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Tuesday 16.07.2019 | Name days: Hermīne, Estere

Diena newspaper takes nearly six months to admit Rudolf Meroni is not a suspect in a criminal case

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU«Lack of objectivity, clarity or superficial reporting of events is inexcusable,» such editorial guidelines can be found in Diena newspaper’s description. However, it seems that not only superficial reporting but also publication of untrue information has taken place there. It is hard for Diena newspaper to admit mistakes, especially considering that it has taken the newspaper almost six months to officially withdraw the false news one of its journalists – Guntars Gūte – had published without basic fact-checking and based solely, it seems, on desired fantasies about Swiss lawyer Rudolf Meroni.

In its official statement on the withdrawal of previously reported information, Diena confirms that one of their journalists made a mistake, and that the information this journalist had reported was not true, specifically the part about Latvian State Police Organized Crime Enforcement Department making Rudolf Meroni a suspect in a criminal case.

Diena editorial office has withdrawn the publication and has apologized for the headline and statements contained in the article, which stated, among other things, that the lawyer was applied with such a serious status. Nevertheless, this apology came nearly six months after the article’s publication. But doesn’t such a serious mistake – branding a person a suspect in a criminal case – warrant a quicker response in accordance with standards of good journalism?

BNN managed to contact the author of the article – Guntars Gūte. Although he did answer the phone call, immediately after being asked to comment why the article was withdrawn many months later, the journalist said he cannot speak while driving.

Approximately one hour later BNN called him again. He did not answer the question directly, however. He only said that it was the decision of the editorial office. When asked why he decided to publish his article without fact-checking, Gūte said he did reference a source.

It is a paradox of sorts as to why Diena newspaper has established such high standards and yet it does not comply with them in practice:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Diena newspaper journalist’s code of ethics

It should be said that in accordance with Section 21 of the Law on Press and Other Mass Media, «the editor of the mass medium is obliged to examine the submission within a seven-day period from the date of its receipt.» Here, however, it seems a week is considered a «vague concept», because it has taken Diena nearly half a year to respond. Misleading society, incitement – why did it take Diena so long?

To top it all off, the apology itself was rather cheap. The Law on Press and Other Mass Media makes it crystal clear: «If the mass media has no evidence that the published (broadcast) information conforms to fact, it must retract such without delay. The retraction must be published in the same typeface, in the same section of the publication (broadcast) in which the false information was published. In the event of a dispute, the interested person or organisation may request the retraction of such information by court process.»

Diena’s published article containing false information took nearly a whole page, whereas the announcement of its retraction was tiny – even its Tirgus Dienas advertisement is two times larger in comparison.

Here is some advice for journalist Guntars Gūte – study Diena newspaper’s editorial rules more carefully. Also it is worth remembering that spreading false, defamatory and intentionally manipulated information is a serious offence, because it results in misleading society. And just in case something like were to happen again, one needs the strength to admit mistakes in full accordance with the law, not spend half a year trying to prove one’s flight of fantasy as the truth in an official publication in the press.

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