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Newspaper reveales children's names

Adjudication
11 November 1998

EPC discussed a complaint by the Head of the Tallinn Social Welfare and Health Care Board Vahur Keldrima concerning an article published in Postimees headlined “Drunkard parents may soon lose their seven children” (by Kersti Neiman, 2 October 1998).

Vahur Keldrima finds that by identifying the children the article damages the interests of the children as well as the interests of social workers. He claims that the journalist has breached the Social Welfare Act and has not kept her promise not to reveal the children’s names.

The chief editor of Postimees objects that as the covered problem is of great importance to the society it was inevitable to identify the characters. The children were already under public attention as the case was before the court. The newspaper had never promised the social workers that the names would not be published.

EPC stated that for raising and covering a sore social problem it was not necessary to identify the children using their full names and photographs. By doing so Postimees has breached Clause 3.6 and 4.8 of the Code of Ethics. The article does not protect the interests of the children, neither were the children already under close public attention as the case had not been before the court at the time of publishing the article (the preliminary session had been suspended). Furthermore, courtroom and newspaper represent incomparable media for falling under public attention. EPC finds that children can be considered victims in this article. In this regard Postimees has breached good journalistic practice.

As regards the social workers EPC finds that the article has not damaged their interests. The general public’s interest towards the work results of civil servants is totally justified.

EPC is not able to form an opinion on the agreement between the journalist and the social workers as the parties’ statements are contradictory in this respect and EPC lacks the means to find out the truth.

EPC states that accusing the journalist of not following the requirements for social workers is irrelevant as a journalist cannot be responsible for possible breaches of law by social workers.

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