December 4, Tbilisi - 138 journalists founded the Association for the Charter of Ethics of Georgian Journalists and signed ethical standards. In addition the founders elected the monitoring board of the Association and the revision commission. Three Tbilisi-based and six regional journalists such as Nino Zuriashvili (investigative journalist), Eliso Chapidze (Editor, Georgian daily Rezonansi), Lika Chakhunashvili (Journalism pedagogue), Eter Turadze (Editor, the Batumelebi newspaper), Maya Metskhvarishvili (Akhali Gazeti, Kutaisi), Khatuna Gogashvili (Radio Hereti), Tedo Jorbenadze (the Batumelebi newspaper), Irakli Absandze (Poti-based journalist) and Merab Merkviladze (journalist, Batumi-based Channel 25) have been elected to fill the board seats. Ia Mamaladze (chairwoman, Regional Media Association), Ramaz Samkharadze (Director, Radio Hereti; Chairman, Georgian Regional Radio Network) and Ia Bobokhidze (Editor-in-chief, Akhali Gazeti, Kutaisi) have been elected as the revision commission members.
The charter was mainly signed by press journalists working in the capital and regional media representatives. As regards national TV channels the charter was joined by few journalists only even though the event was covered by all TV channels. Registration process took a long time. Afterwards the journalists nominated the candidates to fill the seats in the monitoring board and the revision commission. Some of the nominees withdrew their candidacies.
Following the casting of lots the voting results was tabulated by a 5-member commission. Ahead of the vote tabulation the Radisson Hotel conference hall full of the journalists awaiting the results were visited by the representatives of Council of Europe and the European Commission. CoE as well as EC have been as much interested in the adoption of the charter as the Georgian journalists. Foreign experts took part in a long exhausting process for the elaboration of the charter documents. The process was being observed by the representatives of both European bodies, for instance Florence Marshall, Head of EC programmes participated in almost all meetings held to work out the text of the charter and of course attended the charter foundation event.
"It was [subscription to the charter] a right decision by Georgian journalists. We expect more and more journalists to join the undertaking. The project shouldn't be limited to journalists only. All media owners and editors should take part in the process to make the initiative more effective," Florence Marshall said following the meeting. Per Erklund, Head of the EC Delegation to Georgia too being content with the outcome of the process congratulated the audience on the adoption of the charter.
Per Erklund considers the charter is to conduce to the creation of the environment in Georgia when journalists are at the service of the society instead of media owners.
Media expert Ia Antadze, one of the initiators of the charter paid attention to the composition of the board.
"The board, reasoning from its composition, is to enjoy high reliance. Unfortunately the charter was joined by very few TV journalists though the heads of some of the TV companies called me to simply express support but I don't expect TVs to join the charter," Ia Antadze told Media.ge.
"The norms of ethics are being frequently violated in Georgia by our colleagues and the goal of the elaboration of the charter is the adherence to specific ethics in the Georgian TV journalism. I do hope to produce results," journalist Khatuna Gogashvili of Radio Hereti said. According to Eter Turadze, Editor-in-chief, Batumelebi newspaper, elected as a member of the monitoring board, media had to adopt the charter earlier.
"This document is not just a mechanism of self-regulation, it is somehow the mechanism of protection of journalists," said Eter Turadze reporting to Media.ge.
Journalist Eliso Chapidze recollected that Georgian media had made three attempts to set media standards but none worked. The journalist hopes the December 4 event is going to produce results.
"I believe the forth attempt is going to work. And the people elected for the board staff I do rely on. The election of Tedo Jorbenadze made me especially happy. It's a clear evidence regional journalists show solidarity to one another," Eliso Chapidze said.
According to Sozar Subari, former Public Defnder, invited to the event by EC the adoption of the charter is to make Georgian media more accountable.
"Journalism needs two things - freedom and responsibility. The problem of a major part of the Georgian media is the lack of freedom; therefore it can't be either ethical or responsible. But there is another part of media which is free and who needs agreement on principles. I hope the charter is going to work and make media accountable that is to affect the other part of journalists beyond the charter," Sozar Subari said.
Giorgi Targamadze, Leader of the opposition parliamentary faction Christian-Democrats, also invited to the ceremony by EC, said the journalists had made an important step and in addition to gaining rights they have shouldered responsibility in front of the society.
"The code of ethics adopted today is not a panacea and no one should expect all Georgian journalists being adherent to the norms of ethics set in the charter right away. But it is important that through the adoption of the code the society enjoys a right to choose: to get information either through the source being adherent to the principles of ethics or the journalist ignoring professional ethics," Giorgi Targamadze said.