Georgia – Professional Standards of Media (2003)

Professional Standards of Media drafted by Georgian reporters and editors in 2003 in preparation for the establishment of a voluntary press council.

It is the right of an individual to receive timely, accurate and correct information.

It is a duty of a journalist, to deliver truthful, objective and credible information to the public.

While performing the duties he/she assumes by virtue of that profession before the public, a journalist shall respect the standards of professional ethics.

Major provisions
Distinguishing information, conjecture, and comment
When providing information to the public, a journalist shall clearly distinguish between news, conjecture and comment by a third party.

Sources of information
When a source agrees to supply information for publication only under condition of remaining unidentified, the journalist shall respect professional confidentiality even when such a commitment may cause a problem to him/her.

If it is confirmed that the source has intentionally and deliberately misled a journalist, this principle of confidentiality may be ignored.

The source of information may be driven by biased motives, therefore it is important for a journalist to assess his information source in a critical way.

Professional standards require a scrutiny of facts with due diligence by using other independent sources. In the case, when it is impossible to confirm the validity of information, specific reservations will be made as the information is disseminated.

The identification of a source enhances the credibility of a piece of information, but should not conflict with a commitment to maintain the anonymity of a source.

Right to reply and correct erroneous information
An individual, subject to criticism, enjoys the right to reply and inform the public of his personal opinion on the given issue.

Erroneous information shall be corrected as soon as the knowledge of errors is received. Correction shall be made in such a form as will allow the audience easily to notice it.

A journalist shall mention a person’s ethnic, racial, political, religious, social identity, colour and sexual orientation only if that information is directly relevant to the issue being covered.

Respect for privacy
The media shall respect the private life of individuals.

Information on a person’s private life shall not be made public without his/her consent unless that is in the public interest.

Journalists shall particularly respect the private lives of children and of those individuals that are unable realize the consequences that may result from their statements or actions.

Journalists shall exercise particular caution when covering matters related to an individual’s health.

If an individual is involved in making decisions of vital significance for the public or can influence the decision making process on such issues, it is acceptable to disseminate information on his/her health if it has a bearing on the public interest.

Journalists shall always consider the interests of victims and their next-of-kin, when  they report on accidents and/or crime: they shall not identify a victim without prior notice to his/her next-of-kin.

Information on illegal acts committed by juveniles shall not impede the process of their social rehabilitation. In such cases, names must be shortened.

Obtaining information
A journalist shall obtain information only by straightforward means. The use of surreptitious means can be justified only by overriding considerations of public interest, when there are no other means available for obtaining the information.

Reporting court proceedings and crime
When reporting on court proceedings, a journalist shall remain impartial and shall ensure equal presentation of the points of view of the parties in the case.

A journalist shall make a clear distinction between assumptions and proven guilt. A suspect shall not be announced to be guilty until the court’s judgment on the given matter (establishing his/her guilt) enters into legal effect.

Professional ethics call for the need to report the outcome of court proceedings that have been highlighted by media prior to the publication of the final judgment on the matter by the court.

The journalist shall not identify the victims of sexual crimes without their consent.

Personal gain
It is totally contrary to professional standards for a journalist or members of his/her family to accept any remuneration for publishing or for concealing information from the public.

Conflict of interest
A journalist’s professional activity is incompatible with active political work, advertising or public relations, as is co-operation with law-enforcement agencies, or any other activity, that may jeopardise the credibility of either a journalist or the profession.

Even, if the matter is not covered by copyright, when a piece of information has already been reported by a journalist, professional standards demand that the source be identified.

Journalistic material and advertising shall be clearly distinguished.

Public opinion poll
When reporting on public opinion polls, it is essential to indicate the method used in the research, the number of respondents, to indicate the clear wording of all the questions, the likelihood of erroneous information, the time when the research was conducted and to identify  the person or organization which commissioned the research as well as the agency that carried it out.

Photo illustrations
Images/illustrations appended to specific information shall be accompanied by captions to help differentiate them from archive, symbolic or photo-edited material.

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