Violated Principle : principle1; principle5;
Applicant : Supreme Court of Georgia;
Respondent : Maia Purtseladze and unidentified journalists of marshalpress.ge, digest.pia.ge, exclusivenews.ge and resonancedaily.com;
Council Members: Giorgi Mgeladze, Gela Mtivlishvili, Kamila Mamedova, Lika Zakashvili, Irma Zoidze, Giorgi Suladze, Maia Merkviladze, Tamuna Uchidze
Supreme Court of Georgia applied to Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics versus media companies versia.ge, marshalpress.ge, digest.pia.ge, exclusivenews.ge and resonancedaily.com. These media companies published identical article on 21st of January, 2019 with the title “Is Eka Beselia going to jail?” Applicant thought that the material violated charter principles 3 and 5. In case of “Versia” material was published on webpage and printed edition of the newspaper.
Responsible person for “Versia” was chosen to be the editor in chief Maia Purtseladze. Other media companies did not identify authors of the article and did not give the information to the council secretariat, therefore, the Charter guidelines state that “unidentified author” can be named an author.
Specifics of the case: The decision was made by distant voting from Members of Council. According to the Charter’s rules: “Council members can state their opinion about the case/get involved in council’s work by distant communication means [social networks, electronic mail, online video and audio calls]”.
According to the Charter principle 1 – Journalist must respect truth and society’s right to get precise information. There were different factual circumstances in the article, for example:
“Okuashvili was offered by Eka Beselia to stop this case [Zaza Okuashvili’s wife – Nato Chkheidze is Eka Beselia’s committee’s member in Parliament]. Confidential source tells us that she got good sum of money for taking care of this case and started establishing previously tested schemes energetically”.
“As they say, Mrs. Beselia always took care of cases with the help of her close friend and cooperator in financial corruption – Mzia Todua. Mzia Todua is a person who now is head of Georgian civil court head and interim head of Supreme Court”.
“They also say, that the businessmen asked the parliament member to give back his bribe. Probably, Mrs. Eka gave back what she got honestly, but Mzia Todua refused to return money, because she thought, that by stretching time, she gave benefits to the head of Omega”.
“After this, situation developed rapidly. Mrs. Eka, based on Gvaramia’s order, “blows up” the so known judge’s case and sabotages the government: leaves the legal committee head position. Instead of her, Gedevan Popkhadze is appointed by violating the procedures”.
The circumstances have the signs of a crime, in which a Parliament Member and Supreme Court judge are accused. The information is not verified. There is no sign of sources being reliable. The media calls source “reliable”, but they are described as confidential. “The information had already been leaked in media [no mention of when or by whom]”, “source close to the court lobby”. The article does not have comments of the “accused”. There is no sign that the journalist tried to get their comments and/or verify the information some other way. Therefore, Charter Council thinks that the first principle was violated, as the journalist did not respect society’s right to get precise information or even try to verify information.
The first version of the article was published on versia.ge. As of marshalpress.ge, digest.pia.ge, exclusivenews.ge, resonancedaily.com, they published identical articles and sourced Versia. This note does not lift the ethical obligation from media. It was proven that Versia published unverified information, therefore, for others, versia.ge was the source and to protect ethical obligations, they had to verify their information. Copying the information with no changes made them violate same ethical principles, which the Council mentioned above.
According to the 3rd principle of the Charter - Journalist must share information which is bases on verified sources. Journalist should not hide facts or falsify information and documents. The applicant thought that the third principle was violated based on the argumentation of the first principle; therefore, the 3rd principle violation was not proven.
According to the 5th principle of the Charter - Media is obligated to correct the published information which was not correct and lead audience to errors. After publishing the material, Supreme Court sent the statement to the media companies denying the information. None of the companies used this information. They neither changed the published article, nor published the statement itself. The articles [which violate the first principle] can still be found as they were. Therefore, the 5th principle of the Charter was also violated.
Charter Council thought that the printed version of versia.ge deserved separate discussion. Versia.ge published the same article which was published online in the printed newspaper, page 3. It occupied the whole page. The same issue, page 4, was dedicated to the Supreme Court statement, but it was printed in smaller font. Charter cannot count this as correction, because for the date of publishing the article, Supreme Court’s statement was already known, therefore it should have been shown in the article itself, not on the separate page and smaller font size. The article did not mention that the same issue of the newspaper contained Supreme Court’s position on the topic. Therefore, the right of audience to get the second party statement was violated.
According to information provided above:
1. Maia Purtseladze and unidentified journalists of marshalpress.ge, digest.pia.ge, exclusivenews.ge, resonancedaily.com violated Charter principles 1 and 5.
2. Maia Purtseladze and unidentified journalists of marshalpress.ge, digest.pia.ge, exclusivenews.ge, resonancedaily.com did not violate Charter principle 3.