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Frontline Georgia discusses Media coverage of children

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednsesday, November 24
The issue of violations of children’s rights in the Georgian media was discussed last week at Frontline Georgia media club. Journalist and media expert, Zviad Koridze presented his research on covering child related subjects and media ethics in Georgia. He outlined the main aspects of the problem, touched upon several specific cases of children’s rights violations in the Georgian media and mechanisms to respond to such incidences.

Zviad Koridze suggested that a child becomes the subject of media interest in Georgia doe two main reasons: if a child is the victim of an act of violence or if a child is a villain. “Blood and sex sell better; so media outlets are thinking about increasing their ratings. They are not really very interested in the fate of a specific juvenile,” Koridze said.

The media expert named insufficient anonymity of underage people as one of the most frequent kinds of children’s right violations in Georgia. “Although in most cases the names and surnames of the children are hidden or changed, other identification data, such as home address, village name or school name and location are revealed. It means that it is easy to identify the child even without knowing his or her name or seeing the face,” he noted.

According to Koridze, most of the Georgian media outlets use children as sources of information for criminal stories, in which the child is not even involved. “One of the most vivid examples was when Georgian journalists interviewed the neighbour of a person suspected of an attempted attack on George Bush in Tbilisi. The underage child was used as the only source of information about the lifestyle of the detainee,” commented the media expert. Koridze said there is no legislation on defending children’s rights in the media. “These issues are mostly regulated by journalism ethics principles rather than legislation,” he noted, adding “citizens are also passive when it comes to such issues.”

Journalist from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and media expert Ia Antadze said Georgian media representatives often fail to differentiate a matter of public interest from simply an interesting issue. “Journalists should honor the right of the society to receive accurate information and journalists are obliged to defend children’s rights,” Antadze noted. “In most cases, both of these points are violated in the reports of Georgian journalists when they cover issues related to children,” she added.

Ana Abashidze from the Centre of Children’s and Women’s Rights at Public Defender’s Office said that the Ministry of Justice is working on a draft amendments package to the Georgian legislation related to media coverage of children issues. “The changes will be applied to a number of laws, including the Criminal Code of Georgia,” she said.