Decision - Media Development Foundation vs. Mari Chitaia
15.07.2017

Applicant : Media Development Foundation;
Respondent : Maia Chitaia;
Principle : principle1; principle7;
Decision N144
June 30, 2017

Case - Media Development Foundation vs. Mari Chitaia

Head of Council:
Giorgi Mgeladze

Members of Council: Jaba Ananidze, Nino Jafiashvili, Tea Zibzibadze, Tazo Kupreishvili, Maia Metskhvarishvili.

Applicant: Media Development Foundation

Respondent: Mari Chitaia

Description
Media Development Foundation applied to Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics Council about the article “Georgian land is divided between Arabs, Indians and Turks” written by Mari Chitaia in the newspaper Rezonansi print and the online version on 17th of May, 2017. They thought it violated principles 3 and 7. The article was about selling Georgian agriculture land to foreign citizens, which the author thought was a problem. A representative of applicant attended the process. The respondent journalist did not attend the process or provide a response.

Findings of the Council

According to the first principle of the Charter: “Journalist must respect truth and public’s right to get correct information”. This includes the responsibility of the journalist to check the information with according and available sources and spread it afterward. The sub-headline of the article was: “3-4 new villages will be built in the municipality of Mtskheta for foreigners”. The source of this information in the article is said to be a specialist of agricultural field Anzor Meskhishvili. Interview with him is the main part of the article. Respondent says: “Iranian person bought land in Mtkheta. He is dividing it into small parts and invites other Iranians.”, “UN research says that by 2050 Georgians will be national minorities in Georgia and this is a real danger”. None of the information above is checked. For example, the article does not include comments of officials of Mtskheta about building 3-4 new villages in their municipality. Moreover, as Charter found out UN research was about amount of people in countries and not the percentages of ethnical groups. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that “Georgians will be ethnical minority by 2050 year”. The article says that according to public register, just 0.01% of land is sold to foreigners, but respondent does not agree with this number and says that it is “clearly wrong”. Article does not include any specifying question or journalists attempt to clarify, what this opinion is based on. By providing just one source with “widespread”, gossip-like information, journalist is violating the first principle of the Charter.

According to the principle 3 “Journalist can rely information based on approved sources. Journalist should not hide important facts, forge documents and information”.

Applicant talked about forgery of information. Specifically, the quotation of the head of Gardabani Municipality Gocha Jamarauli, where he talks about foreign people buying land in Georgia: “This land was bought by Georgian and Arab businessmen, who is also Georgian citizen, in 2008 and then sold it. Buying process was correct. Selling process was illegal.” Applicant showed evidence [the same source showed in different media outlets] that Gocha Jamarauli, in reality, says “Selling process was also legal”. Council reviewed this statement, grammatical forms [other words forms in the sentence] and decided that it was a mechanical error and journalist did not change words legal and illegal on purpose. Council thinks that third principle was not violated.

According to the principle seven of the Charter: “journalist must understand the dangers of supporting discrimination by media. Therefore, he or she should do everything to avoid discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other kinds of views, national or social status and any other reason”.

Charter council reviewed the article in question and thought that it was shown in xenophobic perspective. Based on the xenophobic attitude in the country, spreading unchecked information about foreign citizens buying Georgian land will help this to increase. Using terms like “divided” [which does not have any legal connotation] by the journalist shows that the material does not aim to deeply study the subject in question but to raise and strengthen emotional background. This is also proven by situation discussed in first principle review. The respondent denies statistics of the public register and journalist does not try to understand why. Article does not talk about pros and cons of foreign people buying Georgian land and the main position of respondent is that foreign people invited to be “peasants” and “cattle caregivers” are throwing Georgians from their own land. In general, council thinks that the article is aimed to approve xenophobia and not to study the question in hand.

Resolution:

According to the information above:
  • Mari Chitaia violated 1st and 7th principles of the Charter.
  • Mari Chitaia did not violate principle 3.