Press council rules against ERR over 'Pealtnägija' faulty used car episode

Cars (photo is illustrative).
Cars (photo is illustrative). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Press Council (Pressinõukogu ) has ruled against public broadcaster Eesti Rahvusringhääling (ERR) and in favor of a used car sales firm concerning an edition of ETV investigative show 'Pealtnägija' earlier this year.

The council ruled that the broadcast violated journalistic best practices. ERR states that the show presented a range of viewpoints on the issue in focus – the sale of a used car which allegedly later appeared not to be roadworthy – and was covering the used car sales sector as a whole.

The Press Council ruled that the "Pealtnägija" broadcast, of March 24 this year, violated Section 4.1 of the journalism ethics code, which stipulates that news material should be based on verifiable and factual information. 

The press council ruled that beliefs and allegations were made in the course of the program concerning malpractice at a car reseller, Tehnokonsult, particularly concerning how a vehicle's roadworthiness test was conducted, without concrete evidence.

The allegations included of poor practices on car handbrake checks, which the council found were not substantiated by a video recording, while a Transport Agency (Transpordiamet) expert backed up the council's stance.

The episode focused on an individual who found a car he had purchased from Tehnokonsult had roadworthiness issues despite having passed a roadworthiness test.

The broadcast also violated Article 4.11 of the ethics code, which stipulates that broadcasts must not mislead an audience. 

Terms used by the presenter implied that Tehnokonsult had broken the law, whereas there was no evidence of such presented by the show.

Tehnokonsult OÜ had complained to the press council about the above and also the implication that a video recording of the vehicle inspection had been tampered with, even though an expert had said there was no evidence of this either.

Tehnokonsult OÜ also complained that it had been accused of bribery, while no evidence of this had been presented on the show.

ERR's response to the complaint had been that program-makers had set out the viewpoints of parties taking part in the show, while representatives of Tehnokonsult OÜ had declined to appear on the show or give an interview, meaning the editorial board had had to confine itself to the applicant's e-mails. 

ERR states that one particular expression "black games in the technical inspection" (Estonian: "Mustad mängud tehnoülevaatuses") used in the introduction to the story does not imply that Tehnokonsult had broken the law. 

Additionally, the company had been trying to silence a former employee, the "Pealtnägija" editorial board says, while a balance of views on the video recording had been presented in the show, it is argued.

The broadcast also did not focus solely on Tehnokonsult OÜ, but more broadly on the issue of used car sales, ERR states.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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