Tamar Rukhadze / Facebook

The Goal of Media Should be to Protect Individuals that Have Been Through Violence – Tamar Rukhadze on Violence against a Clergyman

On February 20, a video showing violent acts toward a clergyman was spread through social networks. It can be observed that the attack took place on homophobic grounds. The video was spread by various media outlets in violation of ethical standards, in connection with which the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics made a statement and offered some recommendations to media representatives.

Queer talked to Tamar Rukhadze, the chairperson of the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, and asked about the recommendations to be made regarding the dissemination of the video of the violence. According to Tamar Rukhadze, the goal of media should be to protect the interests of the victims of violence and reduce the risks as much as possible.

“In the morning, the Charter Council issued a statement, an open interview had not yet been released at the time, but a video of the violent act was already circulating on social media. We were dealing with different types of violations: there were cases when the perpetrators of the violence were identifiable, but even in those part of the videos in which the faces were covered – their names and surnames could still be heard. In such cases, neither the visual identification of the person nor stating their identity is acceptable. Proper coverage of such cases is especially important in this age of social media, when even mentioning the first and last name of a person is risky. The material quickly spreads on the Internet and the person gets re-traumatized, there are additional dangers.

Victims of violence should be protected by media. This is given in a number of textbooks, and it should be obvious on its own that we should protect the victims of violence. However, we still face a number of violations.

Age and gender are irrelevant when speaking about someone who has been through violence. Their interests should be taken into account and risks should be properly evaluated” – said Tamar Rukhadze.

Later, an interview with the abused person was liked by various media outlets, in which the respondent is identifiable. According to the Chairman of the Charter of Ethics, the direct dissemination of homophobic statements is especially dangerous in a situation where there is a homophobic environment in the country and we may contribute to the strengthening of stigma by misrepresentation.

“The homophobic comments and phrases should also be covered up in the video. In a homophobic environment, we might face even greater dangers. Misinformation reinforces stereotypes, causes stigma and puts the LGBTQ+ community at a risk.

The ongoing processes and problems in the church must be covered, but we must think about whether we can tell the story in a way that does not harm the interests of the victim.

At first when the video started circulating, neither the context, nor the details such as the time of the incident were taken into account. This created an impression that media didn’t even try to find out the details in depth. Without checking, looking into the details, finding out additional information, it is unacceptable to share such materials through social media.

The later video, in which the victim is speaking about their experience, causes additional problems. It doesn’t matter that the respondent is an adult, the media should make sure that the person is fully aware of the consequences that this video might bring to them. The extent to which the video is broadcasted on the television should be explained to the respondent. Even with their consent, this story could have been covered without identifying the person, minimizing the risks.

In this case, being aware of the respondent’s appearance, name and surname, does not provide any valuable information to the public.

Another important part of this story is balancing the statements when sharing public comments, opinions that contain hate speech, discrimination, inaccurate information. The media is obliged to state its position, evaluate the information and not contribute to the spread of hate speech.”

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