The BBC journalist and media analyst Baqer Moin was payng a visit to Georgia within the scope of the media monitoring project implemented by the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics and Slovak organization Memo 98. Together with other foreign experts he is going to develop recommendations for Georgian media outlets.
Baqer Moin is a BBC journalist and author. He has been described as BBC's Central Asia specialist on Iran and Islam and used to be the head of the BBC's Persian Service. He has published a book about Ayatollah Khomeini. Currently he is providing consultations to various media outlets.
Media.ge interviewed Baqer Moin over the problems in the Georgian media and the ways to their solution.
You have had a possibility to get acquainted with the results of the monitoring released by the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, you also met with the representatives of different media outlets. What do you think, what is the main problem Georgian media is facing?
Reasoning from whatever I saw or read in the monitoring reports over the developments in the Georgian media within the election period I can say that the picture looks very dynamic. The main problem is the lack of journalists’ professionalism and short-term political plans of managers and owners.
What is the way to tackle this problem?
There are several directions that need to be improved. Parliament should work out a long-term vision in relation to media. Legislators need to have relevant knowledge in this field that implies digital media technologies, regulations, educational, cultural and other informational issues of importance to the country. That will enable them to help media fulfill its role, reflect public interests and devote attention to the issues that has an impact the life in the country.
To my mind the first step the Parliament should take is to determine the roles of regulatory bodies, to let them develop a strategic approach to the broadcasting and communications needs in the county, in particular when distributing licenses and channels. Frequencies is a public property. Every broadcaster shall be playing informative and educational role.
A greater part of the product produced by private broadcasters shall be made up of high grade programs and serve the society this way.
What about public broadcaster?
The public broadcaster also needs to become more professional and suffering less influence of policy makers. I think the Board of Trustees is composed of professionals and experts. It is important that they operate completely independently. They should remain as public figures. This means that they should be thinking of the long-term interests of society and representing youth, women, minorities, different religions. They should not be caring who holds power in the country. Only then they will have public trust.
Media workers should be doing their jobs as journalists and not as political activists. First of all they should study and follow basic principles of journalism such as accuracy, objectivity, balance. Journalists need to be pro-active, doing surveys and investigative materials instead of just following the agenda.
The representatives of various TV companies often complain that some of the policy makers refuse to take part in talk shows. How can the broadcaster keep balance under the circumstances?
Survey and investigation is the key. If a politician refuses to go to any program, he might be having fear or no confidence in this media outlet. We are to find out why this is happening this way, we should give him a chance to fully express his opinions. If the politician refuses to come, then we should invite his supporters, to protect his position.
What is the way to create an effective mechanism of self regulation?
Hard to give an answer to this question. We are to keep balance between freedom of expression and the rights of an individual. Thus far the bodies of self regulation have not been operating. Broadcasters should agree to provide transparent collective platform to examine complaints submitted by individuals. If it fails to work then the role of the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) should increase in this regard or the Parliament is to introduce new regulations.
Under the circumstances how can the Charter of Journalistic Ethics enhance its influence?
I think the Charter can acquire more influence through co-operation with new Parliament. Media, non-governmental and international organizations should help develop a plan to improve professionalism, ethics and media environment in general.
What recommendations would you to give to the Georgian media representatives?
At the conference organized by the Charter of Journalistic Ethics and EU we agreed on the elaboration of a package of recommendations but ahead of that I can tell you in brief that to attain public trust:
1. Media managers and owners need to develop long-term plans independent from politics;
2. Editors need to have clear objectives and a place for those journalists who make high-grade products;
3. Journalists should maintain their energy and enthusiasm and become better professionals. This is achievable through more studies, in-depth surveys and devotion to the principles of ethical journalism.