The issue of religious and ethnic tolerance became especially pressing within media and society in summer 2011. The adoption of so called law on religion led to the actualization of the theme. Expert Merab Basilaia (representative of the non-governmental organization "ALPE”) executed media monitoring of the coverage of the law within the frames of Media Development Foundation, MDF project "Media Monitoring – for Professional and Accountable Media” (the project is supported by Open Society - Georgian Foundation, OSGF). During the monitoring period the following types of complex problems and violations by media covering the adoption of the law on religion by the Parliament were identified:
•In media, minorities are treated as objects of the journalistic material rather than subjects. Except several cases, in TV or radio stories, as well as in print and online publications journalists don’t mention opinions of the representatives of religious confessions, and refer only to the position of the Patriarchy;
•The principle of justice and impartiality is violated as journalists approach the issue from the individual perspective rather than from the principle of diversity. Journalists, who identify themselves as defenders of particular interest, can’t be neutral because in this case they simply represent the side.
•Consideration of religious minorities as a monolithic group without interviewing their representatives is also the violation of professional standard. The only source journalists refer to while covering this issue is the Patriarchy which is the violation of the principle of balance.
•The law adopted for the citizens of Georgia - representatives of various confessions - is discussed by media as a deliberate step towards other countries mainly benefiting Armenia, and journalists focus on Armenian interests against the Georgian interest (for example, "Interests of the Armenian Church are clear, but what interest should Georgian State have?”). Using such expressions media helps to strengthen existing stereotypes and identifies its own citizens with the neighbouring country due to their different ethnic and religious origins, rather than with their own state.
•In addition, minorities are represented as secondary citizens who can not claim equality, as well as the right to demand property regardless whether or not the religious building belongs to their confession.
•Media draws unreasonable comparisons between the adoption of the law and issues not related to the procedures of registration of religious organizations, such as poverty, loss of territories, and the threat of separatism. By identifying granting rights to minorities as internal and external threats media promotes hatred.
•As for discriminative, Armenophobic and hatred inciting expressions, authors of such expressions in some cases are journalists themselves. Sometime media publishes opinions of respondents without informing them on how such expressions might be perceived by minorities. It should be mentioned that greater share of Amenophobia comes to print media, and most stereotypes are mainly related to Armenians.
•The problem of low awareness on the issue also exists. Media is not well informed on the procedure of the registration of religious organizations, similar international practice, and generally on the functioning of the democratic institutions in secular state. In addition to the lack of professionalism, the reason for that is that media is less interested in diversity issues and covers the theme only when it becomes the part of political discussion. Consequently, in such case media voices the attitudes of the radical groups of the society.
The results of the monitoring can be seen in an attached file: