Georgia – Independent Association of Georgian Journalists (2001)

This Code of Journalistic Ethics was prepared by the Independent Association of Georgian Journalists in March 2001.

In this document all internationally recognized principles of journalistic profession are taken into consideration.

The Constitution of Georgia provides the guarantee of Freedom of Speech, including freedom of expression, the distribution of opinions and the obtaining and publishing of information. The journalist is the main tool for realizing these rights.

Anyone representing the media should be aware of their responsibilities to society and secure their right as part of society – to discover information and learn the truth.

Journalists must honestly and properly fulfill the duties undertaken by him/her. “A Code of Journalistic Ethics” has been created to secure the basic principles of journalistic ethics. It does not carry the force of law.

1. Truth
The prime responsibility of a journalist is to disclose information to the public.

1.1 Journalists are obliged not to conceal information whose content and importance is a subject of public interest.

1.2 Journalist must publish views that may contradict his/her own opinions. While presenting controversial views he/she must maintain a balance between the opposing sides to insure equity among the parties.

2. Objectivity
Journalists must always protect the right to criticize and make comments in a reasonable and fair manner.

2.1 Informative materials of any type (video, audio, text, photo, etc.) should be carefully and closely examined, in order not to distort information. Any presumptions or rumours must be checked.

2.2 Non-documented illustrations, photo and video modification, or any other alterations that might mislead the public must carry an appropriate explanatory note.

2.3 While reviewing material provided by various newspapers or any other informational sources the main content of the information must not be altered. Minimization of texts or any other changes applied to them must not result in distortion or misinterpretation of information.

2.4 The journalist must always represent his identity when dealing with information source. This principle can be neglected only in case of obtaining exclusive and vitally important information falling into public interests that cannot be gained otherwise. (see 3.3)

Journalists must take particularly careful approach when providing summary of an interview not to violate the rights of an interviewee as a co-author in any way.

2.5 Readers’ feedback
Any letter sent to editorial office must be published with the note bearing an author’s identity. Besides the letter must clearly read that the author agrees on publishing. Editorial is free in its decision to publish or deny publishing a letter. In this purpose a letter must be considered on close reading, namely determining whether it is of public importance or not.

Journalists must be cautious not to publish readers’ letters including information that insults the third party.

Editorial staff must give a chance to an interested person to reply to accusations made against him, revealed through the published letter.

Publishing letters of potential readers is misleading the public. In case any suspicion exists regarding the origin of the letter, a journalist is obliged to check it.

Editorial staff must maximally keep the content of a miniaturized letter. In addition the staff must advise the author on this decision.

3. Honesty
3.1 A journalist must describe facts and events based on actual and reliable evidences. He/she must not conceal the information or misinterpret it.

3.2 A journalist must avoid illegal ways of obtaining information, photos, and news.

3.3 Carrying out journalistic investigation secretly can be permitted only in special cases, especially if said investigations cast light on vitally important public information, which is not otherwise accessible. However, public interest does not justify any illegitimate action in order to obtain the information.

3.4 Any inaccuracy made during providing information or making comments (if in the future it is regarded so), must be immediately corrected through the same informational source or by the same journalist who offered the information.

4. Confidentiality
A journalist must keep professional secrecy and a source providing information confidentially. According to this principle a journalist must keep his/her promise given to the information source. This promise can be broken only in case if any criminal action or any other action carrying risk for public is being planned.

5. Independence
5.1 A journalist must fulfill his/her professional duties without allowing any third parties to interfere. Namely, he/she must not be influenced by government officials or any other bodies that can alter the contents of journalistic material or impact on the independence of journalistic activities. Any representative of the mass media is obliged to resist anyone who restricts their independence. This principle applies to cases when facts and events are misinterpreted or distorted by the head of the institution where the journalist works (his/her employer).

5.2 A journalist working simultaneously in a governmental body should try to maximally set apart his official duties from journalistic responsibilities. The same goes to those public servants who intend to start journalistic activities.

5.3 Publishing material or point of views under the influence of the third party’s private or financial interests is not justified. Advertisement and editorial material must be distinguished clearly. To avoid any misinterpretations an advertisement must be published in an appropriate form or bearing an appropriate comments.

5.4 A journalistic responsibility before the society limits his/her abilities to resort to veiled advertising through editorial material.

5.5 The principle of independence and non-tendentiousness restricts a journalist from accepting any gift that can affect his/her professional freedom.

6. Respect for human rights
A journalist must respect a private life of an individual and social environment that he/she lives in. However if an action made by a certain individual is connected to the public interests the journalist may consider this question. In such cases journalists must be cautious not to violate rights of other interested individuals.

6.1. A journalist must be careful in describing any criminal, or tragic events. He/she must try not to create danger for human lives. While describing similar events, it is not justifiable to indicate names of suspects, and their relatives, or publish the material enabling to clearly identify these persons. To provide the society with the information about an event it does not necessarily require to name said persons. This principle does not always apply when suspect or victim is a public official or celebrity that gives the situation special importance.

6.2 Reporting subjectively on criminal case or court trial is inadmissible. A suspect must not be reported as criminal offender or companion in crime until it is approved by the official court decision.

6.3 A special caution must be applied when reporting juvenile crimes. A principle of respecting the future of the young limits a journalist in providing juvenile offenders’ names or their photos. This rule also applies to the cases when a teenager is the victim.

6.4 A journalist must be particularly careful during disasters or any other national calamity. In such cases he/she must give priority to saving human lives, and shift the professional duties to the second place. It is strictly inadmissible to manipulate victims’ feelings.

6.5 It is intolerable to practice racial, national, sexual, religious, physical, political, social or any other form of discrimination. A journalist must avoid indicating any of the above mention groups if it is not essential in clarification of facts and events. A journalist must be maximally careful in securing individual rights and dignity.

6.6 Plagiarism and unwarranted accusations are inadmissible.

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