GUIDELINES
Journalistic products are accompanied by mistakes and incorrect details, which in some cases are the result of time constrains, inattentiveness, lack of professionalism, lack of experience or other factors. Responsible media, for which the trust of the audience and reputation is important, tries to promptly correct the mistake and work to share true information.

In case of incorrect information being published, the editorial group has a challenge to share the corrected information with the same audience who got the incorrect information in the first place. The correction can take different forms, according to the way the information was shared, the scale of the audience and the length that it was available.

1. Main Principles
  • Journalists and editors have to take responsibility for their mistakes and correct them.
  • Audience has to understand what was corrected and what was false and is true.
  • If the events are ongoing and new details will be revealed, it is necessary to say that the information is renewed.
  • The responsibility for the mistake has to be shared between the journalist and editorial group and if possible, the reason should be explained.
  • The correction has to be made in the reasonable time. The time is dependent upon the type of the media and scale of the audience, therefore is individual, according to the context.
  • Editorial group needs to be attentive to the comments made on different platforms by the audience, which shows the mistake.
  • According to the practices of the Charter of Journalistic Ethics, the message about the mistake can be made in any form to the journalist or the editorial group. It will be considered a violation of the correction rule if it becomes known that they knew after publishing the information that it was not true but did not correct it.
  • The editorial group has to decide how to react, when to correct/not correct the material, who has to make a decision, etc. after acknowledging that there was a mistake made. It is preferential that organizations have their own guidelines of this procedure.
  • It is better if the company’s official web-page has special part where audience can send the information about mistakes.

2. Online Media

2.1. Correction

  • The published information should be corrected in a way that notifies the audience of the correction. Where it is possible and does not damage anybody, it should be noted what was incorrect in the first place.
  • When changing the headline, the media should check that it is corrected on every platform where it was shared. Pay attention to the URL of the link, which in many cases is similar to the headline and correct it too.
  • In case of correcting the photo, make sure that it is not searchable on any platform of the media.
  • Use Facebook tools to correct the link, for the incorrect link not to be shareable anymore.

You can also renew the shared material on Facebook without deleting it. 



2.2. Deletion

  • Fully deleting the material is the last resort. It can be done when there is no public interest present and it violates somebody’s rights or ethical standards.
  • Material can be deleted instead of correcting it when you are the only open source of the information. If others also shared the information, it is better to correct it.
  • It is preferable for the media to explain the reason of such decision.
  • If in the following days new details are revealed which change the previously shared information, it is better to create a new material and make a link in the previous one about the newer version having been published. (სურათი)

3. Broadcasting Media

  • The broadcaster has to openly and immediately state that a mistake was made and correct it in an equal form. For example, if the mistake was made in prime time in the main news show, it has to be corrected in the same show next day. The equal form of correction depends on the case relevancy and in some cases it might be better to correct the mistake in the next news show.
  • Official web-page can be used to correct the information promptly.
  • In case of internet broadcasted video, it has to be re-uploaded with the correction on the official webpage and corrected on every platform according to the rules stated in the guidelines for online media.
  • According to the code of broadcasters, a person, who was the target of incorrect information, can address the media in 10 days after the broadcasting and request for the mistake to be corrected in equal form or for the information to be denied in the same length and approximately the same manner of the incorrect statement.
4. Printed Media

  • In case of press the equal form and measure are also important. If the incorrect information was printed on the first page of the newspaper, it is preferable for the correction to also be printed on the first page of the next issue. It has to be made clear that information in the previous issue was incorrect.
  • The standard of correction for printed media is the same as the online media.
  • If the mistake is grave, the editorial group can neglect to wait for the next issue and correct the mistake on their official webpage or social network pages.
Earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes – media has to cover these natural disasters quite often. The importance of being informed is more prominent in these situations. Audience waits for the new information. The correctness of disseminated information is critical, especially in the first stage of the disaster. While working on these topics, journalists also have to take care of their own safety. The editorial board has to be sure that a journalist, in addition to being professional, is also physically and psychologically prepared to cover natural disasters.

Recommendations to editorial board:
  • It is better to have a special protocol for the journalists working in the field and journalists staying in the office;
  • Journalists have to be equipped with special apparel and safety equipment, according to the disaster type;
  • Transportation, food and other technical issues need to be taken care of. Evacuation plan needs to be prepared including the transportation used for it.
  • It is important that editorial board has information about other media companies in the disaster zone. In case of losing connection to their own crew, they can contact others.
When arriving on the field, journalist has to try to:
  • Find as much information as possible about the incident. They can ask help with this to the local journalists.
  • Create a database of contacts of responsible institutions, experts, interested parties and locals, who may have additional information.
  • Have contact information of every person whom he/she might need for help
  • Determine the working location as well as the location to stay for the night, if such need arises.
  • Study the surrounding area and place. It is necessary to have a printed-out map and a map application which works without internet connection and has markers for the epicenter of the disaster, hospitals, shelters and help centers. Journalist needs to have first aid kit with him/her.
  • Check chargers, adapters, memory cards, accessories which he/she may need. It is better to have more than 1 sim card, in case one of the networks has a problem.
  • Have a contact person, subordination system; know whose orders to follow
  • If a journalist working in the field thinks, that it is dangerous to go to certain location, even if editor-in-chief asks to go there, he/she can leave the workplace, provide arguments for this decision and inform superiors. Safety of the journalist is a priority.

