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ERR ethics adviser: Õhtuleht pulled Reps' children into unethical scandal

Tarmu Tammerk.
Tarmu Tammerk. Source: Ülo Josing

Coverage of children needs to be very carefully considered, while daily Õhtuleht has pulled the children of Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center) into a scandal unethically and without good reason, ERR ethics advisor Tarmu Tammerk finds.

Tammerk told ERR's news portal in Estonian that rights of children who are part of news coverage must be ensured, whereas it is inconsequential whether their parents or teachers have done something to merit that coverage.

"In this case, children have been involved unethically and unnecessarily by Õhtuleht," Tammerk said.

The ethics adviser said that the topic can be covered without publishing recognizable images of the children such as photos or videos taken near their school or kindergarten.

"Possible misuse of public benefits must be investigated and covered by the press. There can be no question here," Tammerk said.

He added that it nevertheless looks like the editorial board of Õhtuleht took the easy way out and has failed to consider the interests of the children.

"It is a case of the ends seemingly justifying the means. That we needed to cover the story that involves children and decided to tail the car and got the children as a bonus," Tammerk said, adding that such conduct cannot be considered ethical.

Blurring of photos not enough

Tammerk said that blurring the images of the children cannot solve the problem because they are recognizable in their daily environment.

He added that blurring could help in cases where images depict persons unknown to the public.

"We need to consider right from the start whether we might hurt someone by covering this potential misuse of state funds. In this case, children who make up the most sensitive group as far as journalistic ethics is concerned," the adviser said.

Tammerk also said that claiming parents share photos of their children on social media anyway is inconsequential, explaining that the images in question have been taken without the children's knowledge, sport an entirely different context and could harm their interests.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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