MEDIA CODE OF CONDUCT DURING ELECTIONS
“The will of the people shall be
the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be
expressed in periodic and genuine elections…”
(The Universal Declaration of Human
We believe that mass media plays a crucial role during elections in
providing access for political contestants to communicate their
messages and in presenting news about political parties, political
leaders and matters of political importance is vital to the
integrity of the electoral process. A partisan presentation of
facts or omission of important opinions significantly reduces the
quality of reporting. An unbalanced news item is not only
inaccurate but also biased because it offers a distorted, partisan
and confusing view of affairs or issues.
We believe that a political subject should not misuse the media to
disseminate false information for the sake of its own promotion.
This could seriously undermine public confidence in elections and
any government ascending to power using such methods is
questionable. Ultimately, this increases division between
politicians and citizens who naturally grow skeptical since the
loss of confidence in a political entity can make them turn their
backs on politics as such.
We believe that while all democratic countries apply slightly
different criteria to the behavior of print, broadcast and online
media outlets, the basic concepts concerning the quality of
journalists’ work are the same. In this respect, it is important to
stress the important role of self-regulatory measures by
journalists themselves, regardless of the type of the media.
We believe that the public broadcaster has to observe even more
rigorous criteria than other media since it belongs to all
citizens. Using public media to promote a certain political party
or candidate should therefore be considered as an illegitimate
manipulation with the public property. Citizens are entitled to
insist on fairness, balance and impartiality and make sure that the
government’s attitude towards the media will ensure their access to
information to which they are entitled.
We believe that while private media’s status is different from that
of the public one, they should also provide fair, balanced and
unbiased information about election campaigns. Managers and owners
of respective media outlets thus take upon themselves a certain
amount of responsibility for media broadcasting, resulting from the
fact that broadcast frequencies are considered public property
serving public needs.
Taking into consideration the above-mentioned principles we, media
managers, on behalf of the Georgian media outlets, decided to
accept and comply with the principles stipulated by the Media Code
of Conduct during Elections, prepared by the Georgian Charter of
Journalistic Ethics on the basis of the domestic legislation,
international documents and self-regulatory principles.
Media Code of Conduct During Elections
To ensure free and democratic elections as well as to avoid
undesirable polarization of the society and to promote good and
responsible journalism, , we, the signatory parties, pledge to:
I. Journalistic Independence
- Accept and comply with the principles of the Code
- Accept the fact that freedom of expression and information are
vital for a democratic society and inevitable for its progress and
application of other human rights and basic liberties
- Accept provision of completeness of information and plurality
of opinions throughout an election campaign
- Accept the fact that identification of all expressions of bias
is the hallmark of journalistic professionalism
II. Balance and Impartiality
- Media will observe the principles of journalistic ethics,
objectivity and editorial independence.
- Above all, journalists have a committement in front of the
public and not in front of state authorities.
- In fact, the authorities shall refrain from interfering in the
workings of the media and, when necessary, they shall impose
positive measures to promote pluralism of the media and to protect
them from attacks and undue pressures.
- The basic principle of ethical thinking about journalism
consists in necessity to differentiate bewtween news and opinions.
A piece of news is information about facts and data, whereas
opinion implies thoughts, ideas, faith or on the part of the
companies running the media.
- The principle of freedom of speech implies that journalists,
editors, producers and media owners take responsibility for the
content and form as well as consequences they entail.
- Media will resist potential outside and inside pressures
leading to doctoring or adjusting stories which might favour or
disfavour political entities or themselves. Media managers and
owners will not exert pressure on their employees to act at
variance with these principles.
- A journalist has a right to participate in building a story or
refuse to participate therein provided it is at variance with
III. Accuracy and Relevance
- In their election newscasts the media will adopt a balanced and
impartial attitude. When offering their broadcast time, they won’t
resort to either positive or negative discrimination against any of
the candidates or political parties. This obligation also implies
that hosts and journalists participating in the process of shaping
programs providing news and information will uphold
- Balance is a proportionate representation and portrayal of the
politically relevant opinions of the parties involved, which are
essential for grasping a concrete event or issue in particular
situations, thus no party or opinion is offered inappropriate
presentation in terms of space, broadcast time or portrayal with
respect to its relevance to the problem at hand even in cases in
which some of the opinions fail to coincide with those of a
journalist working on the story.
- The media will refuse all open or furtive expressions of
intolerance and will consider thoughtfully if publication of such
expressions is not conducive to defamation and ridicule based on
sex, race, color, language, faith and religion, affiliation with
national or ethnic minority or ethnic group, social difference,
political or other opinion.
- The media serves as a forum for exchange of opinions, public
debate, confrontation and criticism, offering the general public a
chance to gain a better understanding of opinions presented by
individual candidates and political parties. The media accepts that
without important facts, no piece of information is complete.
IV. Fairness and Credibility
- The media will provide accurate, fair, and undistorted
information on election candidates.
- The media will ensure that every piece of news will only
contain facts corresponding to reality and whose veracitywill be
verified by independent sources quoted therein.
- The media will avoid adjusting data and facts in a manner that
would distort reality and in determining the order of importance of
the individual pieces of information it will impartially and
objectively provide, distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant
- The media will not manipulate picture or sound so that the
choice of words or other means of expression, change in tone, shift
of stress or editing will not deliberately displace the meaning or
value of the message.
- In publishing opinion polls the media will present results in
an unbiased manner and will publish all the available information,
especially that related to the organization conducting the opinion
poll, about the size of the characteristic sample of population and
the time when the poll was carried out.
In formulating this Code, we used a number of international
documents and guidelines, with special attention to recommendations
of the Council of Europe, OSCE and UN, i.e. international
institutions of which Georgia is a member state. Georgia has an
ambition to become a respected member of the family of developed
democratic countries and we think that the media can comply with
the criteria constituting a natural component of election campaigns
in developed democracies. Compliance with the above-mentioned
provisions will be observed by the media themselves, international
media experts and, most importantly, Georgian citizens who will be
offered a unique opportunity to assess which of the media outlets
best provides them with unbiased, balanced and objective
information about election campaigning
- Media will choose criteria for offering time or space to
political parties in their politically relevant programmes. If an
addressed party refuses to comment on an issue at hand, or all
attempts to contact the person fail, it has to be mentioned in the
- Journalists, editors, producers and proprietors will spare no
effort to make the distributed information correspond with truth
and conscience. The facts should be mediated without any
distortions and in their respective contexts. If a flawed message
is published it should be followed by an immediate apology.
- The Facts should be presented in the most objective manner and
in the right context, without distortions and holding back related
information and with an appropriate creativity of journalists.
- News headlines and summaries have to be most pertinent in
expressing the essence of published facts and data. If editorial
comments are broadcast in news programs it is vital to broadcast
opinions of the party that had been referred to.
- The media will be consistent in separating the activities of
the incumbent representatives of administration and self-government
from the activities they pursue as the representatives of political
parties running in the election.