TACTICS OF DEFENSE OF HONOUR AND REPUTATION OF THE CLIENT FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF A MASS COMMUNICATION AND LAW
Published: Collected research articles, Bulletin of Russian Communication Association "THEORY OF COMMUNICATION AND APPLIED COMMUNICATION", Issue 1 / Edited by I.N. Rozina, Rostov-on-Don: Institute of Management, Business and Law Publishing, 2002. - 168 p. P. 97-101.
The work of PR-experts becomes more and more topical today. One of aspects of this work is antirecessionary communications. The task of Public Relations is to smooth the consequences of informational crisis and to prevent it from occurring in the future. This work presents the analysis of the practical experience connected to negative publications concerning PR-object.
The purpose of this article is to develop a uniform complex of measures for the most effective protection of honor, dignity and business reputation of the person within the framework of the theory of mass communications.
Antirecessionary communications in the activity of PR experts
In the opinion of G.G. Pocheptsov "the theory of communications is the basic research discipline within the mass communications area". At the same time, Public Relations is "base applied science, one of communicative technologies" (Pocheptsov, 2002).
Because the communicative space is filled with messages from different sources, the duties of the PR-experts do not include management of all these information streams. As many PR-theorists consider, purpose of Public Relations is to create the favorable environment for separate objects within the framework of the given communicative space. Therefore PR-experts constantly struggle "for being in the center of public attention", "for the balanced combination of positive and negative statements about PR-object" (Pocheptsov, 2002).
It is necessary to note that to work with positive situations is not as difficult, as to work with negative ones. However, effective PR appears from work with crises. Thus, a typical task for manager of PR is a negative situation burdened by several unknown components.
PR makes changes to communicative streams. Therefore the work of PR-experts should begin and end with the communicative audit, monitoring and analysis of all kinds of external and internal communicative streams where the organization is mentioned. For this reason even "automatic PR monitoring of texts is aimed to search the words with negative meaning" (Pocheptsov, 2002).
If the quantity of negative statements is larger than the quantity of positive statements, it indicates the information crisis. Negative statements are defined as opinions about the object of PR, which contain elements of slander and an unreliable information. In this case the image and the business reputation of the person or the organization suffer most of all. And consequently, the task of PR experts consists primarily of smoothing the consequences of the distribution of a false information. Also their task is not to allow the further development of a topic which discredits the client on the part of journalistic community and to restore the honor of the client and to find out, who "has ordered" the article.
As a matter of fact, the occurrence of the false and discrediting information in press is one of the versions of the information crisis, and the work done for elimination of its consequences and prevention of damage is antirecessionary communication. The greatest effect in the solving the above problem can be achieved by cooperation of lawyers who carry out legal protection of honor and business reputation and PR experts who carry out the protection in the field of mass communications.
The cooperation of PR-service and legal department is favorable for the enterprise also because lawyers estimate risky situations, based on statistics that reflects previous experience and "at the same time public understands a situation emotionally, but not rationally" (Pocheptsov, 2002) (forecasting the behavior is a task of PR-experts).
Defamation as a version of the information conflict
Activity of any politician or businessman does not exclude the fact that "dirty" articles will appear. According to the statistics of Glasnost Defense Foundation more than 72 per cent of all the lawsuits brought against the media formed the claims in defense of honor, dignity or business reputation. The number of the similar conflict situations connected to the insult of the honor and dignity of citizens and the organizations in press and other mass-media, has increased sharply last years. Many of them are transformed into actions and cause rough reaction of the public including mass media.
As practice shows, the informational war through the publication of false data in mass media displays unfair competition. This phenomenon is new for the Russian society sand it is connected to transition towards market economy based on competition of equal in rights, economically independent subjects.
Nowadays this problem gets a special urgency because of the increase of level of economic development, which, as world experience shows, inevitably leads to aggravation of competitive struggle and to occurrence of more and more "refined" forms of an unfair competition.
The concept of information war is indefinite. One way is to define it as solution of the financial and economic problems by various groups with the help of political persons, political and pseudo-political structures, mass media and other resources, which are in the property of these groups. The goal of information war is, as a rule, an expansion or re-structuring of business or reception of a political prize. So, public persons (well-known businessmen, heads of the large enterprises, politicians, officials, etc.) are in "risky" group of being victims of unfair journalists and rivals.
The distribution in mass-media of the false data discrediting the honor, dignity and business reputation - the defamation - is the one of the popular ways of "black" PR. Especially bright this phenomenon is shown during carrying out of the election campaigns. As an element of pre-election struggle, a defamation, which, in G.S. Blummer's opinion, (Blummer, 1998), can have the form of the direct falsification and a tendentious statement of the facts, can have as a form of deception of the voter and reception of political dividends by means of "systematic offensive influence by political, intellectual and emotional means for consciousness, mentality, a moral condition and behavior of the population " (Nikolayev, 1972).
Thus, the following agents take part in the given conflict:
- Persons concerning whom the false data were distributed in press;
- Their rivals - customers of the defamatory materials;
- The journalists breaking the code of honor of the journalist and the mass-media legislation;
- Experts in the area of Public Relations, who protect image of the client or organize occurrence in press doubtful and damaging information;
- Consumers of the mass media production - spectators, readers, students who are misled.
