“It is time now to start discussion inside profession about standards as today is the critical period that will determine trends for next several years. I would like journalists to reconsider their opinions and to try to see ideological bias where they think the truth is,” many agree with the opinion of the Head of Center of Social Sciences Marina Muskhelishvili that could be read in her letter published by Media.ge.
Part of journalists also agrees to the given opinion. It was also one of the reasons for creating the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics – for Georgian journalism to agree on ethical standards. Still, only 176 journalists have signed the Charter of Ethics during two years. Head of Civil Development Institute, one of the initiator of creating the Charter of Journalistic Ethics, journalist Ia Antadze believes that two principle problems hamper increase of the number of Charter members.
“This is deficit of professionalism in press and censorship in televisions,” Ia Antadze says, “if a journalist is under pressure it is impossible to promise acting according to standards to the society. On the other hand if a journalist is into writing scandalous articles, he does not need standards at all. If journalists working for televisions are freed from censorship, they will decide themselves to join the Charter or not. There is a good environment now for working with them.”
Ia Antadze agrees to the viewpoint that the Charter does not work the way it was intended to initially and has the following explanation for it: “The reason is that there are two values put on scales: on one hand it is the principle of voluntary decision and on the other hand – objective to establish standards. It is impossible to implement these two together. We gave priority to voluntariness and the Charter Council refuses to discuss complaints against works by Charter non-member journalists. That is the reason of the disappointment of the society with the whole process of the Charter.”
Executive Director of the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics Tamar Kordzaia says that it is most important for the principles that Charter signees agreed on to become popular. According to her, this is not the problem of only Georgian journalism; and the main challenge for the Charter is to show media what good the protection of ethical principles can bring.
“It is an unarguable truth that provision of precise and impartial information creates confidence from society. It is also undisputable that possibility of complaints against media is significantly decreased as result of circulating verified information. It may sound strange, but protection of ethical principles, meaning self-restriction, is a process accompanying freedom of expression and guarantee of its implementation,” Tamar Kordzaia says.
Head of Regional Media Association Ia Mamaladze believes that if media will agree on ethical standards everything else will have to be regulated by the market. “In general “standardization”, aside from developing ethical norms, results in the fact that government starts talking about bringing media into “frames,” Ia says, “if a media outlet is not trustful, market determines its place.”
In the same context Ia Mamaladze believes it important for the advertisement market to be distributed correctly. “It is important from which financial sources media exists from; which groups control them,” Mamaladze clarified, “dynamics of the advertisement market show that in the new political reality business changed trends so fast that it is hard to believe that anybody showed interest to ratings, media coverage areas and studying target audiences.”
Executive Director of the Georgian Association of Regional Broadcasters, TSU Associated Professor Natia Kuprashvili believes that one of the forms for regulating media is the Code of Conduct of Broadcasters. “We have another, better example – the mechanism of self-regulation – Charter of Journalistic Ethics,” Natia says, “I believe protecting its principles, which is not easy, will help in creating product acceptable to the public.”
Natia Kuprashvili gives the reasons why, as she believes, journalists refrain from developing unified standards – limitation of freedom and uniformity. “These are the two main fears that I hear from my colleagues as arguments but I do not share these fears,” Natia says, “public recognition of principles is recognition of responsibility, which would be natural on the background of rights that we, journalists have.”
“Journalism is a free profession; everyone can obtain and circulate information. The more “journalists” are there, the more mistakes we get and therefore there are more people suffering from “words,” Natia added, “I believe it would be better for media outlets to initially create mechanisms at least for taking away the same arguments from governments, which permanently attempt to regulate media more and more.”
Executive Director of the Georgian Association of Regional Broadcasters that media may be “forced” to create journalistic standards by two things: demanding audience – which is desirable and government initiative to develop such standards itself – which is not desirable. Journalists in the UK have faced such reality and finally they have agreed on unified journalistic game rules.
Executive Director of the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics believes that agreement made by cooperation of media outlets will be most effective. “There is the Code of Conduct of Broadcasters in Georgia which is created by the initiative of government and broadcasters try to avoid responding to complaints lodged based on it,” Tamar Kordzaia says.
Finally what form of self-regulation will be chosen by journalists (each of them will hire own media-ombudsman, or will join unified ethical charter) has not been decided yet. What is known is that part of society demands changes in the given direction and impatiently awaits them.