Throughout the dispute that has been underway in recent days about the Media Development Foundation’s (MDF) study
, the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) has resorted to journalistic manipulation, asking respondents a misleading question: do they regard the Public Broadcaster as part of Russian propaganda in Georgia? The manipulative question is naturally followed by an answer that misses the logic of the ongoing dispute in every respect because of the following:
- Nowhere in the study published by the Media Development Foundation is the entire product of the Public Broadcaster assessed as Russian disinformation;
- The study explicitly states that the tone of direct reporting on the topic of Euro-Atlantic integration in the Public Broadcaster’s news and analytical programs ("Moambe”, "New Week”), also talk shows ("Interview of the Week”, "Key Topic” with Maka Tsintsadze, "Moambe” - Issue of the Day) was mostly neutral or positive.
- The Broadcaster misleads the audience when it generalizes separate examples from the study to the entire editorial policy, although the study revealed a negative tone of reporting only in one program (42nd Parallel) and detected also in only one program an apparent similarity of the editorial opinion with messages of pro-Kremlin actors in relation to the coverage of the Skripal case which was provided, and explicitly indicated in the study, as background information.
We believe that portraying the issue in this light and building a subsequent information campaign on this manipulation is unacceptable.
For the interested public we would like to clarify the essence of the study by Media Development Foundation: the study, on the one hand, explored the information environment in minority settlements and on the other, provided the results of the monitoring of Russian TV channels and survey of public attitudes to messages spread by Russian media. A separate chapter in the study was dedicated to the Georgian Public Broadcaster, in particular, its compliance with a statutory obligation to inform citizens of Georgia, including ethnic minorities on the issues of Euro-Atlantic integration.
It is regrettable that the Public Broadcaster showed interest in the study that researched the awareness of minorities, their informational environment and the influence of the Russian media only because of negative tone of reporting in one of its programs. This was followed by an unhealthy reaction to criticism on the part of the Broadcaster, a deliberately incorrect and manipulative reporting about the study and most importantly, shift of the focus from major issues (informing minorities) to minor ones.
We would like to emphasize that presenting any ideology, be it left-wing, right-wing, liberal or neoliberal in journalistic activities is not a problem as long as it is balanced by opposite points of view and opinions. The problem is that political events in the stories by "42nd Parallel” were presented from a single, rather arguable point of view. It was precisely such one-sided coverage that constituted the ground for assessing the tone of reporting as negative by the monitoring.
The ongoing campaign has not been limited to a manipulative reporting by the Public Broadcaster. Various government trolls and online outlets have engaged in the process unfoundedly generalizing one section of the study to the Broadcaster’s entire editorial policy and portraying it as an accusation of spreading Russian propaganda levelled at the Broadcaster by the study. Sponsored content is spread in social networks while the topic is commented by tens of government experts.
We hope that the Georgian Public Broadcaster will adhere to the professional standards defined by the Broadcasters’ Code of Conduct in discussing this matter, which obligates it to report any issue in a balanced manner and will channel its efforts towards the implementation of the recommendations that requires from it to inform ethnic minorities on the issues of Euro-Atlantic integration.
At the same time we welcome the fact that this topic has become the subject of public interest.