The basic ways of personal image and business reputation protection from defamation
As practice shows, potential victims prefer not to conflict with journalistic association or to make the libel actions always.
Nowadays defamation in Russia is the integral element of the economical competition, people who are responsible for image of the person (PR experts and lawyers) should be ready to such actions of competitors and be able to choose a way of protection effective and favorable for image from defamation.
As mentioned above this category concerns public people - politicians, businessmen - and it is connected to their activity. In particular, frequently the purpose of defamatory publications is to discredit the head of the organization because of the "interception" (redistribution) of the authority. Unfair journalists willingly use the information acting from power structures of the state, submitting it in a favorable to the customer context. The reaction of press appears immediately in such cases, there is the "chain reaction" and the negative information is distributed practically with lightning speed.
It is necessary to take into account, that "the protection of the information against extraneous persons, first of all, is the its owner problem. The losses for the access to the information of extraneous persons, can be huge, and it is impossible to make up these losses " (Sergo, 1999). However the unique effective measure, that can be used, if the information conflict cannot be solved a different way, is competent submission of the claim about protection of honor, dignity and business reputation.
After publication, which contains the elements of defamation, is found, before having legal procedure with mass-media, it is necessary to analyse carefully the positive and negative consequences and try to choose "the least evil".
The special attention needs to be paid to defamation on television. If the publication appears in the printed mass-media, we can, using an item №57 of the law "On mass-media" demands the publication of the refutation. However it is impossible in practice to prepare the TV refutation. The guilty part will be shown again on the TV, and this will draw additional attention to the negative information, and will strengthen adverse consequences for reputation of the person.
The law of the Russian Federation "On mass-media" gives a choice to a victim of defamation either to ask for the help in judicial instance or to take dignity of pre-judicial procedure, i.e. to send the letter to the editorial office with the request to deny voluntarily the false and damaging evidences. In most cases, pre-judicial procedure is more advantageous from the point of view of image and reputation of the person. On the other hand, it can provoke a new stream of negative publications.
If the decision on submission of the claim is accepted, it is necessary, that the statement of claim includes a point according to which the respondent is obliged to publish the apologies to the claimant together with the text of a refutation given by the affected party (besides, compensation may be requested).
Sometimes dispute in court arises not around the fact of humiliation of honor, dignity and business reputation, but around of the one who should be responsible for consequences of distribution of such data.
Here we don't mean a person who initially ordered the publication. It is impossible to find him in practice, because frequently the price of the order includes monetary losses to the journalist and makes not only payment of work of the journalist, accommodation of the article in mass-media, but also editions in case of presentation of the claim about protection of honor, dignity and business reputation in court. Besides there are no direct proofs which could be presented in court as the proof of "order-made" character of the article.
The great debate occurs in the court, for example, if the false data appear in the interview. In this case the defendants are the authors of the defamation article or editors and a person, who tells the defamatory story. As a rule, the journalist and respondent try to escape from the responsibility by accusing each other. The author, for example, can claim that he isn't responsible for the information that he received from the official source. Nevertheless the other defendant, in turn, can claim that he isn't guilty, proving that the publication is only a copyright of the journalist. These conflicts between the defendants are collateral that the court will make injunction for the claimant, and will oblige the editors to publish refutation and to pay the compensation.
The results of antirecessionary Public Relations in case of defamation
As a conclusion, it would be desirable to notice that if the policy of dialogue with mass media is chosen right, their attitude to the organization and the public person can change cardinally. The won cases can become an example for other mass media. So it is possible to achieve an establishment of normal mutual relations with mass media and to reduce risk of occurrence of the discrediting information in future.
However there is a philosophical question, that makes real sense in the field of mass communications and is subject to a monetary estimation. We can estimate and prove damage and moral harm, but we can't restore "honor", that is erase from memory and consciousness of people false data is impossible. The "duty" press exists today because there is a demand for the "fried" facts. Therefore the refutation plays an important role in restoration of honor. The basic opportunity of restoration of honor and business reputation also depends on it. The refutation should correspond to defamatory material not only to formal attributes (according to the law, the refutation should be printed by the same font, on the same page and to be the same volume, as denied article), but also in force of the psychological influence. The real opportunity to come nearer to the decision of the primary goal of anti-recessionary communications (in this case restoration of image and business reputation of the person) appears only at publication of professionally prepared refutation, which is capable to smooth its negative consequences.
- Blummer G.S. The Collective Behaviour //Psychology of weights. Samara. Publishing house "Bahrah". 1998. 296 p.
- Pocheptsov G.G. The Communicative Technologies Of The Twentieth Century. M. 2002. 352 p.
- The Psychological War//The Collection of articles. The composer - Nikolaev А.N. M. Progress. 1972. 342 p.
- Ratinov A.R., Yefremova G.H. Mass-media In Russia. M. Prava cheloveka. 1998.157 p.
- Sergo A.G. The Necessity Of Protection Of The Information. A Legal Estimation. A site "Law And Internet". 1999. www.internet-law.ru/articles/protectinf.htm.
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