Charter of Journalistic Ethics Condemns Authorities Interference in Media

The non-governmental organization “Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics” has issued a statement in response to OC Media‘s article, which said that the Speaker of Parliament wrote a complaint letter to their donor following their decision not to publish his Op-ed. The organization is calling upon the ruling party to cease the persecution of independent and impartial media outlets and instead, advocate for the protection and advancement of free media.

According to the Charter, this incident is further evidence of the government’s attempts to undermine press freedom. The Charter Council stresses that media outlets have the inherent right to refuse to publish certain content that violates their established standards and editorial guidelines. They further stress that the editors of OC Media were forced to make the decision based only on the title and first paragraph, and note that they were under no obligation to grant permission for publication without first reviewing the whole material.

Response of the Speaker of the Parliament

In a continuation to the episode, Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili published a lengthy response to the OC Media article regarding the incident. He called the OC Media article “an illustrative case of why and how the self-styled ‘critical media’ in Georgia discredits itself beyond repair, losing trust of the public and ending up mostly speaking to each other or their own closed bubble”.

According to Papuashvili, after OC Media published the aforementioned article, Papuashvili sent a response letter to the editor and they mutually agreed that it would be published separately on their media platform, but the editors included the letter as part of an article, which, in Papuashvili’s words: “broke not only a simple rule of journalistic integrity, refusing to publish a response to their piece, but also violated the trust that should exist in normal human to human relations, which is unprecedented even for the polarized Georgian media”[OC has since apologized for the misunderstanding and updated their article accordingly].

Papuashvili, in his response letter, wrote that even though this is an “insignificant case with a less than important news outlet,” he is bringing these details to light because media freedom is “very important to the Georgian Dream government.”

In his letter the Parliament’s Speaker emphasized the importance of media freedom in Georgia and the Georgian Dream party’s role in fostering a diverse and free media environment over the last decade. He noted that OC Media “benefits from Georgia’s vibrant media landscape, distinct from the “controlled media environments of the past”.

Shalva Papuashvili stated that “commitment to the diversity and freedom of opinion” was the reason he was inspired to write the Op-Ed in the first place. He notes that his pieces are offered to many media outlets, and his “goodwill gesture” of offering them to OC Media, which “occupies an infinitesimally small space in Georgian media and is virtually unknown to the public,” was to develop cooperation with them, even though their “blunt and near-automatic critical reaction to any of Georgian government’s decisions and policies has long been apparent”.

In addition, Papuashvili stresses that the refusal to publish the OP-Ed proves OC Media‘s “intolerance of the alternative opinion”. He found the reasoning behind the refusal questionable, noting in particular that the editor rejected the piece because he found it contradictory to the “actions of the Georgian Dream government”. Papuashvili stated that OC Media doesn’t have the “authority of supreme judgement of what represents the ultimate truth and genuine reality” and that its decision is far from professional journalism, “especially when OC Media tries to posit itself as a guardian of integrity, justice, and inclusivity”.

Most importantly, the Speaker insisted that OC Media had “misinterpreted” his previous letter to the donor, which was only intended to “inform” the organization of OC Media‘s “questionable journalistic approach.” He notes that the media used its “typical skewed reporting” to turn the “very appropriate letter” into a clear attack on free media. He pointed out that “editorial independence should not be confused with censorship” and stated that in order for the media to best serve its readers, it should allow for “alternative points of view”.

“The rest of your article is the usual litany of unsupported accusations against the Government, copying the message boxes of Georgia’s radical opposition parties, while, at the same time, miraculously hoping to position yourselves as an unbiased media outlet. Unfortunately, this malpractice is not exclusive to your outlet but seems a universal and very regrettable trend,” – reads Papuashvili’s statement.

Concluding his statement, the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament emphasized that OC Media’s “editorial independence and freedom of expression will be guaranteed and protected by the Georgian state” and wished the outlet “to aspire for better journalistic standards”.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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