The Media Development Foundation (MDF) and Alpe Foundation express concern about a report aired on 15:00, 18:00 and 21:00 news programs of Rustavi 2 TV company, covering a killing of wife by husband in a jealous rage on 20 March.
The concern is especially deep given that Rustavi 2 is a leading TV channel in the country, largely influencing public opinion and journalistic practice.
The mentioned report was nowhere near journalistic ethic and professional standards and violated a number of provisions of the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters.
Article 13 of the Code requires that "broadcasters shall provide reliable and accurate information, shall not report any untrue or misleading information” (13.2). However, the accusation of the murderer’s mother of encouraging the killing based on some comments of her colleagues from kindergarten and a segment of parents of children as well as based on signatories of a letter demanding her dismissal from the job, cannot be assessed otherwise than misleading and an attempt to judge a person. This was compounded by a comment of a journalist saying that "the murderer’s mother has not left her job yet” and a comment by a parent about her mental state.
In this report, Rustavi 2 also breached subparagraph a), paragraph 1 of Article 50, which says that when reporting crime, broadcasters should "avoid creating unfounded panic, spreading gossips and unfounded assumptions which may cause irreparable damage to an individual’s reputation or legal interests.” Pursuant to subparagraph b) of the same paragraph broadcasters should "rely on findings by the investigative authorities and experts, except when broadcasters conduct their own journalistic investigation which reveals ambiguity, contradictions, or inactivity of the official investigation and have gathered sufficient information to make a reliable journalistic evaluation.” The author of the report has not observed any of the requirements of quoted paragraph and without any theory of investigative bodies or expertise offered subjective assessments, thereby spreading gossips and unfounded assumptions.
Rustavi 2 also disregarded requirements of Article 35 set forth in the Code of Conduct to ensure privacy. This Article requires from broadcasters to obtain consent for filming or recording in schools, hospitals, and other specific establishments from the relevant authority as well as from any person being filmed "unless not obtaining consent is justified in the public interest.” No such public interests existed in covering the family’s tragedy. Even more, the mother-in-law begged crying the TV crew not to film her and had no other way but to hide away from a video camera. According to Article 35, broadcasters shall not film individuals suffering a personal tragedy without their consent not only in a private but also in a public place.
Paragraph 2, Article 55 of the Code of Conduct prohibits broadcasters to broadcast material that justifies or condones "dangerous or anti-social behavior and may encourage others towards committing similar actions.” The 26 March report in Rustavi 2 news program, which covered the killing, can be regarded precisely as such and be even assessed as a sort of encouragement of lynching a person.
MDF and Alpe Foundation call on Rustavi 2 to respect the reputation of a person, refrain from spreading gossips and emotionally loaded assessments and to honor the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters and professional standards of journalism because by unprofessional behavior media can cause an irreparable harm to a person.
27 March 2013