On April 19, at 13:00 the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) provided the live broadcast of the Holy Fire Easter ceremony with TV commentary of the event offered by representatives of Orthodox clergy.
The undersigned organizations of this complaint believe that by comments made during the live broadcast the GPB violated a number of provisions of the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting as well as the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters and the GPB's in-house Code of Conduct.
While commenting the religious ceremony, a cleric talked about the Anti-Discrimination Law which the Parliament of Georgia passed in its first reading and in this light, he made discriminatory statements about LGBT persons and used offensive terminology ("perverted relationship"). Comments indicated that equalizing sexual minority with ethnic and religious minorities, including their labour rights, is unacceptable for the Orthodox Church and the adoption of the law will end up in confrontation between citizens.
Statements made by the cleric commentator - "this will be an offence to our belief and traditions of our church and nation and will definitely lead to clashes among nation", "because of these sins people will be punished with rain of sulfur and fire" - incite hatred towards LGBT persons.
Article 16 (a) of the Law on Broadcasting obliges the GPB to "ensure editorial independence, the fairness and impartiality of programs and guarantee that the latter are free from state, political, religious or commercial influence," which was not observed in this case.
GPB violated the Article 31 of the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters, defining the principles of diversity, equality and tolerance and Article 33 "Guidelines for diversity, equality and tolerance". Namely, "Broadcasters shall refrain from publishing any material likely to incite hatred or intolerance on the grounds of race, language, gender, religious convictions, political opinions, ethnic origin, geographic location, or social background (Article 31)"; "Broadcasters should avoid causing offence to any religious, ethnic or other groups by using, among others, certain terminology and images (Article 33.3)".
TV channel also violated the Code of Conduct of the GPB, preamble of which declares the following principles: Public values - "We should exercise a high degree of responsibility when covering issues that might be harmful and offensive for certain groups of the society"; Diversity - "We should ensure fair reporting of issues related to minority groups"; Equality - " We should avoid discrimination of people on the grounds of their religion, ethnicity, race, gender or sexual orientation".
Article 15 of the GPB's Code of Conduct provides detailed regulations how to avoid discrimination on various grounds as well as recommendations how to cover riligious programs and the topics related to sexual minorities; these regulations were not observed by the channel in this particular case.
It is a widespread practice in media to invite commentators for broadcasting different events. On such occasions, for the aim of observing the law and codes of conduct, "Requirements to authored programmes" (Article 17 of Code of Conduct for Broadcasters) apply to anchors of different events. In this particular case, the GPB violated Article 17 (2) of Code of Conduct for Broadcasters, according to which "presenters of authored programmes should not use their position to report opinions in a way that may violate the impartiality of the programme."
We call on self-regulation body of the Georgian Public Broadcaster:
We recommend the management of the Georgian Public Broadcaster:
Media Development Foundation, MDF
Tolerance and Diversity Institute, TDI
Georgian Young Lawyers Association, GYLA
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center, EMC
Women's Initiatives Supporting Group
Women's Fund in Georgia