Madise: Mihkelson scandal handling has done irreparable damage to the kids

Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise.
Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

In an official position issued Tuesday, Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise wrote that the recent handling of the photo scandal involving Reform MP Marko Mihkelson both in the media and on social media has caused irreparable damage to the children involved. She said materials harming the children's interests should be erased.

"It is all of our responsibility to do our best to ensure that the damage isn't worsened," Madise said. "Among other things, it is crucial not to prolong the revictimizing public addressing [of the issue] on social media."

The justice chancellor has met repeatedly with representatives of media organizations and journalists and explained how crucial it is to respect the inviolability of a child's family life and prioritize the child's interests.

"When publishing information on social media as well as in the regular media, it should always be considered whether the identification of a specific victim is necessary and what harm it could cause those involved," she wrote, emphasizing that, depending on the circumstances, a child may still be identifiable even if their name or image aren't used.

"Unfortunately, the media's handling [of this matter] and the accompanying discussion thereof on social media has caused major and irreparable damage to the children involved this time," Madise stressed. "It is prohibited to post the names, photos and other private information related to the incident in comments as well as posts."

She also said that all materials to already harm and continue to harm the children's interests should be erased. "I'm counting on the cooperation and understanding of media organizations on this matter," she said.

"Anyone who notices a post or comment harmful to a child should report it to internet police officers," she added.

"All adults have to carefully consider how they record children's activities as well as how to store these photos and other recordings," the justice chancellor said. "You should always ask yourself: would a child agree as a teenager or adult to the possible publishing of these photos? The security of cloud services is not fully guaranteed; one must anticipate that even photos taken and stored without malicious intent can end up in the hands of individuals who use them in a reprehensible way. Adults set a good example for children with their responsible behavior. That is how children also learn at a young age already that you don't take pictures of yourself or others naked and don't allow others to take such pictures of you either."

Ethics adviser: Can't put this back into a box

Regarding the justice chancellor's letter and further coverage of the matter, ERR ethics adviser Tarmu Tammerk said that unfortunately there's no way to undo the entire matter anymore, and that this is a dilemma for the press.

"It's understandable that the broadcasting of information containing content that directly harms children must be prevented at all costs — such as case materials that are closed to protect children's private lives," Tammerk acknowledged. "The first to publish [the story] has placed other publications in a situation where it's impossible to deny a case with unclear circumstances that has erupted around a top politician. The matter has been so politicized by now that we cannot pretend that it doesn't exist.

"Therefore the matter will unfortunately have to continue to be covered in the media, but centered on Marko Mihkelson as a leading politician and public figure," the ethics adviser said. "Anything related to the children should be relegated as far into the background as possible. The political implications of this matter, for example, would be a topic justified by the public interest, however." 


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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