The High Council of Justice of Georgia addressed a statement to the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics accusing the media of allegedly violating freedom of expression.
The High Council specifically referred to cases in which journalists have used offensive language against judges in the media, to which judges are unable to respond because of their obligation to remain objective and to demonstrate restraint.
Therefore, the High Council says, a clear line has to be drawn between constructive criticism and verbal abuse.
According to the members of the council, "The problem harms not only the judicial system, but also freedom of expression and causes it to be discredited. Also, many occasions of journalists used abusive language against judges. Therefore, the council demands the existence of boundaries regarding criticism of court and behaviour of the judges.”
The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics clarified the created ambivalence through their announcement by denying all the accusations. The purpose of charter is to improve professional standards of journalism in the country, therefore protecting the freedom of expression and establishing general professional standards. Since the founding of the Charter in 2009, ethical standards within the media have significantly improved. The number of applications in the Charter has been increased by approximately 5 times in the recent years.
“The Charter together with the other relevant media entities, strives to promote the environment where censorship and self-censorship of journalists are non-existent, because "self-censorship" directly contradicts the principles of free media, " - mentions the organisation in the announcement.
There is a high standard of preservation of freedom of expression in Georgia and the Charter’s priority is the protection of media independence. Consequently, any initiative that restricts freedom of speech, based on the Charter’s statement, in any form will have a negative effect of the quality of existing standards.
The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics has the objective to improve media standards, to protect journalists and freedom of speech in general and to make all the efforts with the view the country not to be facing any kind of infringements in this regard.
Ombudsman of Georgia, Ucha Nanuashvili commented on Council’s initiative calling it ‘not serious’. Nanuashvili said that “when there are certain regulations, all the public figures are obliged to abide the law and has the obligation of tolerance. Simultaneously, freedom of expression should be defended.”
Speaking with TV Pirveli, Director of Tabula, Tamar Chergoleishvili also said that “you might be the victim of criticism or accusations but as the public figure you have that obligation to bear it. if you can’t stand the heat, you shouldn’t stand next to the oven.”
Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary issued an official statement on the issue. Coalition considers that court’s authority cannot be defended by repressively restricting criticism, but by timely reacting to the systemic problems. Coalition of NGOs also added that the government already has the responsibility of defending every citizen, which means that any judge is eligible to appeal for the accusations received in order to defend their dignity.