Decision #001

Tbilisi, March 25, 2010
Chairman of the Council:
Eter Turadze
Members of the Council:
Eliso Chapidze
Khatuna Gogashvili
Nino Zuriashvili
Merab Merkviladze
Irakli Absnadze
Maia Metskhvarishvili
Lia Chakhunashvili.

Claimants: Physical entities – a, ch, p, r, p
Member: Natia Koberidze - journalist
Descriptive paragraph
On March 18, 2010 the physical entities A, Ch and P.G. filed two separate pleadings with the Journalistic Ethics Charter Council of Georgia. On March 19, 2010 the physical entity R.P. filed with the Council the pleading of the similar content.
The claimants demanded that the Council of Ethics considered the violation of the provision of the Journalistic Ethics Charter on the part of Natia Koberidze, journalist of a TV Company “Imdedi”
In order to validate the relevance of the allegation, the pleadings in due procedure were transmitted to three members of the Charter. The pleadings were deemed relevant for consideration.
In accordance with the pleadings, the claimants asserted that Natia Koberidze, who is also the member of the Journalistic Ethics Charter of Georgia, violated the Journalistic Ethics Charter. One of the claimants points to the violation of Article I of the Charter, which stipulates that “a journalist shall have respect for the truth and the right of the community to receiving the precise and verified information”

The claimant R.P. points out that “on the 13th of March the TV Company “Imedi” aired the so called “simulation” followed by a Talk Show. In doing so, the journalist overrode the “truth and the right of the community to receiving the precise and verified information”. The claimant deems that Natia Koberidze violated the journalistic ethical norms recognized by the provisions of the Charter. As long as the claimant had filed the pleading with the Council in writing, the Council deemed it irrelevant to hear the claimant’s verbal explanation at the Council meeting.
The Council offered Natia Koberidze to participate in the proceedings of the Council, where she would be given the opportunity to come up with her position and arguments concerning the alleged violations of the provisions of the Charter and to respond to the allegations contained in the pleading of the claimant.
Natia Koberidze rejected the offer of the Council, but expressed readiness to respond in writing to the Council’s questions through the electronic mail.
The members of the Council transmitted comprehensive questions to Natia Koberidze and after having received her response, brought to her attention three additional questions.
In her response provided to the Council, Natia Koberidze denies the violation of the norms of he Charter on her part. She emphasizes that right before the program went on the air, she announced to the public that the footage was a simulation reflecting the possible development of events in Georgia in the future. She also confirmed that she was the co-author of the program and believed there should have been a warning subtitle as log as the footage was shown to the public. She added that she had not been informed that such a subtitle would be withdrawn from the screen. Responding to the question concerning the usage of the archive materials in the program, she said the following. “When the footage is from the archive, it should be displayed on the screen. As to why this rule was not followed, please ask the authors of the “Chronicle””.
Natia Koberidze admitted that the preparation of the program about the possible future threats was the idea of her team as well, though she brushed off her responsibility for the “Chronicle” part of the program. She also noted that “In general, here I see only the problem of the subtitles. If the public had been aware that the used quotes did not belong to the diplomats, but was the idea of the journalists, there would be no grounds for any argument on this matter.”
Responding to the additional questions Natia Koberize said she hadn’t known anything about the absence of the subtitles and never even paid the special attention to that matter. With regard to the whole simulation she explained that the authors had merged two projects and everyone was responsible for their own part. She said she was accountable only for the Talk Show and clarified her opinion: “I knew that the absence of the subtitles would be surely harmful, though I was confident that the subtitles would be duly displayed on the screen. I was just concerned that the chronicle itself would be nothing but ridiculous and cheap, having no idea that the public would be mislead and shocked.” Natia Koberidze confirmed that she saw the simulation one and a half hours before the program went on the air.

Based on the obtained information, as well as the assessment provided by the parties, the Council deems the following:
1.Three physical entities filed the pleadings with the Council. According to Article 6 “of the regulation of the conduct of affairs of the Council” the pleadings were recognized relevant for the consideration. Notwithstanding the fact that all three pleadings were cleared for relevance, two out of three pleadings (claimants: A. Ch. and P.G.) did not meet the requirements of Subparagraph G) of Paragraph 4 of Article 6 “of the regulation of the conduct of affairs of the Council”. Namely, the pleading does not specify the provision, which the claimant deems to have been violated.

