Rustavi 2 TV reports were at the center of the December 21 televised discussion of an informal watchdog group, monitoring journalistic standards in the broadcast media.
The group consists of seven Georgian journalists and civil society and academic figures and is nominally chaired by a Polish activist-journalist, Adam Michnik, in absentia.
During the discussions aired by the Georgian Public Broadcaster, six members of the group (Ghia Nodia was absent), noted that all the television stations had been observing a call for no appeals to violence, hate speech or slander – something the group had set as a priority.
One of the members of the group, journalist Zviad Koridze, however, thought a Rustavi 2 TV report had stepped over the line. The P.S. weekly current affairs program, in a special on presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze, interviewed a Kakheti farmer, who accused Gachechiladze of seizing his land. Koridze, although acknowledging that the journalist hadn’t actually made the allegation, said he had the impression from watching the program that the journalist had used the farmer’s words in such a way as to constitute slander. Fellow journalist and group member Davit Paichadze, however, thought the story less a case of slander and more one of biased reporting, as Gachechiladze hadn’t been afforded the right of reply.
Gachechiladze, in response to the program, last week accused Rustavi 2 TV of “a black PR campaign” against him.
As in last week’s discussion, the group again mostly focused on the more theoretical aspects of the media’s role. Davit Paichadze, for instance, raised what he called, “the visual context and visual bias” displayed by TV outlets in their reports on presidential candidates.
“Saakashvili is always seen on TV either in front of a huge crowd, or in a narrow circle of people, usually showing him meeting with families to stress his direct contact with ordinary individuals,” Paichadze said. “We don’t see anything like this in respect of other presidential candidates.”
Zviad Koridze noted that such hidden messages also took verbal form as well. He cited a Rustavi 2 TV report about Georgian soldiers serving in Iraq and Kosovo being allowed to vote.
"The journalist concluded his report by saying: 'On January 5, like in all of Georgia, Georgian citizens in Iraq and Kosovo will also vote for their supreme commander and President'," Koridze said. Koridze thought this statement represented an encouragement for people to vote for Saakashvili.