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Lithuanian mother in Estonian Newspaper

Adjudication
11 November 1998

The Estonian Press Council (EPC) examined an article published in Postimees headlined “Quarternions artificially fertilized in Tartu were born in Vilnius Maternity Hospital” (by Annika Alasoo, 27 May 1998) on the request of the Lithuanian Committee of Ethics of Lithuanian Journalists and Publishers.

The Lithuanian Committee of Ethics of Lithuanian Journalists and Publishers asked to assess the abovementioned article, as the information of the article was also published in a Lithuanian newspaper Lietuvos rytas and caused a complaint to the Lithuanian Committee concerning the dissemination of delicate data (details of giving birth) on a private person.

Postimees did not provide any essential explanations and referred to the confidentiality of their source.

EPC deems it necessary to draw the media’s attention to the rule that information concerning the way of being born and impregnation, child's parentage, child custody battles, and health shall be treated as very private matters. The dissemination of that kind of information shall require the involved person's consent in case the person is identified or could be identified in the story. The consequences of their statements shall be explained to people lacking experience in relating to the media prior the conversation.

In the case under discussion, Postimees has not identified the mother of quarternions, as she was introduced only by a given name. Neither does the photograph identify the mother's personality. Postimees, which is published in Estonian, is not targeted to the Lithuanian audience where the mother could have been indirectly identified.

Having examined the translation of Lietuvos rytas' story, EPC states that the Lithuanian newspaper has disclosed much more private information than Postimees. The article of Lietuvos rytas is not a translation from Postimees but a separate story for which the Lituanian newspaper bears responsibility according to the rules accepted in Lithuania and the discussion about which remains beyond EPC's competency.

EPC has reason to believe that the article in Postimees caused no harm to the quarternions' mother. Thus, EPC finds that Postimees has not violated good journalistic practice.

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