A story of cooperation in the media
What is the privilege of bus firms involved in traffic accidents? Readers used to say they could not make sense of this and asked why the names of bus firms involved in the accidents were hidden in news reports after almost every accident.
As a representative for readers, I researched its legal status and concluded it would not be a problem in the ethics of journalism as long as we do not accuse the firms in advance, write objective news without unjustly darkening them and in addition, if we give place to the opinion of the firm.
According to journalism, making news about the bus firms could have no privilege than the other institutions and organizations.
All news concerning positive or negative developments must definitely give an answer to the question of “who.” I have written about my opinion many times before in this corner.
The columnist at Sabah newspaper Hıncal Uluç also agrees with me. He insistently defended announcing the names of the bus firms involved in accidents in his articles. Uluç, also criticized Anadolu Agency on Aug. 17, which does not write the names of the bus firms in its news reports. In response, the general director of Anadolu, Şenol Kazancı, sent a letter to Uluç and said “there is a legal obstacle against mentioning the names of the firms.”
It all started with a telephone call
On the contrary, I had researched and there was no legal obstacle. As I knew that the problem could not be solved from a distance, I decided to call AA and share my opinion. It was a good idea. I spoke with the AA Chief Editor Metin Mutanoğlu, for a long time. “We mention the name of the firm when one vehicle is involved in an accident but when two vehicles are involved in the accident, we do not write the names of the firms since we cannot determine who is guilty,” said Mutanoğlu.
“It is not our job to determine who is guilty and writing news that does not include any judgment will take a load off your mind,” I told him. At the end of the conversation, we decided to collaborate and specify “the rules of writing the names of the bus firms in traffic accidents.”
We made preparations separately. First, I spoke with the radio and television watchdog RTÜK. “There are only regulations concerning advertisements in the law Article No. 8 and 9. There is no obstacle in the news against announcing the name of the firm as long as it does not turn out to be an advertisement. But the television channels are taking exaggerated precautions with hiding the names of the firms on the programs and news because they are afraid it will be recognized as an advertisement and they will receive a penalty for it,” they said. There was no problem in regards to RTÜK in writing the names of bus firms in the news.
I spoke with the Security General Directorate Traffic Department. There was no legal obstacle and on the contrary, the additional Article No. 4 in the Road Traffic Act even includes that, “The declaration of the title of the firm involved in the traffic accident that results with loss of life, on the television or through other media organs without mentioning the defective fraction, is not considered an exposure of privacy or violation against the commercial credit.”
“The duty and work regulation of the traffic institutions” legislated in order to put this legal regulation enacted in 1996 into practice, imposes the “Accident Statistics Bureau Directorship” the duty to report the names of the bus firms to the Press Office in order to share them with the media. After the law was enacted, the names of the firms were announced from the website for some time.
I conveyed this information to AA as well. Afterwards, we came together with the News Center Editorial Director B. Selçuk Aval and the Legal Affairs Director Şerife Gül Arıman. They had also researched its legal status and consulted with the Supreme Court and the bus firms. They could not find any ruling that abandons mentioning the names of the firms.
Human life is the common ground
The meeting with AA was very positive and we decided to join the two drafts they had prepared with mine. I combined the three separate texts and the 10 article “Writing Manual for Traffic Accident News” was the result.
Lastly, we met in Istanbul on Sept. 12. This time beside Metin Mutanoğlu, AA Vice President Mustafa Özkaya also joined our negotiation. At the end, we came to a mutual agreement on the manual with the 10 articles. Hürriyet Chief Editor Fikret Bila and AA General Director Şenol Kazancı followed and supported this process closely from the very start.
After coming to an agreement, we called the other media institutions one by one and informed them also. I must say we received very quick and great support. In total, 26 media institutions, together with AA and Hürriyet, adopted the manual and promised to practice it. The common ground for bringing this many media institutions together, as it had not been seen before, was human life.
On Sept. 18, Anadolu Agency will announce this great agreement to the public opinion by disclosing detailed news to the press. From today on, the era of hiding the names of the bus firms involved in accidents will end in the media. I hope this manual will increase the control of the public opinion and lead the bus firms to increase their inspections and precautions. In this way, the accidents will decrease and our people will not lose their lives on roads. And actually, this is the main goal of the collaboration between AA and Hürriyet.
THE WRITING MANUAL FOR TRAFFIC ACCIDENT NEWS
1 – Public welfare is predicated on traffic accident news; an impartial, objective and simple language is used; sensational and judgmental statements are avoided.
2- The name of the vehicle/bus firms involved in accidents resulting with loss of life are written without accusation on the firm or driver and/or without using sharp statements about the way the accident happened. The name of the firm and the license plate are not frosted on the photographs and images.
3 – The defective fraction of the vehicle/bus involved in the accident is not written; no comment is made on the matter.
4 – The opinion of the authorities from the vehicle/bus firms involving the accident are asked regarding the accident; and if there are, their statements must definitely be mentioned in the news.
5 – The testimonies of the eye-witnesses and passengers concerning the way the accident happened, must be stated in an objective way and as a claim. The exaggerated and accusing statements are not used in news.
6 – A statement or an announcement from an unknown source is not used in accident news. The announcements or statements from the authorities must be given publicity together with their names and titles.
7- The traffic report and other documents about the accident must be searched and made news.
8 – The names of those who have died or who have been injured in the traffic accidents, are not put in the news before certainty that their close ones have knowledge of the accident.
9 – Photographs and images that are bloody and tarnish human honor are not used in traffic accident news. Close up photos of the dead are not placed; and the faces must definitely be blurred in long shot photographs.
10- Care is taken to ensure the firms and authorities to take precautions that will prevent accidents and to raise awareness on the society against accidents. The educational and informative expert opinions are also given place in the news.
Opinions from the Doğan Group
Rıfat Ababay (Posta Editor-in-Chief): We boundlessly side with this manual and we will also practice it in our newspaper. It is a great action. Congratulations. What saddens us is that we were late for it. I wish it had been done much earlier and we did not have to make an effort to hide the names of the bus firms on the photographs.
Rıfat Akkaya (Doğan News Agency General Manager): As DHA, we will apply this manual exactly as it is prepared. Announcing the names of those who have lose their lives in accidents before their parents are informed is already a problematic issue regarding ethics. This manual will be the guide for my colleagues reporting on accidents.
Erdoğan Aktaş (CNN Türk General Manager): Traffic accidents are some of the news that we come across the most. I am always on the side of using the names of the firms. But some of our colleagues had been thinking differently. The clarification of this issue plays a very important role in behalf of the media.
Süleyman Sarılar (Kanal D News Editor-in-Chief): This manual is so clear that it clarifies all the confusion with traffic accident news. We, as the Kanal D News Center embrace it and will practice it. We had not been hiding the names of the firms since the Security General Directorate’s decision to announce the accidents along with the names of the firms.
Murat Yetkin (Hürriyet Daily News Editor-in-Chief): This is an important attempt, not only for the right of society to receive the news, but for media rights and freedoms to be watched as well. It must be taken as an example in other areas of similar work. Congratulations.
Supporting newspapers and televisions
Anadolu Agency, A News, Akşam, Birgün, CNN Türk, Cumhuriyet, Daily Sabah, Doğan News Agency, Haber Türk newspaper, Haber Türk TV, Halk TV, Hürriyet, Hürriyet Daily News.
Kanal D, Kanal 7, Milliyet, NTV, Posta, Sabah, Sözcü, Star, TRT, TV Net, Ülke TV, Vatan, Yeni Şafak.