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Election 2012: the media activity during the campaign

03.10.2012 | 14:32 | printer friendly





Preamble :


1. The free exercise of journalism is enshrined in the right to freedom of expression and information, which is guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 34 of the Ukrainian Constitution1. This right constitutes the foundation of a democratic society and an indispensable requirement for its progress and the development of every individual.

Due to the crucial nature of elections for democratic

Governance media have the right and the duty to provide voters with extensive and

balanced information on candidates (and thus to give voters the possibility to properly

assess their trustworthiness and their aptitude for the job), as well as on persons involved

in the electoral process.

The following Recommendations aim at promoting a fair coverage of Ukrainian national

and local elections campaigns by the media, i.e. the press, the broadcasting media and the

new media (notably bloggers). Fair means that the media, in covering elections, strike a

balance between on the one hand the right of citizens to obtain information necessary to

make a free and well-informed choice, the right and duty of journalists to denounce

irregularities in the election process, and on the other hand the legitimate right of persons

involved in elections not to have their private life infringed upon.

1 ETS No. 5, hereinafter the Convention.


2. The Recommendations not only deal with media exposure of the private life, but also with

the use of intrusive practices and surreptitious methods in order to gather personal

information. Both topics should be governed by the general standards of privacy

protection, in particular, the principle of accurate, proportionate and transparent

processing of personal data (see Article 8 of the Convention, the Council of Europe

Convention 108 for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of

Personal Data and Article 32 of the Ukrainian Constitution).

However according to consistent case law of the European Court of Human Rights, public

figures have to expect a lower degree of protection of their privacy; as the Court stated it

would be fatal for freedom of expression in the sphere of politics if public figures could

censor the press and public debate in the name of their personality rights2.

3. The Recommendations focus on media coverage of the private life of candidates - enrolled

ones as well as persons who are likely to enrol and elections officials (members of

electoral commissions or other election administration bodies, polling-station personnel)

as well as other persons connected to the organization and conduct of the elections, like

observers, participants in political campaigning or persons present at the election

precincts. Unless mentioned otherwise, they concern both the candidates and other

persons connected to the organization and conduct of elections.

4. The right of reply, as laid down in Recommendation (2004) 16 of the Committee of

Ministers of the Council of Europe on the right of reply in the new media environment, is

fully relevant for electoral campaigns as it allows for a rapid publication of a

counterstatement to contested facts.

5. Targeting specifically privacy issues, these Recommendations do not take into

consideration other key election coverage issues like equal treatment of political parties,

opinion polls or political advertising. One should not understand the absence of any

recommendation in these matters as considering due impartiality on such topics less


6. Finally these Recommendations do not prejudice the Code of Professional Ethics of

Ukrainian Journalist (2002). To the contrary: they supplement this fundamental text in the

specific area of election coverage and privacy protection. In consequence the enforcement

mechanism provided for violations of the Code of Ethics is fully applicable to violations of

these Recommendations.


2 Tarsasag a Szabadsagjogokert v. Hungary, judgment of 14.04.2009, application no. 37374/05, 37.


A. General principles

A1. During elections there is a high need for transparency and accountability of candidates and

election officials. Thus media may infringe upon the private life of candidates and election officials

when there is an overriding public interest legitimating exposure to the public. Mere curiosity or

sensationalism however can never justify infringement of privacy.

A2. When it comes to balancing arguments in favour of disclosure of personal information and

arguments against it, due consideration should be given to the right of the voters to be fully

informed about the conduct and personality of a candidate, as well as about any possible

infringements of election-related legislation by anyone.

A3. During election campaigns, a rigorous scrutiny of the following information about candidates is

justified by an overriding public interest:

- illegal conduct, in particular offences linked to public good governance like corruption,


- electoral fraud, vote rigging and any other violations during election process,

- professional incompetence or negligence,

- contradiction between political discourse and private behaviour.

Regarding election officials or other persons connected to the election process, scrutiny of the

following misconduct is justified by an overriding public interest:

- violation of electoral legislation,

- bias in favour of political parties or candidates when it goes against the persons duty to

remain impartial (e.g. electoral commissioners, policemen) or professional ethics


- any other conduct which might unduly influence the results of the elections or impede a

free and well-informed vote.

Any infringement of the fundamental privacy rights, even if justified by the publics right to know,

should be proportional and not go beyond what is strictly necessary to satisfy a legitimate public


A4. In order to protect democracy, especially during elections, journalists have an important

obligation to disseminate information about corruption, including investigations as to the integrity

of candidates and election officials. The exposure of financial and property information in order to

prove or reject allegations of corruptions therefore constitutes a legitimate public interest

overriding the right to protection of the private life.


A5. In conformity with the principle of fairness, media must offer swift possibilities for a candidate

or a person connected to the election process to counter assertions of wrongdoings or negligence.