The Council does not constitute a mechanism which abstractly holds deliberations on the possible violation of each norm of the Charter of Ethics. Nor does it begin inquiry in the possible violation caused by the activity of any of the Council’s member. It is contrary to the regulation of the conduct of affairs of the Council and goes beyond the authority of the Council. Proceeding from the above mentioned, the Council has no authority to make a judgment whether the violation of the charter was committed.
2. The Council has the authority to consider a case, only in the event that a journalist, who is accused of the violation by the claimant, should be a member of “The Charter of the Journalistic Ethics” – a non commercial juridical entity. The Council deems that Natia Koberidze is the founding member of “The Charter of the Journalistic Ethics”. Thus, she assumes the responsibility for abiding by the rules and regulations adopted by the Charter of the Journalistic Ethics of Georgia. Namely, in accordance with the paragraph “d” of Article 5.2 of the Charter, Natia Koberidze, as the member of The Charter of the Journalistic Ethics, has the responsibility for abiding by the norms and objectives of the Charter in her professional activities. Respectively, the Council is authorized to hold deliberations whether she is dedicated to respect the ethical standards of a journalist.
3 .In order to make a lucid assessment of the alleged violation of Article I of the Charter of Journalistic Ethics on the part of Natia Koberidze, it is necessary for the Council to clearly define what is implicit in the content of the mentioned Article, which stipulates that “a journalist shall have respect for the truth and the right of the community to receiving the precise and verified information”
In accordance with the definition, the responsibility of a member of the Charter, called upon to “respect the truth”, is not only to be passive (not to misinform the public deliberately), but to do all in his or her power to provide public with truthful and verified information At times a journalist may not be in a position to say the truth, but the word “respect” in this case, indicates to a journalist’s effort.
4. The Council has concluded the following factual circumstances: On March 13, 2010 in its newsreel the TV Company “Imedi” telecasted the “simulation” which was part of the “special report” program. The “simulation” lasted for about 30 minutes. Right before the program went on the air, a journalist announced that the program was a simulation, though until the very end of the program nobody reminded the viewers about this fact. More to it, the program was not accompanied by the subtitles warning the public that the whole sequence was the simulation. The archive material which complemented the program also went on without any indication as to where it had come from. All this mislead the public (especially those who had not watched the program from the very beginning) and instilled the panic among the population.
5. The Council refused to accept Natia Koberidze’s assumption that she was not responsible for the “chronicle part of the program” The whole program was the “special report”, therefore the “simulation” was the integral part of the whole program and could not exist separately. The Council accepts the program as a whole, from the very beginning to the end and the author of this program is fully responsible for its every sequence. As Natia Koberidze states in the beginning of the program, the chronicle of the possible future development offered the experts of the “special report” the news report about the worst day. The “simulation” as part of the whole program, was used by Natia Koberidze for the discussion. Thus, regardless who had prepared the “simulation”, Natia Koberidze was fully responsible for the absence of the subtitles.
6. One can infer from the response transmitted by Natia Koberidze to the Council that the latter admits that the permanent warning subtitle was the most important aspect and that its absence would have harmed he viewers. The telecast, which was viewed by Natia Koberidze one and a half hours before the program went on the air, did not have any subtitles; in the beginning of the program Natia Koberidze welcomed the viewers, her guests and carried on with the program.
During the whole period of time Natia Koberidze was I the studio, watching the simulation together with her guests. Consequently she could easily notice the absence of the subtitles and check the reason with the technical team. Natia Koberidze states that she did not pay attention to that matter (The simulation lasted for about 30 minutes). It means that she did nothing to put a stop to misinformation emanating from the program co-produced by her and prevent the harm that the program inflicted on its audience.
7. Although this matter has no decisive role for making a judgment, the Council deems Natia Koberidze’s statement ungrounded asserting she had not known the decision of the management that the program would be telecasted without the subtitles. Responding to the Council’s question whether who had decided to air the program without the subtitle, Natia Koberidze makes a comment: “All these questions have been clarified in the Georgian media by the Chief of the Channel. See news magazine “Liberal” .Natia Koberidze indicates to Giorgi Arveladze’s interview (“Liberal”, N23, 2010; P.23), where the latter states the following: “We discussed the question of the subtitles. It was decided that there would not be any and I assume the full responsibility for that decision”
If we take this comment for granted, the decision about the withdrawal of the warning subtitle must have been known to the TV staff way before the program went on the air. The question of the warning subtitle believed to be so important to the co-producer of the program arising at the same time the heated discussion at the channel, most probably would have been brought to the attention of the author, as well as the host and the management which would have informed her about this issue.
If we assume that the information was withheld fro the journalist, she should have voiced her protest against the management which to the beast of our knowledge did not take place.
8. The Council notes that when the journalist’s position on ethical questions differs from that of the management, the journalist may ignore the orders from the above and resent any interference.
The first and foremost principle of the Charter calls upon a journalist that the latter go public with his or her problem, or separate from the management and publicly state about that move.
Proceeding from the above mentioned, and guided by Article I of the “Charter of the Journalistic Ethics”, rules and regulations of the “Charter of the Journalistic Ethics of Georgia” and by Articles 6, 12, 13, 14, 15 of the” rules of conduct of affairs of the Council”, decides to
1. Refuse the claimants: and P.G in the fulfillment of their pleading
2. Satisfy the pleading of the claimant R.P. and recognize the violation of Article I of the Charter of the Journalistic Ethic of Georgia on the part of Natia Koberidze
3. Make public this decision and displayed on the Council blog

Chairman of the Council
Eter Turadze

Members of the Council
Eliso Chapidze
Khatuna Gogashvili
Nino Zuriashvili
Merab Merkviladze
Irakli Absnadze
Maia Metskvarishvili
Lia Chakhunashvili