Code of Journalistic Ethics (Georgia)
The Constitution of Georgia provides for 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.
A journalist 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.
The prime responsibility of a journalist is to convey information to the public.
1.1 A journalist is obliged not to conceal information whose content and importance is a subject of public interest.
1.2 A 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 ensure equity among the parties.
A journalist 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 assumptions or rumors must be verified.
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. Cutting of texts or any other changes applied to them must not result in distortion or misinterpretation of information.
2.4 A journalist must always declare his identity when dealing with an information source. This principle can be neglected only in case of obtaining exclusive and vitally important information in the public interest that cannot be gained otherwise. (see 3.3)
A journalist must take a particularly careful approach when providing a 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 an editorial office must be published with a note bearing the author’s identity. Besides the letter it must clearly read that the author consents to publications. The editorial staff is free in its decision to publish or to refuse to publish a letter. For this purpose a letter must be considered with close reading, namely determining whether it is of public importance or not.
A journalist must be cautious not to publish reader’s letters including information that insults a third party.
The editorial staff must give an interested person a chance to reply to accusations against him, revealed through the published letter.
Publishing letters of potential readers is misleading the public. If any suspicion exists regarding the origin of the letter, a journalist is obliged to check it.
The editorial staff must safeguard the content of an abridged letter. In addition the staff must advise the author on this decision.
3.1 A journalist must describe facts and events based on actual and reliable evidences. He/she must not conceal 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 the said investigations shed light on vitally important public information, which is not otherwise accessible.
However, the public interest does not justify any illegal action on order to obtain the information.
3.4 Any inaccuracy in 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 presented the information.
A journalist must maintain professional secrecy and the confidentiality of a source providing information. 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 to the public is being planned.
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 impair 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 do his utmost to keep his official duties apart from journalistic responsibilities. The same goes for those public servants who intend to start journalistic activities.
5.3 Publishing material or views under the influence of a third party’s private or financial interests is not justified. Advertisement and editorial material must be clearly distinguished. To avoid any misinterpretations an advertisement must be published in an appropriate form or bearing appropriate comments.
5.4 A journalist’s responsibility before to 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 the private life of an individual and the social environment that he/she lives in. However if an action by a certain individual is connected to the public interests the journalist may consider this question. In such cases a journalist must be cautious not to violate the 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 cause danger to human lives. While describing similar events, it is not justifiable to give the names of suspects and their relatives, or to publish the material enabling these to be identified person. To provide society with information about an event does not necessarily require persons to be named.
This principle does not always apply when a suspect or victim is a public official or celebrity, which gives the situation special importance.
6.2 Reporting subjectively on criminal cases or court trials is inadmissible.
A suspect must not be reported as a criminal offender or companion in crime until it is so proved by the official court decision.
6.3 Special caution must be exercised when reporting juvenile crimes.
The principle of respecting the future of the young limits a journalist in providing juvenile offenders’ names or their photos. This rule also applies to cases when a teenager is a 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 put his professional duties in second place. It is strictly inadmissible to manipulate victims’ feelings.
6.5 It is intolerable to practise racial, national, sexual, religious, physical, political, social or any other form of discrimination
A journalist must avoid indicating any of the above mentioned groups if this is not essential in the clarification of facts and events.
A journalist must be extremely careful in securing individual rights and dignity.
6.6 Plagiarism and unwarranted accusations are inadmissible.