Decision - Giorgi Vashadze vs. Levan Javakhishvili and Natalia Kajaia

განმცხადებელი : Giorgi Vashadze;
მოპასუხე : Natalia Kajaia;
დარღვეული პრინციპები : 1 პრინციპი; 5 პრინციპი;


12 September, 2018

Case - N231

Giorgi Vashadze vs. Levan Javakhishvili and Natalia Kajaia

Head of Council: Giorgi Mgeladze

Members of Council: Lika Zakashvili, Giorgi Suladze, Tamar Uchidze, Gela Mtivlishvili, Nino Jafiashvili

Applicant: Giorgi Vashadze

Respondent: Levan Javakhishvili and Nata Kajaia

Descriptive Part

Giorgi Vashadze applied to Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics. He thought that the report aired on 29th and 30th of August on TV Imedi news show “Qronika” violated the 1st, 5th and 7th principles of the Charter. Report was prepared by Nata Kajaia. It was provided to the audience by the host, Levan Javakhishvili. The material was about the interview Grigol Vashadze gave in 2008 year.

Applicant attended the hearing. The respondent journalist did not attend the hearing or provide a response.

Motivational Part

According to the first principle of Charter, a journalist has to respect truth and the society’s right to get correct information.

The reports of 29th and 30th of August were about Grigol Vashadze’s interview, where he says: “The provocation tried by Kokoiti regime in Tskhinvali region was a self-made thing and even Russian Federation was not prepared for this. It is clear that such decisions might get us to the disastrous results; therefore, Russia contacted me immediately and asked me to go to Moscow”.

29 August Report

The report started with the host Levan Javakhishvili’s text – candidate of “Dzala Ertobashia”, Grigol Vashadze, is in the midst of a scandal because of the statement made in the past. His 2008 year interview is being shared in social networks, where the candidate of “National Movement” and other opposing parties says, that the war actions were prepared by Tskhinvali regime and Russia did not know this plan beforehand. This statement is interesting, considering that the “National Movement” calls very opponent pro-Russian. Ex Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saakashvili government had to defend himself today”. The journalist repeats the host’s text that the interview was recorded in 2008 and does not say the exact date”.

Report also includes Grigol Vashadze’s comment about the interview, where he states: “it is good that one of the TV channels showed interest in me and the interview I gave in March of 2008, if it was that statement, I don’t remember that specifically, where I discussed several versions of who was to blame in provocation of 2004 year in Tskhinvali against Georgia and why. I can say one thing: audiences of every channel know where I was before, during and after war”.

The journalist evaluates Grigol Vashadze’s comment in a following way: “Grigol Vashadze says that the video is being shared to discredit him as a presidential candidate and his political team, National Movement. He assures that the context of the shared video is misinforming the audience and the interview was given in March of 2008, not on 3rd of August, as is said by his head of campaign.

Factual evidences identified by Council:

  • Several sources [Radio Libery, Rustavi 2] identify interview as being recorded and shared on 3-4th of August.
  • According to the information shared on the page of Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from 1st to 3rd August, there were specific military actions against Georgia: throwing of distant exploding bomb, bombing of Georgian villages. The initiators of these actions are considered to be representatives of Ossetian separatist government.
  • There were no incidents on 4th or 5th of August, 2008.
  • Military actions with Russian aviation started since 7th of August, 2008.

According to everything said above, from the text of the host and the journalist, audience is left with the impression, that when Russia was clearly involved in military actions, Grigol Vashadze, who was a deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, still refused to acknowledge their participation in the conflict.

The journalist says that Grigol Vashadze’s interview was shared on Facebook and shows that the date of the video on Facebook pages is said to be 3rd of August. Even though Grigol Vashadze’s interview is also provided, there is no evidence that he knew which interview he was being asked, because he says “I don’t remember which statement was it”. Still, the journalist did not try to verify facts and provide them to the audience with precision and appropriate context. Specifically, the journalist did not try to verify when the interview was recorded, which was easy because there were identifying symbols of two media companies in the video [Radio Tavisupleba and Rustavi 2]. Radio Tavisupleba had also had the interview published in one of the projects, which made it easier to find the date.

Also, provided that Grigol Vashadze as a presidential candidate holds meetings, journalist should have tried to show him an actual recording and asked for clarification. In the report of 29th of August, there is no such attempt from Imedi journalists.

Evaluation of Grigol Vashadze is created by Imedi’s own press agency and is clear, that Grigol Vashadze does not know which interview he is being asked to comment about. So, Grigol Vashadze cannot say which interview this statement is cut out from. It is not verified that he understands what interview the journalist wants him to evaluate. Therefore, ethical journalist would have wanted to verify this information in a more precise manner.

Charter Council thinks, that journalist did not try to use every available resource to deliver verified and full information to the audience about the interview, recorded on 3rd of August, 2018 [when was the interview recorded; what was happening at that time; what did Grigol Vashadze mean by his comment]. So, both, Natalia Kajaia and Levan Javakhishvili violated the first principle of Charter.

