The Board of the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, a non-state, self-regulatory body of journalists, said in its decision regarding the application of Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) against pro-governmental Imedi TV that “an information campaign targeting civil society organizations has been observed on Imedi TV and that its editorial policy clearly focuses on discrediting CSOs and damaging their reputation.”
What did the Charter’s Board consider?
The Board of the Charter of Journalistic Ethics considered the September 11 application of GYLA against Imedi TV, claiming that by its story headlined “A Clan of Wealthy NGOs” aired on September 11, Irakli Chikhladze, the host of a weekly program “Imedis Kvira” violated the principle obliging him to provide accurate information to the public, while journalist Natia Toidze deliberately distorted the facts.
GYLA claimed that the host lied when he said that most of CSOs could not find time for Imedi TV, especially since the chairperson of GYLA had agreed to provide comment to Imedi TV on this and multiple prior occasions.
GYLA also alleged that the headline, which “is a separate journalistic product and has a considerable impact on the viewers’ perception, has not been fact-based and was groundless.” The story provided no opinions by respondents and journalists themselves tried to substantiate why GYLA is “a wealthy and clannish” non-governmental organization.
What was the story about?
The 12-minute story aired on Imedi TV on September 11 headlined “A Clan of Wealthy NGOs” covered the activities by three critical civil society organizations – Georgian Young Lawyers Association, Transparency International – Georgia, and International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) who, as the host claimed, are mainly involved in opposing the government and supporting one part of the opposition.
“This is how they spend their time and energy, having no time to make comments for Imedi TV. Natia Toidze will tell us, based on public facts, what game a clan of wealthy NGOs is playing in Georgia,” the host said.
Later, the journalist notes in the story that the websites of the mentioned CSOs provide scarce information about the ongoing and completed projects worth several million, while the information on project spending “is not transparently available.”
In addition, the story involves the following assessments regarding CSOs:
- “It is difficult to say whether the three most influential and now wealthiest Georgian civil society organizations spend donor funds for specific purposes, but one thing is clear – they got involved in politics as informal players and even try to manage the processes in the opposition wing. They demand the government’s resignation and the formation of a technical government; they attend the rallies and voice political demands.”
- “They write reports with donors citing them in their own reports and the public hears fabricated stories like how Bidzina Ivanishvili seized Georgia and how exemplary the National Movement was, with its amazing democracy and reforms.”
- “There is no margin, and it becomes more difficult to distinguish where the National Movement ends and where the role of CSOs with multimillion funding begins in Georgian political reality.”
- “It is difficult to distinguish between the statements made by the National Movement leaders and CSO members.”
- “The so-called “influential”, wealthy CSOs resemble the clan more and more.”
The story also involves critical assessments voiced by the Georgian Dream representatives against CSOs, whereas only one comment by Nika Simonishvili, head of GYLA, is offered. The journalist notes that the two remaining organizations did not answer her calls.
The Board’s conclusions
The Board concluded that the Imedi TV story really violated the principles voiced by GYLA.
“The host of the program has to assume an ethic responsibility to separate a fact and unverified information, to disseminate only verified information, and respect the right of the public to receive only accurate information,” the Board said in its decision.
“Formal balance cannot overweigh the accusation, which can cause irreparable harm to a person/organization,” it said, adding that the story lacks verification and sources.
The Board clarified that the journalist knew that she was disseminating inaccurate information. “It is seen in the story how the head of GYLA tells the journalist that it is possible to search a detailed information about spending and then agree on the interview, but the latter still claims that ‘the information about the financed projects is scarce, and it is unclear on what specific purposes the money was spent’.”