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. Journalism is the main tool for realising these rights.
Anyone representing the media should be aware of his/her responsibilities to society and secure their right as part of society - that of discovering information and revealing the truth.
A journalist must honestly and properly fulfil the duties undertaken by him/her. "A Code of Journalistic Ethics" has been drafted to state the basic principles of journalistic ethics. It does not carry the force of law.
The prime responsibility of a journalist is to disclose information to the public.
1.1 A journalist must not 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. When presenting controversial views, he/she must maintain a balance between the opposing sides to insure fairness among the parties.
A journalist must always protect the right to criticise 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 checked, in order not to distort information. Any presumptions or rumours 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 When reviewing material provided by various newspapers or any other sources of information, the main content of the information must not be altered. The editing of texts or any other changes applied to them must not result in distortion or misinterpretation of information.
2.4 A journalist must always show his identity when dealing with an information source. This principle can be ignored only when endeavouring to obtain exclusive information vitally important to the public interest, that cannot be obtained otherwise. (see 3.3)
A journalist must be particularly careful when providing the summary of an interview so as not to violate the rights of an interviewee as co-author in any way.
2.5 Readers' feedback . Any letter sent to the editorial office must be published with a note bearing the author's identity. Besides it must be clear that the author agrees on publishing it. The editorial board is free in its decision to publish a letter or not. Any letter must be closely examined so as to determine whether it is of public importance or not.
A journalist must be cautious not to publish readers’ letters including information that insults a third party.
The editorial staff must give the relevant person a chance to reply to accusations against him/her, included in a published letter.
Publishing letters of potential readers is misleading public . In case any suspicion exists regarding the origin of the letter, a journalist is obliged to check it.
As much as possible, the editorial staff must respect the content of an edited letter. In addition the staff must advise the author on their decision.
3.1 A journalist must describe facts and events based on actual and reliable evidence. 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 a journalistic investigation secretly can be permitted only in special cases. Especially if the said investigations cast light on vitally important public information which is not otherwise accessible.
However the public interest does not justify any illegitimate action in order to obtain the information.
3.4 Any inaccurate statement made in a news report or in comments expressed (when it turns out to be so), must be immediately corrected through the same informational source or by the same journalist who supplied the information.
A journalist must keep professional secrecy about 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 the case when some criminal action or any other act that carries a risk for the public is being planned .
5.1 A journalist must fulfil 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 independence of journalistic activities. Any representative of the mass media must resist anyone who restricts his/her independence. This principle applies to the 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 for a governmental body should, to the greatest possible extent, try to set apart his official duties from his journalistic responsibilities. The same goes for those public servants who intend to start journalistic activities.
5.3 Publishing material or point of views under the influence of a third party's private or financial interests is not justified. Advertisement and editorial material must be distinguished clearly. To avoid any misinterpretation, an advertisement must be published in an appropriate form or bearing an appropriate label.
5.4 A journalist's responsibility to society limits his/her abilities to resort to veiled advertising through editorial material.
5.5 The principle of independence and non-bias 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 interest 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 such events, it is not justifiable to indicate the names of suspects, and of their relatives, or to publish material making it possible to identify these persons. To provide society with the information about an event does not necessarily require to name such persons.
This principle does not always apply when the suspect or victim is a public official or a 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 a criminal or accomplice of a criminal until it is settled by an official court decision.
6.3 Special caution must be applied when reporting juvenile crimes.
A principle of respect for the future of the young limits a journalist in providing juvenile offenders' names or their photos. This rule also applies to the cases when the victim is a teenager.
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 his professional duties to the back burner. 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 mentioned characteristics if it is not essential in clarification of facts and events.
A journalist must be extremely careful in protecting individual rights and dignity.
6.6 Plagiarism and unwarranted accusations are inadmissible.
A code prepared by the Independent Association of Georgian journalists (IAGJ) in March 2001.
IAGJ is the member of International Federation of Journalists.
Adapted by The FINANCIAL on 10 January 2007.