The self-regulatory act on media coverage of suicide-related issues was signed
Ukrainian broadcasters have drawn up the rules and regulations on media coverage of suicide-related issues. The self-regulatory Joint Agreement Act No. 2 was signed by the responsible representatives of the “Ukraina Media Group”, of the “StarLightMedia”, of the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine and of the Independent Association of Broadcasters of Ukraine.
The Act is the second self-regulatory joint act approved by the Work Group on elaboration of rules of children protection in the media under the aegis of the National Council. The first Joint Agreement Act on protection of a child, who has suffered from sexual abuse within his/her involvement into media production, was signed by representatives of the media industry on 4th November 2016.
However, the document was not signed by the companies that comprise the “Inter Media Group”. That is hardly surprising, since in October 2017 the “Inter” channel aired a TV segment dedicated to a minor parent in the programme “Concerns Everyone” that completely ignored the majority of the rules agreed upon by the broadcasters. The National Council recorded a number of violations in this programme and imposed the relevant sanction of formal warning on the broadcaster. In adopting the aforementioned sanction, the National Council took into consideration the opinion of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Mrs Valeriia Lutkovska and the conclusion of the Independent Media Council, both of which pointed out the violations of national and international legislation on human rights in the said TV programme.
The “Inter Media Group” showed little interest in discussing the matter of media coverage of suicide-related issues. As was mentioned at the roundtable dedicated to legal regulation of children’s rights protection in the media area initiated by the Independent Media Council in November 2017, such behaviour was to be expected of the “Inter Media Group”.
The topicality of the issue on the lack of clear guidelines for media coverage of suicide-related issues is confirmed by extensive global research. Ever since the 1980s, scientists have confirmed the insidious connection of the media and suicide rates: the more coverage triggers, the more suicides appear. They provoke suicidal thoughts of susceptible and predisposes persons who relate to characters in the media video items on suicide issues.
Ukrainian psychiatrists and psychotherapists, as well as representatives of the criminal police, marked an unprecedented rise in the suicide rates in 2017, especially among the youth, which they attribute to the phenomenon of so-called suicide quests (assisted suicides via the Internet). Therefore, there is a necessity to address the issue and evaluate the criteria and scale of damage that media coverage could potentially cause.
“International experience in this regard positively confirms the presence of “suicide epidemic”, triggered by the media in cases when there is no supervision and quality control of coverage of this issue. And this means loss of lives of real people that could have been averted if broadcasters had been adequately informed and conscientiously applied a certain set of rules”, argues Mrs Liubov Naidionova, PhD, Deputy Head of the Institute of Social and Political Psychology of the National Academy of Educational Sciences of Ukraine.
The Work Group drafted the Joint Agreement Act No. 2 with great attention to details. There were held 5 meetings. Each notion was carefully studied and clarified by and to all members of the work group: the National Council, broadcasters, media lawyers, psychologists and journalists.
As of January 2018, the document has not been signed by the representatives of the “1+1 Media”, although it has received a preliminary approval from the said broadcaster at the meetings of the Work Group.
It’s worth noting that the current published version of the guidelines for media coverage of suicide-related issues, as well as the previous Agreement Act on children protection, might undergo changes in the future. It would be germane to analyze the practicalities of the application of the aforementioned documents after some time, due to the fast pace of changes in the modern society.
In the meantime the Joint Agreement Act No. 2 is open for signing to all broadcasters in Ukraine. It is also applicable to the activities of the online and publishing media.