Kuritöö ja karistuse konstrueerimine Eesti telekanalite uudistesaadetes



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This Bachelor’s thesis “The Construction of Crime and Punishment in Estonian Television News Broadcasts” analyzes the news broadcasts of the three Estonian television channels, in order to clarify how crime and punishment is constructed in the news broadcasts. Three periods were analyzed: 20-26 August 2001, 29 October - 4 November 2001, and 21-27 January 2002. During the researched period the news programs of the three channels broadcasted a total of 521 news items prepared by the editors (not including foreign and sports news), to which five longer topic treatment in the second half of the Päevapeegel (Mirror of the Day) program on Kanal 2 are added. Using the critical discourse analysis method, a total of 57 TV news items (including news on criminal cases and those with a criminal context) are analyzed in the course of this paper. The “News on Criminal Cases” category consists of news items, which were related to specific criminal cases (proceedings)—alluded to by an event, the news item text or photo. The “News with a Criminal Context” includes the following types of news items: (1) the news item is not directly related to a criminal case, although the journalistic discourse gives the news item a criminal connotation (text, including word usage); (2) a sequel to a specific criminal case (an expansion of the topic); (3) the text of the news item refers to a possible crime, although the news item does not treat it; (4) crime and punishment themed stories, that is the news item is not directly connected to the event, but reports on the processes and trends in the field of activity. During the periods under observation, there were 31 news items related to criminal cases on the air, in which 20 different criminal cases were reported. There were a total of 7 court news items (on 5 different court proceedings). There were 26 news items with a crime context. A comparison of the analyzed weeks shows that TV news places a greater value on crime news than court news. Namely, the TV channels did not broadcast a single court report during the first analyzed week, and only two during the second week. In order to for the news sample to contain the necessary number of court stories, the analysis period had to be increased to three weeks. This range expresses the subject preferences and values of the events by TV channels. Having analyzed the TV news for three weeks, two basic approaches can be highlighted: - News focused on events: related mostly to the events in the beginning phases of a criminal proceedings; - News focused on individuals: news reporting on pre-trial proceedings (except for the start) and news reporting on court proceedings. Reporting of criminal events In the beginning phase of criminal proceedings (19 news items) TV news was focused on what happened. In legal discourse, we are dealing with a phase in which everything is still open or the investigation has not yet clarified what exactly happened and who the participants were. TV news provides an overview of what happened, describing this and showing the consequences. The news used information received from investigative institutions, alluding to it and/or quoting from it. In this phase, the most interviews were used. In addition to investigative institutions, witnesses were also heard from. In this phase, the existence of photos was of significant importance, of the event or its consequences. The occurrence was constructed in the news items on the principle: the event creates the news. Mostly, what happened was shown and a description of what happened was given (for instance, setting fires, explosions, accidents). These news items do not present strict legal discourses, but rather a story is told. Based on this, the majority of the news items failed to mention that a criminal proceeding had been started. Only once did the start of the criminal proceedings form the focus of the story. In the news items regarding the start of criminal proceedings, the press usually constructs what has happened as an accident, without providing it with a legal evaluation. This, however, means that news about accidents is already pre-valued by the TV channel, that is, they are reported irregardless of the legal context. This, however, clouds the concept and limits of a criminal act. I believe that none of the viewers doubt that the killing of another person is a criminal act, but do the viewers know that causing the death of a person in, for instance, a traffic accident is also accompanied by criminal liability? This is not explained by TV news. If, in the start of criminal proceedings phase, TV news refers to the suspect, then analysis shows that in the first mention this was definitely done with an accusatory undertone (naming the person as the one responsible for the event in a very definite tone of voice), and in the next mention the person is called the suspect. When referring to the suspect, no more than the first name and age is mentioned. Already naming the individual as definitely guilty in the suspect phase, or in one news item, naming the person first as a suspect and then as the one responsible for the act or the culprit, cannot be considered to be proper. In legal discourse, we are dealing with different states of the process: the suspect need not become the accused, and the accused need not become the guilty party. These are terms which should be used more exactly in the press. In one news item, the full name and age of the victim was mentioned, this cannot considered to be proper, since the victim was not a public figure. During the pre-trial investigation, the criminal case can be lengthened, ended, bail determined, etc.—this can be considered to be the pre-trial investigative phase. Reporting on these phases, the TV news became focused on individuals. This also pictorially. In these news items, the individuals connected to criminal cases are more important than the acts. From the analysis we can see that news items were often shortened to the point that the legal discourse in the news text became inaccurate, and for instance, from some of the news items it was not clear which specific individual was under suspicion and which specific act was being investigated. The information was provided from investigative institutions (usually the specific source was alluded to), which was usually the only source of information used. Of the analyzed news items, in only one case was the representative of the accused given the opportunity to speak. These news items were lacking substance regarding the status of the individual in the criminal proceeding process. The news items usually limited themselves to information that we are dealing with a criminal proceeding started against individual X. Whether the individual is recognized as a suspect or whether charges have been filed against him/her was not included in the news discourse. This however violates the presumption of innocence, because a person is labeled within a criminal context before the investigation is completed and a court resolution arrived at. Such news puts the person under so-called public pressure and connects them to a negative background. Such news is also characterized by the fact that archival material was used in the broadcasts to illustrate the text. This, however, emphasizes an individual-based approach even more. Reporting on court