We would like to once again turn the public’s attention to the xenophobic statements and assessments that have assumed a dangerous scale in Georgia’s political discourse and already established themselves as the norm. The Georgian media landscape is pervaded with such rhetoric, which is clearly shown by the results of a number of studies conducted in the corresponding direction.
It is clear that one of the sources of this wicked practice is the political class active in Georgia. The leaders and members of the political parties, unions, and movements, as well as public persons supporting them, despite the officially declared views of their organizations, often base their political rhetoric precisely on xenophobia and hate speech. All this creates a favorable background for those extremist groups that translate this rhetoric into action. A clear example of this were the events that took place on May 17 and the following days when the day against homophobia and transphobia itself became the day on which homophobia and transphobia were demonstrated.
In order to overcome the aforementioned problems, we consider it necessary that the civil sector unite under the idea of struggle against xenophobia, so that a unified civil platform is created. In the aforementioned format, it will be possible to carry out effective monitoring (and, if necessary, response) on every single fact of using this rhetoric, on the one hand, and to contribute to correct formation of public opinion, on the other hand.
We consider it necessary that the political unions active in Georgia create or strengthen inter-party mechanisms which will ensure that all kinds of manifestations of xenophobia are eradicated in political activity. At the same time, we express our readiness to actively support political organizations in cooperating with the civil sector in this direction.
The Media Development Foundation (MDF) and Alpe Foundation express concern about a report aired on 15:00, 18:00 and 21:00 news programs of Rustavi 2 TV company, covering a killing of wife by husband in a jealous rage on 20 March.
The concern is especially deep given that Rustavi 2 is a leading TV channel in the country, largely influencing public opinion and journalistic practice.
The mentioned report was nowhere near journalistic ethic and professional standards and violated a number of provisions of the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters.
Article 13 of the Code requires that “broadcasters shall provide reliable and accurate information, shall not report any untrue or misleading information” (13.2). However, the accusation of the murderer’s mother of encouraging the killing based on some comments of her colleagues from kindergarten and a segment of parents of children as well as based on signatories of a letter demanding her dismissal from the job, cannot be assessed otherwise than misleading and an attempt to judge a person. This was compounded by a comment of a journalist saying that “the murderer’s mother has not left her job yet” and a comment by a parent about her mental state.
In this report, Rustavi 2 also breached subparagraph a), paragraph 1 of Article 50, which says that when reporting crime, broadcasters should “avoid creating unfounded panic, spreading gossips and unfounded assumptions which may cause irreparable damage to an individual’s reputation or legal interests.” Pursuant to subparagraph b) of the same paragraph broadcasters should “rely on findings by the investigative authorities and experts, except when broadcasters conduct their own journalistic investigation which reveals ambiguity, contradictions, or inactivity of the official investigation and have gathered sufficient information to make a reliable journalistic evaluation.” The author of the report has not observed any of the requirements of quoted paragraph and without any theory of investigative bodies or expertise offered subjective assessments, thereby spreading gossips and unfounded assumptions.
Rustavi 2 also disregarded requirements of Article 35 set forth in the Code of Conduct to ensure privacy. This Article requires from broadcasters to obtain consent for filming or recording in schools, hospitals, and other specific establishments from the relevant authority as well as from any person being filmed “unless not obtaining consent is justified in the public interest.” No such public interests existed in covering the family’s tragedy. Even more, the mother-in-law begged crying the TV crew not to film her and had no other way but to hide away from a video camera. According to Article 35, broadcasters shall not film individuals suffering a personal tragedy without their consent not only in a private but also in a public place.
Paragraph 2, Article 55 of the Code of Conduct prohibits broadcasters to broadcast material that justifies or condones “dangerous or anti-social behavior and may encourage others towards committing similar actions.” The 26 March report in Rustavi 2 news program, which covered the killing, can be regarded precisely as such and be even assessed as a sort of encouragement of lynching a person.
MDF and Alpe Foundation call on Rustavi 2 to respect the reputation of a person, refrain from spreading gossips and emotionally loaded assessments and to honor the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters and professional standards of journalism because by unprofessional behavior media can cause an irreparable harm to a person.
Media Development Foundation, MDF files a complaint to self-regulatory bodies of TV companies Imedi and Georgian Public Broadcasting, GPB on the fact of violation of professional standard of media: the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters, and GPB’s in-House Code of Conduct.
MDF states that the coverage of the rape of minor girl on June 28, 2011 by the TV company Imedi violated article 44 of the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters. GPB also violated article 44 of the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters, as well as article 41.1 of GPB in-House Code of Conduct while covering the same story.
The fact of sexual abuse was the top story of news program Qronika on Imedi channel aired at 20:00, June 28, 2011. Imedi directly identified the underage rape victim, 14 years old girl. TV report also revealed the victim’s exact home address, and aired the interview of minor neighbor, thus fully revealing the victim identity. The host of the live news program also disclosed the names of the victim and abuser, her grandfather.
Georgian Public Broadcasting, GPB evening news program Moambe, aired at 20:00, June 28, 2011, did not identify the name of abuser. However, the rape victim’s identity was fully revealed by the young respondent, whose unedited interview was aired by the channel.
MDF expresses concern stating that the full disclosure of rape victim’s identity by both channels is unacceptable as the violation of the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters, and GPB’s in-House Code of Conduct.
MDF believes that the grave violation of children’s rights and professional standard of media will not remain unnoticed, and calls for society’s reaction. Media should be guided by the principles of social responsibility and high professionalism while covering such sensitive stories.
We express hope that the self-regulatory bodies of TV companies will timely and adequately discuss and respond to MDF complaint.