Council thought that Imedi journalists did not respect the audience and did not deliver correct information because they did not say when the interview was recorded specifically. If the journalist would have verified the information, identified the date and said it clearly in the report, the audience would have gotten precise information and evaluated Grigol Vashadze’s statement themselves. Instead, journalist did not say the date and delivered unverified information in the following way: Grigol Vashadze was saying the same thing about Russia in the August war, for which National Movement is criticizing other people.

30th of August Report

The report starts with the text of Levan Javakhishvili, a host, who evaluated the interview of 2008 of Grigol Vashadze – “Candidate of National Movement and other opposition parties says, that the military actions were a self-made decision of Tskhinvali regime and Moscow did not have an information about this”. [Grigol Vashadze does not mention “military actions” in his interview]. This is an interpretation of a journalist, which is not backed by appropriate evidence. Journalist is obligated to provide facts which are verified and refrain from interpreting facts. It is unacceptable for a journalist to make such interpretation when he does not have the full interview where this clip was cut out from. (Imedi said in the report of 30th of August that they could not find the full version of the interview in those two days).

The author of the report again evaluates the interview on 30th of August, in which Grigol Vashadze mentions that the interview was recorded in March of 2008 and he also says that he does not know which recording they are talking about. Nevertheless, the journalist asks the question: “The question is the following: what were the dangers he was talking about 5 months before the war and is he of the same opinion about the military actions in Tkhinvali, as he was back then”.

The following evaluation is also a manipulation. The journalist already knew that 1. Grigol Vashadze did not have information on which interview he was commenting on; 2. Possible date of the interview might have been 3rd of August, 2008 [“This video was shared in social networks and it is dated by 3.08.08. There are two logos on an interview”]. We want to mention again, that in the first report of Imedi, there is a screen of video, where it is seen, that the date is 3rd of August. On the second day, Imedi still uses Vashadze’s comment with the same context, where he said that the interview was probably recorded in March. It is important to note, that Council contacted both of the media companies whose logos are visible in the report and they said that Imedi had not contacted them to verify the date of the interview.

Show of 30th of August also has manipulative evaluations, when the journalist says that “for the campaign of Vashadze, this interview is fake news, where the candidate states his opinion about the military actions in Tskhinvali” (it is mentioned above that at no point did Grigol Vashadze mention “military actions” in the interview). Charter Council thought that this fragment was manipulative too. Council did not discuss when the military actions started. The Council discussed why the journalist did not verify the date of the interview, when Grigol Vashadze stated the possible date as March and Giorgi Vashadze, according to Imedi, stated the date as 3rd of August (Giorgi Vashadze denied stating any date to Charter. Imedi did not make his comment public, where he states that the date of the interview was 3rd of August). Imedi provided vague news without attempts of verification to the audience, which is a disregard of correctness.

Journalist also mentions, that the campaign of Grigol Vashadze said that the interview was “Fake News”. Council was provided with video evidence, where it is clear, that Giorgi Vashadze does not call the interview fake news. He says that when the journalist mentions that Vashadze gave this interview “during war”, audience is given the wrong information. Journalist delivered Giorgi Vashadze’s position to the audience in a wrong way. Imedi dedicated a big part of the report on defining “fake news” and that the interview was not “fake news”, while Giorgi Vashadze did not consider the interview to be “fake news” himself.

According to the 5th principle of the Charter, The media is liable to correct substantially incorrect information which misleads society. It was identified, that in the report of 29th of August, the journalist did not provide information to the audience about the date the interview was recorded. Therefore, the audience was left with the impression that it was recorded during or after war. In the report of 30th of August, it is identified that the journalist knows the date of recording – 3rd of August, 2008. The applicant provided video documentation to the Council which proves that Giorgi Vashadze explained in detail to the journalist what the aim of Grigol Vashadze’s interview was [that this interview was aiming to avoid escalation of the processes for Georgia, because there were no military actions still and this position was agreed with foreign partners] during its recording.

There was no correction made to the report of the 29th of August. According to the correction standard, the audience needs to know what was corrected, so the incorrect information needs to be made obvious and then clear correction needs to be made. If the report is shared on any platform of media, it needs to be replaced or provided with correction.

Reports in question can be found without change or clarification. Sharing of incorrect information still continues. Therefore, Council decided that there was no correction and the 5th principle of the Charter was violated.

According to the 7th principle of the Charter, journalist should understand the dangers of media encouraging discrimination; therefore, he/she needs to do everything to avoid discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other views, nationality or social origins or any other trait of a person”. Applicant said that discrimination was based on political orientation. The journalist chose a candidate and tried to discredit him based on incorrect information. Council stated that discreditation does not entail discrimination necessarily. As for the report being made, there could have been public interest to the interview of 2008 year, even more so that the person featuring in it was a presidential candidate. Therefore, preparing material on this topic was not selective or discriminatory. The context of the material has already been discussed according to other principles. Therefore, Council did not state that the 7th principle of the Charter was violated.

Resolution Part:

According to the information provided above:

1. Levan Javakhishvili and Natalia Kajaia violated the first and the fifth principles of the Charter.

2. Levan Javakhishvili and Natalia Kajaia did not violate principle 7 of the Charter.