags that used for suitcase trade "pig" during the early 1990s. At that time, people usually do suitcase trading for their living.

[2] Mongolian People's Party

[3] Constitutional Court

 

Eight. Articles about National Security Council published at "Udriin sonin" and "Zuunii medee" newspapers had no ethical errors

"Udriin sonin" and "Zuunii medee" newspapers published an investigative article titled "Did the NSC staff make a mysterious 'visit' to Russia and bring USD 20 million?" on March 9, 2021. NSC Secretariat filed a complaint about the article and stated the following concerns: The article manipulated NSC's activities, deliberately disseminated misunderstanding to the public, defamed NSC and its Secretariat's reputation by saying they conduct illegal activities without any evidence and grounds, and bluntly slandered dignity and reputation of the government officials who performed their duty and worked on official trips. Above acts intended to undermine the sovereignty and independence of Mongolia, inviolability of its territory and integrity, national unity, security of constitutional structure, and economic independence, and disrupt integral national policy and the continuity of the state.

The newspapers delivered their comments expressing their views. They mentioned that the article was prepared and published by the Mongolian Daily Newspapers' Investigative Coalition. The newspapers expressed their objection to the NSC's attempt to lay their actions to journalists and media outlets that acted in accordance with their right to obtain information and duty to report. "Also, we consider that the complainant's intentional act of spreading defamation by using the article is a threat to the security of the Constitutional structure. Such accusations against the media can be accepted only if it is proved that the events specified in the article did not take place or malinformation was disseminated." The newspapers emphasized that A.Gansukh, the Secretary of the National Security Council, confirmed the information specified in the article was true during the press conference on March 9, 2021, in their comments. 

The Committee discussed the complaint within the framework of journalistic ethics and concluded that the newspapers made no ethical errors.

The complainant cited the provisions of the Constitution of Mongolia and accused the newspapers of critical and broad issues that contradict Mongolia's core interests, independence, and sovereignty in its complaint. However, A.Gansukh, the Secretary of the National Security Council, acknowledged that the NSC staff made the working visit to Russia during the press conference on the day when the article was published. Therefore, it's concluded that the Code of Ethics, Article 1.1 "To verify accuracy of information whether it complies truth and avoid making accidental errors", was not violated.

The above article was an investigative work, and if this kind of work ensures the right of citizens to know, keeping the confidentiality of the source is the most significant responsibility of journalism. Therefore, Code of Ethics, Article 1.2 "To identify sources clearly and check their reliability" was not violated. On March 9, 2021, the day the article was published, A.Gansukh, the Secretary of the National Security Council, held the press conference and acknowledged that the NSC staff made the working visit to Russia.

 

 

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