On August 6, the main news program of Georgian Public Broadcaster, Moambe, reported a fatal incident caused by the negligence of parents, which took place in the US state of Kansas. A 10-month-old child died after being left by parents in the car under 30C degree heat. We believe that the report as presented by GPB deepens intolerance among society by indicating the sexual identity of parents and misinterpreting the facts.
A person's gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, religious or other affiliations, can only be mentioned if it is essential for the story covered; for example, if a person's sexual orientation constitute the ground for a crime. In the given case the sexual orientation of parents is not essential for reporting the incident. Observing this standard is especially important when it comes to covering negative events so as to ensure that media avoid deepening negative stereotypes. As a result, the channel violated Article 15.9 of the Code of Conduct for Public Broadcaster, which refers to sexual minorities. In particular:
"Homosexuals frequently become victims of offensive stereotypes. Homosexuals and bisexuals constitute a minority and the programme authors should remember that they too, like others, represent a part of society.
We should mention a homosexual's sexual orientation in a programme only if it is directly associated with its subject matter. Otherwise we shall violate the right of personal inviolability and contribute to the stereotype's consolidation."
This is not the first instance of non-governmental organizations releasing a public statement and filing a complaint with the self-regulatory body of the broadcaster concerning discrimination on various grounds and hate speech by the GPB.
We believe that the role of the broadcaster's self-regulatory body in establishing professional standards is of utmost important. The decision of the GPB's Board of Trustees took on the NGOs' complaint on July 18, in which the majority of trustees justified the use of hate speech by the legislation on freedom of expression and refused to assess the ethical and professional norms of the disputed case, does not contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the Code of Conduct of Broadcasters. In particular, "the purpose of the Code is to ensure that any broadcasting licensee and especially, the public broadcaster be equally responsible for observing standards of professional ethics and be accountable to the public as being necessary to protect ethics and human values, strengthen social consensus and promote tolerance in a democratic society" (Article 4.1).
The public broadcaster is a TV channel serving all citizens of Georgia regardless of their identity. Therefore, it is unacceptable for the broadcaster to be a source of discrimination. The channel must realize its accountability to all citizen and react adequately to each and every instance of encouraging stigmatization of certain groups and inciting intolerance.
Media Development Foundation, MDF
Georgian Democratic Initiative, GDI
Tolerance and Diversity Institute, TDI
Georgia's Reforms Associates, GRASS
Association "LGBT Georgia"
Institute of Nonviolent Communication
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre, EMC
Women's Initiatives Supporting Group, WISG
Transparency International Georgia, TI