Where possible and if it would not jeopardise future publication, journalists should contact and

hear the person prior to publication; his or her view must be presented appropriately. Ultimately,

it is the responsibility of the editorial bodies (editorial board, editor-in-chief, etc.) of a

publication/medium to decide on publication of the material without hearing this person before a


A6. Though candidates to elections enjoy to a lower degree a right to be forgotten, media should

not evoke ancient incidents of misconduct or one-time offences (especially if the misconduct

happened when the candidate was a minor) unless they are decisive for the assessment of the


A7. Media can republish personal data manifestly made public by candidates or election officials

themselves without their consent. This includes information provided earlier to other media and

sensitive data or pictures published on the internet, in particular on widely accessible profiles on

social networks. Even if access to a profile is limited, a legitimate public interest may be construed

for republication if the candidate clearly uses the profile for electoral/canvassing purposes. If

information about a candidate is publicly disclosed by other people, the media have to exercise

constraint before republishing and only do it to the extent required by an overriding public


A8. Media allowing for direct comments from the audience to be published online have to verify

whether the publication of personal data included in these comments is justified by an overriding

public interest. If the comment does not meet this test, the media should delete the content as

soon as possible from the publicly visible website on their own initiative or on demand of a

person. At the same time the media have to provide for a simple and most accessible procedure

for lodging a complaint.

A9. Journalists keep files with personal data for reference and (future) investigative purposes.

They should take the organisational and technical security measures they deem appropriate in

order to prevent data breaches or interception/unauthorised access.

B. Recommendations regarding methods of journalistic investigations

B1. Media should gather information about the private life of candidates and other persons in

relation to elections in an open way and to the extent necessary for covering the election process.

Recording in public places, including election precincts and open meetings of electoral

administration bodies, is allowed without consent of the persons present. Secret recording and

undercover investigation, whether conducted by the media or with the assistance of others,

should only be used when there is no other reasonable and less intrusive alternative to collect

evidence about serious wrongdoings.


B2. Secret recordings (by way of hidden cameras or microphones, or intrusive audio-video

equipment) or undercover investigation may only be used upon profound evaluation of the

circumstances of the case, in particular its relevance for the voters as well as the existence of less

intrusive methods to collect the necessary information. The decision to use clandestine methods

of journalistic investigation should be taken at the highest level of the executive direction of the


B3. Strict secrecy of telecommunications should be observed; in consequence media will abstain

from interception or hacking of phone or text messages, regardless whether they perform these

acts themselves or with the assistance of others.

B4. Private premises should be respected under any circumstances; in particular media will

immediately leave a private property if commanded to do so by the property owner and abstain

from housebreaking.

B5. Doorstepping3 will be used only if the person refused, repeatedly and without any good

reason, to be interviewed or to be filmed or recorded and the information is of importance.

C. Specific recommendations regarding publication of personal information concerning candidates

C1. In order to avoid harassment or direct threats to personal integrity, the precise location of a

candidates home or family should not be disclosed without his or her consent. The same goes for

vehicle registration plates or private phone numbers. Such information may exceptionally be

published if it conclusively demonstrates a wrongdoing or contradictory behaviour and only to the

extent strictly necessary to prove such allegations.

C2. Pictures of the residence (permanent or secondary) of a candidate without his/her consent

may be published only if they were taken from the publicly accessible place and do not reveal any

security measures aimed at protecting the premises from intruders.

C3. Though considered highly sensitive under normal circumstances, data on health or medical

treatments might exceptionally be revealed if they demonstrate that the candidate is physically or

mentally inapt to hold office.

C4. Information about the religious beliefs of a candidate should not be published without his or

her consent, unless this information was already made manifestly public by the candidate or with

his/her consent or concerns beliefs contradicting the public order.

3 Doorstepping is when a journalist confronts and records, or attempts to record, an interview with

someone for broadcast, or announces that a phone call is being recorded for broadcast, when that person

is not expecting to be interviewed for broadcast because of absence of any arrangement to do so (see BBC

Editorial Guidelines 7.4.30).


C5. Information about the lifestyle of a candidate may only be revealed if it conclusively

demonstrates that what the candidate pretends to be does not at all coincide with what he or she

is in reality. This concerns in particular situations where:

- the candidates political statements do not correspond with his public actions;

- his conduct in personal or family life contradicts his public position and activity;

-his lifestyle is not consistent with his official income or he possesses unexplained wealth.

C6. Unacceptable behaviour of relatives as well as of close friends or professional colleagues of a

candidate should neither be attributed nor associated to him or her, except in cases where the

candidate has contributed to it, explicitly or implicitly tolerated this behaviour, or tried to cover it

up. In addition, being neither candidates nor public figures themselves, these persons enjoy a

higher degree of privacy; this is particularly true of children or vulnerable relatives of the


C7. Information about significant movable (likes vehicles or shares in a company) or immovable

property (land or residences) belonging to close relatives or friends of a candidate may only be

publicised in view of proving that its use actually benefits the candidate.


Created by "Softline" Corporation (Ukraine) © State Committee for television and radio broadcasting of Ukraine
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