Can journalists concurrently be civil activists? – over the topic the Liberal magazine journalists held a discussion whose review was later published on the Liberal website.
The magazine’s editorial staff decided to discuss the journalists’ activism-related issue following journalist Eka Chitanava’s statement arguing that the protection of human rights is possible without activism and she disapproves the Liberal turning into activist media.
“In regard to the Watergate scandal journalists made Richard Nixon resign without staging rallies. The rhetoric: “Give us some time, it’s time for new civic activism in our country, instead of “sterile” journalism” is similar to Misha’s rhetoric: “Give us some time. No time for democracy yet, we need authoritarianism right now, we have got to build the country,” Eka Chitanava wrote in the Liberal closed group.
In the course of the discussion the viewpoints split into two, some considered activism as absolutely incompatible with journalism, while others argued in favor of harmless combination of activism and journalism.
According to the Liberal columnist Giorgi Tskhadaia both activities are highly important and the golden mean needs to be found.
“I believe journalists should not be writing on the topics they have extremely emotional linkage with. For instance Tina Kipshide should not be writing about education since she is the member of Laboratory 1918 and this organization conflicts with the TbilisiState University administration,” says Giorgi Tskhadaia. Editors, he thinks, should not be participating in civil activities since they are responsible for editing all of the materials. But here too he can evidently see the difference. Nino Bekishvili, from his viewpoint, should not be involved in civil activities for being directly responsible for editing, unlike Shorena Shaverdashvili who is not directly taking part in writing articles.
Journalist Zura Vardiashvili believes that a journalist can attend the rally and afterwards write an biased article but, from his viewpoint, “the when a reader opens the magazine and reads his name s/he recollects the journalist holding a placard and consequently reliance to the article vanishes. You are a party to him! He no longer trusts you, he loses confidence in you.”
According to Vardiashvili neither editors should be taking part in civil activism “Who is responsible for creating the Liberal’s image? Mostly Shorena Shaverdashvili and in case she is perceived as activist the Liberal magazine is likewise perceived as activist media.
“Journalists should remain being civil activists, that’s essential, keeping away from policy makers,” Nino Bekishvili responds to the aforementioned stance. If a journalist wants to protest something, she says, “reader’s confidence” is no obstacle.
“I was very much displeased reading a status on Facebook: “Liberal turns into a bucket of emotional blogs,” says journalist Tsira Gvasalia. “Why should a journalist take part in the rally?, she questions. There are human right watchdogs, aren’t there? We’d better provide coverage. That’s a great job too, providing coverage also involves highlighting something, doesn’t it?”
Activism, says journalist Malkhaz Chkadua, causes no problem to the journalist, and the Liberal should be wherever the civil activity is.
The discussion comes to an end with Shorena Shavardeashvili’s opinion, stating that dilemma is in place – journalism and activism are two different things… we are not the supporters of any particular party, moreover we are not linked or accountable to any political group. That is to say, when covering events we are not affected by political circumstances, therefore we can be critical in every way.