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Ia Antadze: “Charter of Journalistic Ethics Will Not Be Still-born Document”

08.12.2009
Tako Khutsishvili

First in the history of Georgian journalism the charter on journalistic ethics of Georgia was adopted. The most important point is that the initiators of the charter were journalists. Self-regulation mechanism of media was established by the Institute of Civil Development as a result of the one and half month cooperation with the Council of Europe. The project was funded by the European Union.

There are 11 paragraphs in the charter. The main goal of the document is creation of self-regulation mechanism in media which will assist journalists to resolve problems of professional ethic.

By this time, 136 journalists have signed the charter. Council of 9 journalists will monitor the activities of the undersigned journalists. The council members were elected by journalists on open ballot. The council was staffed based on quota principle; three members are from Tbilisi, three from Batumi and other three are from various regions of Georgia.

The members of the council are: Nino Zuriashvili, Eliso Chapidze, Lika Chakhunashvili (Tbilisi); Eter Turadze, Maia Metskhvarishvili, Khatuna Gogashvili, Tedo Jorbenadze, Irakli Abesadze and Merab Merkviladze. Besides that, journalists elected three-member revision commission which will monitor the activities of the Council. The members of the revision commission will be Ia Mamaladze, Ramaz Samkharadze and Ia Bobokhidze.

The council will publish its reports at the end of each month and provide the society with the information how journalists implement their responsibilities before the society. If the Charter principles are breached, the verdict of the council will be the only mechanism - they will inform the society about violations of the journalists. Initiators state the charter will rather be preventive measure.

Journalist Ia Antadze, initiator of the charter: “Signing the Charter and electing the Council we enable journalists to express our trust to the people who will speak with the society in our name. That means, each member of the society will have chance to ask question to the council about the journalist who has signed the charter – they can inquire whether the journalist breached any article of the Charter by publishing an article. The Council will discuss the issue and answer the question.”

The main requirement of the Charter to the journalists is to report only the truth. “Journalist should report truth; spread only reliable information and the information whose source will be identified for the journalist. They should be very careful about the issues dealing with children. They should not support discrimination. Journalist should not breach the right for private life. S/he must not be plagiarist. Journalist must not be bribed; must not damage and hide important facts - this is the frame estimate by the Charter,” said Ia Antadze.

 Why Was Previous Attempt Unsuccessful

It must be noted that Charter of Journalistic Ethics is not first attempt to support the protection of professional standard of media and accountability of media towards the society. In 2006, representatives of the media sources and civil sector initiated to establish a media council. However, the council did not work much. The Media Council was also responsible to protect professional standard of media and promotion of the accountability of media before the society.

Besides journalists, representatives of non-governmental organizations – Liberty Institute, Caucasian Institute and Young Lawyers Association – were members of the Media Council. Part of journalists thinks this factor caused failure of the council. This entity had to work as an Arbitral Court and to discuss suits against media. Similar attitude towards professional standards of journalists failed and members of Media Council also admit it now.

According to Ia Antadze, unlike other similar councils the Council monitoring the standards estimated by the Charter is staffed with journalists only. It breeds trust among journalists and promotes successful activities of the Council. “Signing of our Charter and sharing the listed principles is individual decision. It means every person is responsible for his/her own behavior. Besides that, only journalists are members of our council and journalists who sign the Charter trust the council as well.”

Ia Antadze thinks the Charter will be successful and will do its job because the Council is staffed with brave and honest people. “I can say that the Charter will be really successful and it will not be still-born document. The members of the Council are people who take brave and correct decisions. I am completely sure that this process will be thorough and more and more journalists will be eager to join the Charter.”

Member of the Media Council journalist Davit Paichadze did not join the Charter because he thinks the principles of the Charter will not work because if indifference of the society. “The Charter aims to promote the following mechanisms – if a person feels his/her rights were breached because of activities of media representative, s/he can appeal to the Council. However, the society is very indifferent about dignity and as a rule similar mechanisms do not work. I have joined professional standard of journalists, I have certain responsibilities with this text and I think professional standard of media is more important and better defined than the Charter. I wish the journalists, who signed the Charter, to be more true to their signatures and principles envisaged in the Charter than the journalists who signed the Professional Standard of Media.”

Journalists, who want to join the Charter, should send corresponding application to the Council. However, the most important point is to protect the principles of the Charter.

Charter of Journalistic Ethics

1. Journalist shall respect the true information and promote the right of society to get correct information;
2. Journalist shall not be compelled to treat his/her professional activities or express his/her opinion against his/her own personal dignity;
3. Journalist shall report information based only on those facts whose sources are identified. Journalist shall not hide important facts; shall not fabricate documents and information.
4. While getting information, photos or documents journalist shall use only fair and honest methods;
5.  Media shall correct published incorrect information which misleads the society;
6. It is moral responsibility of a journalist not to make the confidential source of information public;
7. Journalist shall be aware of the threat to encourage discrimination in media; so s/he should take all measures to avoid any kind of discrimination on racial, gender, sexual orientation, language, religious, political or other grounds; as well as based on ethnic or social grounds;
8. Journalist shall protect the rights of the child during his/her professional activities; to give priority to the child’s interests; not to prepare and publish article about the child which can degrade the child. Journalist shall not interview or take a photo of a child under 16 about the issues dealing with him or other child without permission of parent or guardian;
9. Editorial materials shall be separate from marketing and advertising materials and materials funded by sponsors.
10. Journalist shall respect private life of a person and shall not interfere in the personal life of a person if it is not public necessity.
11. Journalist shall consider the following activities to be the gravest crimes: premeditated damage of the fact; getting any bribe, present or other benefit that can influence his/her professional activities; plagiarism.

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