Unwanted footage

23 April 2008

ASN discussed a complaint made by student Peter Boateng Manu concerning a news story in TV 3’s programme “Seitsmesed uudised” (“News at Seven”), which covered street violence against international exchange students (4.4.2008, reported by Age Hallen).

The complainant said that he had agreed to a nameless and faceless interview. The complainant reproves an unstipulated filming of him while greeting the reporter in Italian. Also the basic part of the interview was taken without his permission as well as zooming in his face not wearing the sunglasses at the seminar of the department of the international affairs, despite of the fact that dozens of students were present there.  The student asks for the reparation for privacy violation and punitive damages against TV 3 to protect his image and his rights.

The chief news editor of TV 3 Märt Treier explained to ASN that Peter Boateng Manu did not request hiding his face and name neither before nor after giving the interview. The chief editor claims that the corresponding request would have been satisfied equally to the request not to be filmed by another victim of street violence, Manu’s fellow student. The particular interview with Peter Boateng Manu was taken conventionally, without using hidden camera or any other non-overt means of acquiring information. Therefore there could not be any doubts about the intentions of the TV-channel and the TV crew had reason to believe that accepting the role of the interviewee in front of the TV-camera embodies the permission to shoot and broadcast the interview.

ASN states that the requests and agreements of the parties have not been documented, which makes it complicated to clear up the circumstances. However, ASN took the view that TV 3 had not breached good journalistic practice, as the case materials do not indicate univalent and distinct refusal from giving an interview or constituting explicit preconditions for agreeing to an interview. Institutionalization and technical application of the TV-interview (with the presence of a large TV-camera) allows even the non-experts to conceive that the interview is being taken for television. Footage of the news story does not violate the complainant’s privacy, as it does not disclose personal data and focuses on an event already in public domain. Also the name of the complainant had been attainable via other channels (newspapers). Neither the complaint nor the related materials revealed, in which way the news story in question could unduly harm the complainant (under the definition of clause 1.5 of the Code if Ethics).

Onto the journalists the Code of Ethics lays an obligation to inform the source about being a journalist, including from what media organisation. It is also recommended that the journalist specify the intended use of the information being gathered (clause 3.1). It does not appear from the complaint that the journalist had breached this rule.

ASN states that as, based on the informational self-determination, any individual is free to decide whether to give an interview or not, he should submit his preconditions to the agreement (hiding the face or the name, distorting the voice, etc) himself prior to the interview to the reporter or the media outlet/channel. As becomes evident from the explanation of TV 3, the television channel would have been ready to satisfy these demands even if asked for after the interview. It would be reasonable to reproducibly formulate one’s request for stipulations and the agreement upon them, as the conditions of the oral agreements may be interpreted diversely by the parties and the actual contents of the agreement or the submitted requests cannot be properly reconstructed later.

As to the complainant’s request for reparation for privacy violation and punitive damages against the television channel, ASN emphasizes that as a civic organisation in the field of media criticism it does not possess any procedural methods to implement that kind of measures, even if the case against TV 3 would have been upheld.

Professor Epp Lauk,
The Chairperson

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