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Two Radio Presenters Sacked Over Cystic Fibrosis Jokes
22.10.2012 17:25
Two Radio Presenters Sacked Over Cystic Fibrosis Jokes

Two presenters of Radio Mayak have been sacked over unprofessional on-air behaviour during the programme on cystic fibrosis, currently a terminal illness. 

      The programme Maladies (Bolyachki) was dedicated to discussing various illnesses and their possible treatment. The programme aired on October 4, 2012 discussed cystic fibrosis, its forms and treatment. And while the doctor's commentary was professional and quite in-depth, the presenters were far less serious, joking about what is currently a terminal illness. 

      The programme attracted severe criticism, especially from those involved in supporting children and adults with this illness. Eventually Maya Sonina, the director of a charitable fund for fibrosis-affected people, addressed a letter to the radio's directors demanding that presenters should be sacked over unprofessional behaviour. 

      In response, not only did directors sack the offenders, they also closed the programme. Presenters subsequently apologised on air for "inappropriate tone and lack of professionalism". Radio Mayak plans to host a "hot line" to discuss the closure of the programme and journalists' behaviour. 

      The conflict like this is due to a large number of problems with journalism caused by the lack of censorship and guidelines on professional ethics. This means that journalists and editors alike occasionally give little thought to the potential public resonance. 

      In case with Bolyachki programme, the matter is even more complex. Russia has a limited, if any, tradition of a respectful public discussion of topics like disability, illnesses, disorders, and sexuality. Very often an ironic and condescending tone is adopted, in order not to "offend" the general public with drawing their attention to the lives of the "others". 

      Clearly, this will be changing soon. A professional code for journalists has been proposed that should include clauses on the ethics of journalism. 

Author: Julia Shuvalova

Tags: Russian journalism Russian healthcare    

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