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08.11.2012 13:20

Role of journalists in the process of corrections institutions monitoring

Maia Tsiklauri
Media Discusions
დისკუსია - ჟურნალისტები სასჯელაღსრულების სისტემის მონიტორინგში  (photo: )

Journalists who are implementing monitoring of corrections institutions are in privileged situation compared to other journalists, who cannot participate in the process.  What can be done in order for this to be otherwise?  What is the function of the monitoring group and its participant journalists?  - The given topic was discussed 7 November by journalists gathered at the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics. 

Discussion showed that the Ministry of Corrections, by the initiative of which 51-member monitoring group among which are 6 journalists has been created for providing information to the public about the situation in corrections institutions, did not issue any regulations, or rules as guidelines for those journalists when conducting the given duty.  As result some of the journalists understood it as possibility to conduct professional duties and prepared reports about the situation in prisons, or about story of specific convicts.  Other member journalists of the monitoring group provided the information gathered in prisons to the Ministry of Corrections.  Those journalists who do not participate in the monitoring have found themselves in unequal conditions, as they do not have possibility to personally obtain information about one convict, or about situation in a prison and to publish it through media outlets they work for. 

During the discussion journalists spoke about the forms of providing information about the situation in prisons to other representatives of media.  They agreed that in this case they must have the role of source of information and to answer questions of all the interested journalists who work on the given issue. 

Second topic discussed during the meeting was:  what should the function of monitoring group member journalist – should he monitor story of a specific convict, or to monitor in what conditions that convict is in prison? 

They have agreed that the obligation of the monitoring group is to monitor situation of convicts and not to listen to their cases and then tell about them. 

Due to not knowing ethical norms journalists create threat for escalation of situation in prisons – Gela Mtivlishvili, member of the monitoring group believes.  According to him, such questions have been asked in one of the prisons:  “Are you the only ones on hunger strike?  Why do other convicts not join you?  Do you think the warden will resign?” – These questions could have caused disorders in prison.  Mtivlishvili also said that due to violation of ethical norms the names of convicts who have AIDS have been aired by one of the televisions.  Discussion participants believe that in the monitoring group must be journalists who consider standards of journalistic ethics. 

As there is no practice of allowing journalists into cells in prisons in any other country, there also are no norms for the safety of journalists.  According to monitoring group members convicts are armed with dangerous subjects wounding themselves with them. 

According to the Chairman of the Council of the Charter of Journalistic Ethics ZviadKoridze in European countries journalists do meet inmates to take interviews, but there’s glass between them, so there is no need for additional security. 

How can journalists be protected in Georgia?  - Answer to the given question could not be found during the discussion, although everyone agreed that the Ministry of Corrections should not restrict journalists to speak with convicts; form of such conversations must be thought out.  

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