According to the Georgian Law on Broadcasting every broadcaster shall establish an effective mechanism for self regulation to respond to citizens’ complaints while in line with the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters the broadcaster shall examine the complaint of the person affected by or mentioned in a programme. During the pre-election period the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics conducted the monitoring of TV companies Over the identified violations complaints were lodged to the self-regulatory bodies, none of them were examined though.
Are currently applied self-regulatory mechanism effective? what problems are in place in regard to the examination of citizens’ complaints? and what are the ways to deal with the drawbacks? – over the given questions Media.ge obtained an interview from Tamar Kordzaia, Executive Director, Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics.
How many complaints were lodged by the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics to self-regulatory bodies in the pre-election period?
Within the framework of the pre-election monitoring we lodged six complaints to six different televisions includingRustavi 2, Imedi, TV 9, Maestro, Kavkasia and Channel 25. Four of them thought we were not an interested party and rejected to examine our complaint. Kavkasia and Channel 25 provided no response at all.
You disagree with the argument and consider yourself as interested party?
Their arguments are absolutely unacceptable. During the pre-election period balanced coverage of news does not concern only parties, it is first and foremost within the interests of citizens watching TV. Viewers should be delivered unbiased reporting to make an informed choice.
Seemingly our broadcasters fail to take it into account. They do not think that the citizen is not the main addressee when covering pre-election campaign. According to the Constitution of Georgia legal and natural persons enjoy same rights, accordingly the Charter was authorized to lodge the complaint of the kind and assert, within the framework of the self-regulatory body that the delivery of unbiased information is a right of every citizen.
According to the Georgian Law on Broadcasting the broadcaster shall establish an effective self-regulatory mechanism. How effective is the self-regulatory body operating today in the televisions?
Currently applied legal framework virtually does not work since there is no mechanism to get it work. The self-regulatory commission can leave any citizen’s complaint unanswered and no one is going to hold it responsible.
We do understand that freedom of expression is of a very high value and none of the agencies should have a right to interfere. This is to say, if there are problems in place in regard to impartiality and accuracy they should be tackled without court.
With the self-regulatory mechanism operating effectively many disputes against media might not be even submitted to court.
Self-regulatory body needs to exist to at least secure higher standard of freedom of expression. It is vital since at the self-regulatory level media itself settles interrelation with its audience with whom it might encounter problems at court.
If media comprehends well the vital importance of self-regulatory mechanism in terms of freedom of expression only then we can say that in Georgia there is responsible media that admits that it serves every single person, not the interests of certain individuals.
Do you think that efficiency of self-regulatory mechanism is in direct connection with responsible media?
Of course. When media responsibility is low it finds very simple to win court dispute.
Is legal regulations the issue? Does the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters fail to regulate this issue?
The Code is quite normal. Unfortunately, notwithstanding the high level of freedom not every broadcaster feels responsible to the society. It would be interesting to revise this very section and impose some kind of responsibility for case-related violations.
Should the notion of interested person boost?
It’s a matter of importance but it is a way more important than in case of the dismissal of the complaint there is no mechanism applied to show respect to me as a citizen, a viewers, let alone forcing the examination of the case.
The self-regulatory commission members are the broadcaster’s employees, isn’t that a drawback?
That’s a problem too. The commission member should be independent. Therefore this issue might turn into the matter of discussion. We feel lack of reliance when talking to the director of the TV company having breached standard.
You probably remember Vazagahsvilebi’s family case vs public broadcaster, when the decision issued by the appeals body was disapproved by the news outlet. What tools are applied under the circumstances?
It’s a classical example of the self-regulatory mechanism facing deadlock. But it is not the problem of solely the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters since the public broadcaster has got its own code and adherence to ethical standards shall be set in the labor contracts. When the news program dares to disagree with the decision issued by the appeals body, it’s an internal problem. The drawback should be dealt with in the internal regulative acts so that none of TVs encounters deadlock.
How does the foreign good practice look in relation to self-regulatory bodies. What are the positive precedents?
Different systems are applied. In Britain BBC has got its own self-regulatory mechanism and there is no press regulatory body at all, which is very effective and considerably discharges courts in this regard. The decision passed by them are mandatory to every broadcaster.
There is another model according to which every broadcaster has got its ombudsman. They receive thousands of letters from citizens and respond to all of them. Unfortunately there is no such communication between broadcasters and citizens.