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.
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
- 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
- A person agreed to make the information public;
- The reason why the personal information was made public is
- 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
- 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
If there is no agreement from the person, think about
- What and who are you uncovering with this material?
- How will this information support the discussion important to
- 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
- Is the public interest satisfaction worth the damage done to
- 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
2. Secret video/audio
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
- 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
- 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,
3. Public and
- 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
- 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
4. Sensitive issues of
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.
4.2. Accidents, crime
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.