Technical Details

Apparel
  • Check the weather forecast and choose comfortable clothing
  • Shoes have to be closed, comfortable. In case of flooding – waterproof, light and high.
  • Trousers and tops are better to be light, neutral colors (don’t wear khakis or cloths like military uniform). Do not wear jeans, because they are uncomfortable and heavy when wet.
  • Take a raincoat with you
  • Take a medical face mask or a scarf, which you can use to protect from smoke, dust or gas.
  • It is not recommended to have expensive accessories (watches, jewelry) with you. Living Place
  • When choosing a place to spend night, prioritize safety. Depending on the situation this can be a famous (brand) hotel or a private house.
  • It is better if the flat is not far from civilization, does not stand alone or on a street, which is a dead end and does not have open connection on two ends.
  • After choosing a place, study all the exits of the building.
  • Walk the roads which are populated. Do not stray away from them. Inform the media company about going out preemptively. Workplace
  • Don’t stand near trees, because in hurricanes and fires there is a chance of branches and tree falling. A tree can also be struck by the lightning.
  • Stay away from places covered with water where electric cables can be places. Don’t walk without shoes.
  • In case of fire, windows in the car have to be closed and the door unlocked. Ventilation has to be turned off. Control the direction of the wind. Stay away from the fire.

Content Part

Tone of coverage
  • Gossip chances, speculations and invented stories are frequent in disasters. Therefore, verified information is important. Incorrect information may confuse and endanger people in the disaster zone. It is a challenge for journalists not to create unfounded fear and panic in society while delivering the information. The tone of the coverage must be as calm as possible.
  • In disasters journalists often have a hard time drawing a line between activism and professionalism. It is important to understand your role precisely. Maintaining balance is necessary while trying to help injured people. Don’t forget that you are not a part of the humanitarian help mission.
  • Editorial board has to define when to switch to state of emergency regime, how to cover events on different platforms – social media, official web-page, auxiliary web-pages, etc.
  • While working in emergency regime, try to share verified information to avoid speculation and panic. If journalist has to share unverified information, this needs to be stated clearly to the audience. Pay attention to those who say that they are eyewitnesses. Ask them details and make sure that they saw what they are talking about themselves.
  • There is higher risk of sharing fake audio-visual materials in disasters. Check the materials sent in by the citizens. You need to make sure that the information is correct. See: The guidelines of using social media.

Try to find out
  • Details that will help citizens;
  • Risks for human life
  • Institutions responsible for helping, informing, preparing citizens, etc.
  • Amount of damage and government’s plans/events to help the injured.

Interacting with injured people
  • People injured from disasters often appear in the center of media attention without trying or being aware of it. In such instances it is important to respect their privacy and not to invade their personal space.
See: Guidelines of privacy
  • Try not to use the material which will offend an injured person. Look at how they are depicted in the material. You need to have a balance of public interest and sharing the material which depicts human suffering.
  • When interviewing a person consider their emotions. Don’t force them to remember details which will cause them trauma.
  • Don’t stay in their property if they ask you to leave.
  • Don’t follow them if they ask you not to.
  • Don’t bother them with frequent calls, messages and waiting outside of their home. Tell them which media company you represent.
  • It is necessary to have a permission to record a funeral. In other cases, editorial board must prove that there was a high public interest.

Visual materials
  • When sharing sensitive material (view of injured, deceased people) online or broadcasting media has to warn audience about it. Press has to avoid using such images on the cover and front pages.
  • Manipulation of video/audio footage is unacceptable. When reconstructing an event, it has to be clear that the situation is staged.
  • You have to think what results can sharing disturbing images, over and over or at length, cause.
  • When a media is describing disaster results again, they have to think whether it is worth to show images again which depict human suffering. Think of emotions of survivors and their families.
Privacy of every person is protected. Therefore, Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics principle 10 distinguishes this – “Journalists must pay respect to privacy, and not intrude into the private lives of people unless there is special public interest” The right to have personal life gives everyone, including public figures, the ability to protect their personal life from others’ unwanted attention, not to publicize the details related to their health, personal relationships, etc. Privacy is a wide concept and does not have a precise definition.

Maintaining balance between releasing personal details in case of public interest and protecting privacy is a challenge and responsibility of media.

1. Public interest

Violation of privacy by a journalist is approved only in case of public interest existing in the topic, when the released material can bring more good to the society than bring the damage to one person. This is the difference between public interest and public curiosity. Public interest exists about the topics including:
  • Systemic crime of the government
  • Improper expenditure of public money
  • Crime committed by officials
  • Public healthcare
  • Environment
  • National security
  • Uncovering important crime, etc.
This list can never be complete and is dependent upon the case. The higher the value of the information for the public, the lower importance is given to privacy issues and vice versa. Journalist has to think about the public interest aim – is it aimed at the problem which will be uncovered by releasing the information or is it aimed at the life of a person depicted in the information. Violating privacy can be approved in the first case only. The more intimate is the information, the stronger the argument of the journalist needs to be. When violating the privacy there can be two arguments:

  1. A person agreed to make the information public;
  2. The reason why the personal information was made public is detailed.