proceedings Court news was reported in only seven of 31 criminal news items, and of the seven, four reported on verdicts. During the analysis period, Kanal 2 did not report on a single criminal case or verdict. News items reporting on court discourse were also centered on individuals and were influential or persuasive regarding verdicts and/or public opinion. The news reporting on court verdicts focused on punishment. It should be added that only guilty verdicts were reported on. The news focused on the description of the crime and on what the investigative institutions had ascertained during the preliminary investigation. The extent of the punishment was also predicted in the news. Thereby, the news discourse places the accused into the role of a guilty party, which cannot be considered to be proper and ethical. In these news items, the TV news show the accused (mostly in a wide shot). From the analysis, it became clear that TV3 constructs cases with verdicts with the emphasis on the decision, but the person of the accused is brought into focus. TV3 news highlighted whether a person admitted his/her guilt or not, whether he/she regretted his/her act or not. In these stories, the position of the guilty party is described in such a way that one can get the impression that the criminal is not a criminal but “an unfortunate victim of fate.” When reporting on court themes, ETV centered on investigative institutions, or bringing out the connection between the investigations’ results and verdicts was emphasized. The news format for criminal cases The start of criminal proceedings phase is characterized by the fact that they are usually prepared by an editor (reporter) and interviews are used. In these news items, pictures of what has happened (the consequences) are important. In the phases following the start of criminal proceedings, TV news uses a short news format. This means that the news is read by the anchor, no interviews are used, and pictorially, archival materials are used. Short news items are also characterized by the fact that they are centered on individuals and often shorten legal discourse to the point, that what the specific person is suspected of, or what specific act is being investigated is lost. Thereby the individual is emphasized and a negative context is created from his/her actions. Information sources for the news. From an analysis of the sources, it becomes clear that the news use information from the investigative institutions in all phases of the crime and administration of justice: providing an overview of what has happened and reflecting the results of the preliminary investigation. This is expressed in both the number of speaking participants and how much they are quoted. In the start of the criminal proceedings phase, the news also includes commentaries from witnesses. At the same time, from an analysis of the text, it becomes clear that quite often news without a direct source reference is presented. In these news items, an overview of what has happened, or the result of a preliminary investigation, is also presented. This raises the question, why is a specific source not quoted? Is this the result of shortening the news item or does one not wish to identify the information source. However, the volume of information from investigative institutions in TV news expresses the actual bent of the news content. TV news prefers to give the floor to investigative institutions that are in positions of power in a criminal proceeding rather than to the suspects, which creates a situation in which information supports the accusations and positions of investigative bodies and thereby sets the other party in an unequal position. News with a criminal context was analyzed separately in the paper. The analysis brought out stories in which a criminal context is created for a news item, or the journalistic discourse presents what has happened as a criminal news item. This is, in practice, accompanied by the accusation of a person in an action (calling it a crime) which in actuality is lacking a connection with a discourse of criminal law. An example is the news of the financing of the Tallinn Integration Project. In the news, the media started to search for corruption (by analyzing monetary allocations), since the chairman of the Tallinn City Council audit commission had alluded to this. In the news, the incident was called a “corruption scandal.” However, by reporting on this news, the press became a political “plaything.” Although the news was just reporting on the phase when the city was conducting an internal audit, the TV news primarily amplified the opinion of the audit commission. This shows the influence of the first source of information on the development of the news discourse. In the analyzed period, the visit of Elfraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to Estonia was reported and its relationship with the possible connection of overseas Estonian Harry Männil to Nazi crimes. The topic was characterized as a type of crime and also by the fact that Zuroff accused an (overseas) Estonian. From the analysis it becomes clear, the TV news started to produce news based on Zuroff’s words, “I have new evidence regarding Männil’s guilt.” It is important to emphasize that the press did not see the evidence, but the news started to evaluate its competency and trustworthiness. The press did not wait for the evaluation of the security police regarding the documents, but decided that “they contained nothing new” even before an official position was presented. This expresses one of the trends in media: news is produced even when there are no concrete facts beyond someone’s opinion. From an analysis of news with a criminal context, another trend in TV news becomes clear: the press does not connect events with specific criminal cases, that is, these are not placed in a legal context. Actually, the press does not pose the question: what is the present event connected to? This is expressed, for instance, in the news reporting on the Lada Petko case or the Hiiumaa air crash. Therefore, one of the primary problems in the discourse of TV news is an unduly individual-centered approach to the criminal process, in which the presumption of innocence is violated. A second problem that can be highlighted is that the attention of TV news is proportionally greater on the crime discourse than on recording the administration of justice. Thereby, TV news neglects one of its assignments, to offer the public a balanced and object treatment of what is happening in society. In the reporting of criminal proceedings, the main emphasis should be focused on the court proceeding phase, so that both the accused and the accuser can explain and defend their positions. Thereby individuals would not groundlessly attract the negative attention of the media in the suspect phase. During the analysis period, a Code of Criminal Procedure was in force which allowed for investigative results to be revealed only with the permission of the investigator and to the extent allowed by him/her. In the current Code of Criminal Procedure, only the prosecutor has the right to reveal investigative results. In order to evaluate whether the given change in legislation has been accompanied by an actual change in the news discourse, the analysis would have to be repeated. This analysis can provide the point of departure and comparison material for this.


H Social Sciences (General), bakalaureusetööd