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Tamar Karelidze

Social Network - Public or Private Space?

20.01.2013 17:20

In 2011, a CNN journalist Oktavia Nasri was discharged from her office, apparently by reason of the article published on twitter, that contained the information regarding the death of one of the Hezbollah leaders Hussein Fadlallah. Nasri wrote that she had positive attitude toward the man and was saddened by his death.

This is not the sole incident of journalists discharged from their jobs owing to the statuses pointed out  in social networks. The similar case also took place in Georgia, when two journalists of “Vakho Sanaia’s Reporting”, Giorgi Tukhareli and Giorgi Gabrichidze, were dismissed from work for homophobic and abusive commentaries they had written on Facebook.

Neither American nor Georgian journalists have written anything on the part of the publisher. They used their private accounts in order to express their opinions, but the thing is that other users of social networks subconsciously relate those people to certain media means or publishers.

The majority of society agrees on the concept of social network being a public space. The clear example of that is number of Georgian media-portals utilizing special headings that contain the news in regard to the statuses of celebrities, etc. Hence, a person should be careful at specifying his/her status, and the rule is especially applicable to the public persons.

Journalists are, in this respect, required the greater degree of discretion. It is highly recommended for them to stay neutral in social networks, no matter how important and sensitive the topics are. As when we express our political viewpoints and opinions in improper manner, be it wittingly or unwittingly, we automatically put  great deal of things at stake. And that is extended to our employer media-organization( As you’re on default regarded as the herald of editorial office’s viewpoint), our reputation( it is hard to believe in journalist’s impartiality no matter how good the work s/he publishes is, provided you’re aware of his/her viewpoint. Besides, you may as well lose all your respondents by reason of such statements, some of them highly valuable) and, in some cases, your job may be at stake( As in order to pacify the indignant part of society, media-organization may come to decision of discharging the journalist responsible, and we have quite a few precedents of that).

However, there is a difference in the way of expression. From the standpoint of ordinary reader/viewer, it is hard to seriously regard the journalist who, apart from rudely manifesting his/her opinion, violates the ethical standards as well. As a matter of fact, any such behavior from the part of mass-media representative gives rise to the swell of outstanding resonance.

The last case that marked the flurry following opinions put up by journalist and editor on Facebook, were the statuses of Shorena Shaverdashvili and Tina Kipshidze. They were responding to the interrogation of Beka Gochiashvili. One of them suggested that Gochiashvili’s statement was an effort to pay his debt to “the United National Movement”, while the other stated that she doesn’t consider a man personality who is part of the National Movement or somehow related to it. Those statuses then drawn a long strand numerous opinions on Facebook, until, finally, it all ended up with the apology from part of Shorena Shaverdashvili (a decent move in itself, as not many people have a stomach to apologize for their misdeeds).

Not only in Georgia the code of conduct for the social media isn’t defined precisely, but in the world’s leading organizations as well. The great number of journalists, however, utilize self-censorship as an attempt, as follows from the aforementioned, to avoid putting up flashy opinions in social networks.

The great heed should be paid when it comes to expressing personal viewpoints by well-known public persons, upon which many “bear a grudge.” In comparison with the post-factum apologies, a far better move for all of us would be to preliminary reason out and realize possible consequences of our carelessly expressed opinions on the personal pages of social networks.

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