1.1. Agreement

  • Reporting about personal details is agreeable when the person gave his permission to do so. Be sure, that the respondent is aware of what he is agreeing on. If there are several people in the material, get the permission from all of them. In other case, specify which ones did not give you an agreement;
  • People in public space should not have an expectancy that their life will be as protected as in their own home or in their property, but in public spaces there are cases when the privacy can be protected. For example, if a person had health problems in public space;
  • When talking about antisocial behavior, illness or any other negative context material, you cannot use close-up, accidental photos of a person taken in public space. The responsibility is higher in places such as hospitals, schools, prisons, emergencies… in this case you need double agreement – one from the institution and the second from the respondent, other persons in the place. Agreement is not necessary if you don’t identify the people.
  • Video recording can be made without agreement in semi-public places, but the owner can ask you to stop the recording. Semi-public places are for example shopping centers, airports, places which belong to a private person, but are open for the society. Minors younger than 16 have higher privacy protection. Information about them needs to be approved by their guardian. Children who became interest figures by their actions, for example are singers, sportsmen, winners in a competition, are also protected. You cannot take an interview with them in public space without their guardian’s permission. For more information see the guidelines about reporting on children’s issues.
  • A journalist needs to be careful using the information depicting personal life which was published on social media. In this case, it’s better to get the agreement from the one who posted it; for more, see the guidelines on using social media

1.2. Argumentation

If there is no agreement from the person, think about these: 
  • What and who are you uncovering with this material?
  • How will this information support the discussion important to society?
  • Can you show the problem fully without these details? What additional information does the material give?
  • What damage will a person take by publication of his personal information?
  • Is the public interest satisfaction worth the damage done to the person?
  • What alternate ways are there to report the issue?
You must consider whether the publication of personal information will make a person stigmatized, ostracizes, discriminated against. Think about what will the consequences of publication be, for example danger of physical revenge, etc. Give the audience arguments with proof on why you decided to publicize private information.

2. Secret video/audio recording

Secret recording is: 

  • Recording with hidden recorder, camera;
  • Recording with any equipment (camera, mobile phone, etc.) when the person is not aware of this;
  • Recording phone calls with the aim of publishing it without respondent’s agreement;
  • Starting or continuing recording when the respondent thinks that it has not begun yet or it is already finished.
  • Hidden recording with the aim of getting information is possible, but must be published only when the media proves that here was no open way of getting this information and they had to show it;
  • Entering private property and hidden recording can be used in high public interest situations and this must be proven;
  • Hidden recordings for entertainment and comedic shows can be released when the participants are informed; be careful when using other people’s recording, recordings of observation cameras, operative materials.

3. Public and private figures

  • Public figure for media has a wider definition and includes everyone who has a function for public life in any field, for example politics, economy, culture, sports… public figures, especially politicians, high level officials (government workers), should have lower expectancy of privacy. But to some degree they also have the right to protect their personal life from other people. For example, their relationships, their health is private, if it does not attract public interest, which can be in case of improper use of public money for private relationships and treatment, etc.
  • Interest in public figures’ life does not automatically mean that their family members, especially minors, have to be reported on as much. Their personal lives are more protected than that of their parents’.

4. Sensitive issues of private life

There are issues which can be more sensitive, as there is higher risk of improper violation of privacy. These issues include topics such as health, sexual life, adoption, surrogacy.

4.1. Health

  • Information about health and sexual life has higher protection than others. Reporting these is always a privacy violation. Therefore, there needs to be especially high public interest and the reporter should get through either of two steps – person’s agreement or argumentation;
  • The health topic reporting can also damage other people, because it creates distrust and they might abstain from getting treatment.

4.2. Accidents, crime

  • It is vital to maintain balance between public interest and reporting on details about people who were in accidents. Showing close-ups of people who are injured, suffering, and in shock is approved when this shows the scale of happened tragedy, is needed for showing context and fully covering the issue. While working live, the media has to try not to focus on suffering of specific people.
  • Media has to think about whether the repeated showing of horrific image will cause re-traumatization. Try to minimize re-traumatization of close people to the deceased and survivors. It is necessary to get the permission to record funerals of private figures.
  • Media needs to refrain from releasing the information from the private life of victims, accused and other people involved in the case, that does not relate to the case;
  • Journalists can stay near the home of accused as long as they wish, in the public place, for example the road, and not at the front door, whether the accused is a public figure or not; For more, see the “Guideline of reporting on crime”
  • It is not advisable to show photo/video materials which depict difficult emotional state of people in the courtroom.
PDF Version Social media has become an integral part of the contemporary journalism, both in terms of finding and dissemination of information. The following recommendations are based on the editorial documents of international media, press council codes,