Description of situation
In view of the public outcry caused by the broadcast of the episode, the Commission on Journalistic Ethics decided on its initiative to consider the violation of the standards of journalistic ethics in the behavior of Fakhrudin Sharafmal, the host of 24 TV channel, during the live broadcast on March 12, 2022.
More information about the theses expressed by him during the live broadcast can be found at https://patrioty.org.ua/politic/spodivaiusia-shcho-za-pashu-my-zaberemo-vsikh-ukrainskyi-veduchyi-rozplakavsia-u-priamomu-efiri-povidomliaiuchy-pro-zahybel-druha-viiskovoho-video-413790.html. Part of the broadcast is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUlf8VKL3Cg.
During the live broadcast, which mentioned the death of the TV host’s friend, Marine Corps Officer Pavlo Sbytov, the host made the following statements: “The Armed Forces of Ukraine cannot eliminate Russian children as this is prohibited by the rules of war and various conventions, including the Geneva Conventions. But I am not a member of the Armed Forces, and when I have an opportunity to do away with Russians, I will definitely do this. I adhere to the Adolf Eichmann doctrine and will do everything in my power to ensure that you and your children never live on this earth, that you feel what it is like when innocent civilians die, that you feel all pain and suffering when you say ‘We did not start the war, Putin must be blamed for it, we did not want it’.”
Moreover, Fakhrudin Sharafmal said that Ukrainians did not want war, but now they would strive for victory, not peace: “We need a victory, and if we have to massacre all your families, I will be one of the first to do so. Glory to the nation. And we hope that a nation like Russia will never stay on this earth again because these are bastards who pollute this land.”
In the Commission’s opinion, theses that potentially violate the requirements of paragraph 15 of the Code of Ethics of Ukrainian Journalists might be voiced live.
On March 13, 2022, during the next live broadcast, Fakhrudin Sharafmal apologized for his behavior, claiming that he was driven by the pain of loss and grief after his friend, and said that Ukraine complied with all international norms, including the Geneva Conventions, and would never allow for such genocide which was taking place in our country. On March 15, 2022, the TV channel published a statement by Director General Roman Andreyko on the incident. The video of the apology and the text of the statement of the TV channel is available at the link: https://24tv.ua/meni-govoriv-bil-vtrati-veduchiy-24-kanalu-vibachivsya-za-zhorstki_n1907277.
Relevant ethical standards
Paragraph 15 of the Code of Ethics for Ukrainian Journalists stipulates: “No one shall be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, language, race, religion, national, regional or social origin or political opinion. Relevant features of a person (group of people) shall be indicated only in cases where this information is an essential part of the report. It is necessary to refrain from hints or comments concerning physical defects or diseases of a person, to avoid the use of offensive expressions, obscenities”.
Regarding violations of the requirements of Paragraph 15 of the Code
Paragraph 15 of the Code primarily aims to prevent incitement to hatred – one of the categories of content, the dissemination of which is strictly prohibited by both ethical standards of journalism and international law. Indeed, direct calls for violence against a certain group of people are absolutely forbidden. Restrictions on the spread of hate speech also include the prohibition on the dissemination of information that glorifies, calls for or justifies international crimes. Indeed, a degree of dehumanization of the enemy in media coverage of the war may be justified. However, the media mustn’t call for the mass extermination of a certain category of the population, which can be regarded as a war crime, a crime against humanity or genocide, depending on the circumstances.
In his live speech, Fakhrudin Sharafmal made statements that directly called for the extermination of Russian children, which can be seen as a call for an international crime. Since the statement was broadcast live on television and was available during the channel’s online broadcast on YouTube, it had a greater effect than, for example, a written statement for a small audience on a social media site.
Another co-host did not try to stop Sharafmal on the air though she had an opportunity to do so. In the Commission’s view, only if other employees of the channel tried to stop Sharafmal could the TV channel not be responsible for disseminating hate speech. The precarious psychological state of a host due to the loss of a close friend amid the aggression of Russian troops, unfortunately, is not a circumstance that excludes responsibility for the information disseminated. Rather, it is the responsibility of a media outlet to check the condition of its staff and prevent them from airing if their work in a certain mental state may lead to violations of journalistic ethics or legislation.
Given this, the Commission considers that the statement by the journalist live is a violation of the requirements of Paragraph 15 of the Code of Ethics of Ukrainian Journalists committed by Fakhrudin Sharakhmal and 24 TV channel.
Conclusion and recommendations
In view of the above, the Commission considers that the behavior of Fakhrudin Sharafmal, host of 24 TV Channel, during the live broadcast on March 12, 2022, violates the requirements of Paragraph 15 of the Code of Ethics of Ukrainian Journalists. The Commission takes note of the journalist’s apology live the next day, as well as the position of Roman Andreyko, Director General of Lux Holding, who condemned the actions of TV channel’s host and said it was incompatible “with 24 Channel’s editorial policy and generally accepted moral principles of humanity.” In view of this, the Commission issues the Warning to the journalist and the TV channel.
Despite the war against Ukraine and the obvious hatred towards the enemy, the Commission urges to avoid as much as possible hate speech in journalistic materials and to keep in mind that calls for genocide and other international crimes are also punishable as international crimes. In order to avoid such calls on the air, the Commission recommends that:
- staff of television organizations should take prompt measures to stop the dissemination of hate speech live, both by interrupting guests or co-hosts, and, if necessary, by interrupting the broadcast
- management of television and radio organizations should carefully follow the mental state of hosts working during live broadcasts
- in case of inability to prevent the appearance of harmful content live, TV and radio organizations should promptly distance themselves from the statements made by publicly expressing their stance on the non-compliance of the materials with the editorial standards
- staff of television and radio organizations should undergo special training on the limits of freedom of expression