We express our concern regarding a report on the arrest of an Iraqi citizen suspected of sexual offence, which was aired in the Moambe news program of Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) at 20:00 on 29 April.
We believe that associating a crime committed by an individual with the entire group and, even more so, with minorities in general, is absolutely unacceptable and breaches Article 33(1) of the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters, which says: "Broadcasters should avoid drawing unjustified parallels between ethnic or religious origin and negative events, including associating activities of specific individuals with the entire group." A similar requirement is set forth in Article 15.1 of the in-house Code of Conduct of GPB, which sets a standard to GPB employees to "differentiate activities of an individual representative of minority from those of the minority in general; not identify an individual with a minority as a whole." Article 15.2 of the GPB's code also requires from employees to avoid the coverage of wrongdoings or violence committed by minority representatives in a manner that is known under the name of "media panic".
Based on comments of local residents, an author of the report associated this particular incident with minorities in general, thereby portraying people of different ethnicities as offenders. This assessment of the journalist was further dramatized by video footage depicting dark skinned people, thus associating these incidentally filmed people with violent actions.
Nika Molodinashvili, journalist: "As local residents say, fearing of not to violate the rights of minorities, they cannot even reproach foreign citizens gathered in their courtyard who are often inebriated and breach public order. Local residents contend that in often cases their rights are infringed, not those of minorities"
Article 33(2) of the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters, also Article 15(1) of GPB's Code of Conduct oblige broadcasters to identify an individual's ethnic origin only in the event when it is relevant to the issue covered, and thus avoid establishing a wrong stereotype that a crime has anything to do with either ethnic origin and geographic belonging. In this regard, the coverage of the same fact as offered by Imedi TV's news program Chronika (29 April) is exemplary because the incident was reported without identifying either ethnicity or citizenship of the offender.
Moreover, we are also concerned about a report of the Internet portal, Guria News. This media outlet released information based on a comment made by Shota Aphkhaidze, a former inmate released under a status of a political prisoner, in social networks. The report of Guria News, titled "An Iraqi who raped an under age is free?!" (30 April), alleged that the Iraqi citizen who is suspected of sexual offence, was released upon the demand of the US Embassy's military attaché. Even though the Interior Ministry of Georgia did not confirm a fact of arresting the suspect, this media outlet still published the information without double checking it and thus violated the principle of fairness and objectivity of media coverage requiring that the accuracy of facts is ensured and the spread of wrong and misleading information is avoided.
We believe that the media must treat the coverage of such topics with a higher degree of responsibility and must avoid the reporting of unbalanced and unconfirmed information, spread by interested parties, which fan hatred towards foreign citizens.