Walking the Fine Line
Private space is the space that can be violated by journalists (even if it's the private space of public figures) only in very rare cases. Private space is another universe with feelings, emotions and thoughts that may be incomprehensible for others. A person's private space is a particularly intimate place and therefore it must be thoroughly protected. Faith is also part of that intimate place. Love, which is the part of the faith, is the entity that cannot be measured by scientific definitions and chemical formulas. According to Jung (Carl Gustav): "Religion is the live connection with soul processes, which do not depend on consciousness, but rather take place beyond it in the secret recesses". Therefore nobody has the right to force someone to love "his" God or not love Him at all.
There are several ways of coercion existing in the modern world, one of them is marginalization of an issue - this is something that part of Georgian media, which calls itself the follower of liberal values, is using against the believers. Announcing religion and faith as remnants of the past and representing believers as retrogrades are one of the parts of that form. However, liberalism as a direction is first of all based on freedom of choice. "Liber" is a Latin word meaning "free"; some definitions of liberalism are as follows: philosophical, economic and political science, which is derived from the freedom of individual to manage himself and his property.
Human rights expert Pridon Sakvarelidze describes liberalism in the following manner: "the ideal of liberalism is a society where everyone has the right to act, where the state authorities are limited and their functions are minimal. The fundamental values of liberalism are: personal freedom and personal responsibility of each member of society; freedom of elections and association; division of authority; rule of law; democratic development of society and democratic control of the society over the state; private property, economic freedom, market economy; equality of rights and means of achieving success for every citizen" (Solidaroba magazine #4'06).
Problem that has appeared in Georgian media during the last few years is derived from incorrect understanding of liberalism. Some journalists believe that the church interferes in the secular life of the country and thereby limits the rights of the state and its citizens. The arguments used for proving this very often are insulting to believers. As a result we get a vicious circle within which fighting for liberalism looks like fighting against the believers and vice versa. For example let's take one of the "hottest" topics of May - the events that ensued after one amateur wrote "The Last Sucker".
"The Battle Continues - Orthodox Christians or Liberals" - that was the title of article published by Resonance newspaper (May 8, 2010), which described the confrontation that took place in front of Ilia University. The author and the newspaper used the words "Orthodox Christians" and "Liberals" without inverted commas, which left the impression that there is a real battle going on between the Orthodox Christians and Liberals. That cliché is somewhat neutralized in the article with the following phrase: "... the so called defenders of Christianity were swearing and yelling at the so called liberals" - however, it still can't be regarded as a correction of the mistake made in the title.
Another cliché that we see in that article (and I'd like to talk about it some more) is presented through the words of one of the respondents: "It's all directed by Russian forces, they're fighting against Georgian democratic institutions including universities" - he says, these words most probably mean confrontation between liberalism and everything that is Russian. In this regard another article published in Liberal magazine's issue #30 is also interesting, the article is titled "Forward".
The article is about a youth movement "Forward" and we'd have no questions to the author if not for one paragraph, the author writes: "Despite the evident ideological similarities, the members of Forward movement deny any connection with Russian fascist ideologist Alexander Dugin, who has elaborated an Eurasian doctrine about a united Eurasia in which Russia would be a dominant state and Georgia as well as Ukraine would become its parts".
The author says nothing about what concrete similarities he saw between the ideologies of Forward movement and Dugin; where is the connection between "dominant Russia and its parts Georgia and Ukraine" idea and this youth movement? Correspondingly, one is left with the impression that mentioning Dugin's ideology was necessary to create the connection between the Forward movement and Russia. Currently Forward movement is part of People's Orthodox Christian Movement and Malkhaz Gulashvili is behind that movement, whose attitude towards Russia is already a marginalized topic.
Cliché - whatever is not liberal is Russian is gradually being introduced in Georgian media. That is a somewhat transformed version of another widely established cliché - "Russian agent". Such clichés limit thinking and areas of thought and judgment; therefore the journalist should not be aiming at "simplifying" the issue in such a manner. If we have a fact that would prove our conclusion we must present it, if not we shouldn't be making conclusions based on only our opinions. That is not very serious.
The events that took place in front of Ilia University and then TV station Kavkasia caused many to discuss religion one more time. However, another article published in the same issue of Liberal magazine was especially interesting in that regard, the article was called "Authorities and Church to Make the Choice" (the article was interesting as Liberal magazine is considered to be one of the most balanced outlets of Georgian media). Unfortunately, the article is full of insults leveled against the major part of the society, for example:
"Piousness learnt at rallies and experience in mass prayers have turned the Georgian people into electorate that will vote for any unworthy candidate if his main slogan will be protection of Orthodoxy and Georgian traditions" - this is only a conclusion based on the author's opinion - an assumption that may not come true, however, it's presented as the truth.
"Our citizens don't show any protest even when they're listening to enriched clerics, who're driving around in Jeeps and who're only preaching humility and adherence to Georgian traditions" - these are general phrases, which without concrete examples (which "enriched" clerics? which "Georgian traditions"? Where and when?) only demonstrate the author's annoyance.
"Only outward and superficial aspects are accented - a woman wearing pants can't walk into a church, whereas supermarkets are full of cakes and ice creams intended for people who're fasting" - if we follow that paragraph till the end the church is reproached because in author's opinion it "offers its parish only pseudo-piousness and nothing more". However, it's unclear where is the connection between walking into a church in pants and filling in supermarkets with special cakes and ice creams for people who're fasting.
That is the fine line that is drawn between liberalism and notions about liberalism - while preaching your own values you shouldn't insult the values of others, even if those values are unacceptable to you.
I'd like to discuss one more quote from that article: "Lenin's corners in schools, hospitals, parliament and ministers' offices have been replaced with icons' corners". Anyone can fill in their corners the way they want - that is a more liberal approach I think. But in this case the connection that the author is trying to show between Lenin's corners and icons' corners is more important. Of course it will not form good associations in readers.
Preserving objectiveness is the most difficult task in journalism. In theory you know that you shouldn't be influenced by anyone or anything that your personal views should not make you tendentious that your task is to put the facts and events in correct order and analyze them in an unbiased way. You know it all very well, but you don't always manage to be just an observer and impartial judge. The journalist's professionalism is defined by that - your ability to remain "the other" even when you're dealing with the most personal and painful subject, ability to be an impartial conveyor of the news that is conveyed to the public through you - through the journalist.