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Self Regulation Practice

MDF, Union of Muslims of Georgia, TDI vs. Rustavi 2


Complaint: On April 6, 2014 the P.S. program of Rustavi 2 TV company aired the story about construction of a mosque in Batumi. While in the beginning of the story the Chairman of the Georgian Muslims Union Kemal Tsetskhladze spoke about the problems the Muslims had in Batumi because of the fact that there was not enough space for prayers, which was farther confirmed by the scene of Friday prayers being held in the street, in the second part of the story the journalist presented the idea that construction of a mosque was not just a need of the Muslim citizens of Georgia but an obligation imposed by a neighboring state – Turkey.

On 16 April Union of Muslims of Georgia, Media Development Fund (MDF) and Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI) lodged a complaint to the self-regulatory body for video-report of P.S. program. According to NGOs, the story about construction of a mosque in Batumi misinterpreted facts, made mistaken conceptualization and misled the viewers. To illustrate that point the journalist showed an empty mosque in one of the villages in mountainous Adjara ("from the Turkish and Iranian center of Batumi we go up to an old Georgian village", "it is Friday and mullah enters the mosque alone "). This connection suggested by the journalist was unjustified, since existence of an empty mosque in mountainous of Adjara did not compensate the lack of space for prayers in Batumi, and was related to a different socioeconomic issues rather than to the topic of the mosque construction.

The complainants believed that the in that case there was a violation of Article 33 (2) of the Broadcasters Code of Conduct according to which, "broadcasters should avoid inaccurate and misleading statements regarding minorities and their social problems”.

The complainants also believed it was unacceptable to manipulate with footage and sound bite, the way it was done in the story after the part about mountainous Adjara. Specifically: The journalist’s (Tea Adeishvili) unfounded generalization that "in the villages, where Islam is stronger than in the city, people are upset that old unique mosques disintegrate, while Georgian Muslims want construction of a new one because of the interests of Turkey" was based not on the sound bite of the locals, but on a single comment of a representative of academia:

Ramaz Surmanidze, historian, professor: "Why a neighboring country [Turkey] should demand construction of mosques from us? If we need a mosque, we have people, society here, if they need it, they will build it and there will be a mosque".

Importantly, in this comment the respondent not only questioned the need for the construction of a new mosque (which he spoke about himself in the beginning of the story), but also connected this construction to a demand by "a neighboring country” without any arguments while the journalist not only did not try to clarify what and whose demand the respondent means, but also falsely presented this idea to be the position of the villagers.

The authors of the complaint considered that as a violation of the Broadcasters Code of Conduct, Article 14 (9), according to which "When editing interviews, recorded material, including an archive material, broadcasters should not distort a respondent’s words or mislead the audience in any other way by video or audio manipulations, by changing the meaning of the questions asked, or using shots out of context”

The complainants also believed that there was a violation of the Code’s Article 13 (2) which stipulated that "broadcasters shall provide reliable and accurate information, shall not report any untrue or misleading information", and Article 18 (2): "the program or report will be considered biased if it lacks comprehensive information on important facts, is based on minor facts, misleads the audience intentionally or unintentionally, or conveys biased views of a person in a hidden form”.

They believed that the story as a whole violated Article 32 (1) of the Broadcasters Code of Conduct, according to which, "broadcasters shall report accurate, reliable, balanced, proportional information on all cultural, religious, ethnic and social groups living in Georgia, with due regard to the principles of fairness and impartiality”.

Decision: On 29 May, the self-regulatory body of Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company satisfied the complaint.

Motivation: The decision of Rustavi 2 self-regulatory body stated that aim of journalist or of P.S. program was not to mislead viewers or to make incorrect statement about minorities, which was confirmed by general balance of the report and journalist's attempt to circulate opinions of all interested persons.Despite that the self-regulatory satisfied the statement and P.S. editorial board was recommended to especially carefully approach making of reports on religious minorities. "There may be certain defects in the report of dispute, although this should not be counted as biased position of a journalist, as disputable phrases are result of carelessness," the broadcaster clarified.


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