IFCN code of principles -- assessment GRASS
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Timestamp1/25/2017 3:03:58
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Name of the fact-checking initiativeFactCheck GeorgiaAssessed by Laurens Lauer
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Contact personMr. Paata Gaprindashvili, Director; Mr. Gogi Zoidze, Project Coordinator
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Contact emailp.gaprindashvili@factcheck.ge; paata0207@gmail.com; gogizoidze1@gmail.com
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CountryGeorgia
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Websitehttp://factcheck.ge
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Criterion 1a - OrganizationFactCheck Georgia is a project of Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS), a non-partisan, non-governmental policy watchdog and think tank, which conducts research and public policy analysis, and provides advice and project management in the fields of public policy and public administration reform (http://grass.org.ge/en/).
GRASS is well positioned within Georgia’s non-governmental sector and it continues to lead, promote and popularize fact-checking as one of the key parts of democratic development. GRASS established FactCheck Georgia in May, 2013.
GRASS is legally registered at the National Agency of Public Registry (see extract: https://enreg.reestri.gov.ge/main.php?c=mortgage&m=get_output_by_id&scandoc_id=936154&app_id=1199040).

Note: In case access to the link is interrupted, the document will be included in supportive materials submitted at: factchecknet@poynter.org
Complete:
Georgia`s Reform Associates (GRASS) are registered as a non-entrepreneurial (non-commercial) legal entity at the LEPL National Agency of Public Registry in Tbilisi, Georgia. It is a non-governmental think-tank that serves as a watchdog and advisor in the field of governmental policy development and implementation. Fact-checking is since June 2013 one of its major projects.
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Criterion 1b - OrganizationDuring more than three years of its experience, FactCheck Georgia has published more than one thousand and four hundred fact checks. All of the materials are available on the project web-page:

See: http://factcheck.ge – In Georgian
See: http://factcheck.ge/en/ - In English

Note: Not all fact checks are available in English.
Complete:
FactCheck Georgia is dedicated to fact-checking in term of evaluating single statements of politicians and rating their veracity. Since its beginning it has produced 1459 checks, of which 109 checks originated in the time between 1st December 2016 and 1st February 2017. While the initiative translated in the first three years all articles into English for its English speaking website, it now provides only selected articles in English resulting in 969 English speaking fact-checks in total and 15 English-speaking fact-checks in the above noted two-month period.
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Criterion 2a - Nonpartisanship and fairness1. http://factcheck.ge/en/article/at-the-beginning-of-2008-before-the-august-war-the-economy-was-decreasing/ - Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia; Verdict – False

2. http://factcheck.ge/en/article/there-are-approximately-10-000-foreign-students-in-georgia-and-these-people-contribute-gel-50-million-to-georgia-annually/ - Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia; Verdict – True

3. http://factcheck.ge/en/article/today-owing-to-inflation-pensioners-lose-about-gel-12-a-month-from-their-pension-of-gel-150-in-a-year-that-almost-adds-up-to-their-monthly-pension/ - Zurab Japaridze, Head of Political Center “Girchi” – Verdict – Lie

4. http://factcheck.ge/en/article/the-government-of-georgia-has-decided-to-stop-supplying-the-population-of-abkhazia-with-electricity/ - Nino Burdjanadze – Head of Opposition Party – “Burjanadze – Democrats” – Verdict – Lie

5. http://factcheck.ge/en/article/the-corruption-in-our-country-has-almost-been-nullified-even-though-we-had-elite-corruption-just-a-couple-of-years-ago/ - Bidzina Ivanishvili – Former Prime Minister of Georgia – Verdict – Mostly False

6. http://factcheck.ge/en/article/investments-in-ajara-have-increased-two-and-a-half-times-with-tourism-growing-by-80-about-170-hotels-being-built-in-four-years-6-000-new-jobs-being-created-41-new-factories-being-constructed-and-five/ - Bidzina Ivanishvili – Former Prime Minister of Georgia – Verdict – Mostly True

7. http://factcheck.ge/en/article/fewer-tourists-are-visiting-sighnaghi-today/ - Mikheil Saakashvili – Former President of Georgia – Verdict – False

8. http://factcheck.ge/en/article/the-prime-minister-of-georgia-announced-several-times-that-he-would-be-visiting-ukraine-however-he-could-not-manage-to-get-here-even-a-single-time/ - Mikheil Saakashvili – Former President of Georgia – Verdict – True

9. http://factcheck.ge/en/article/the-united-national-movement-plans-to-disrupt-the-elections-in-the-village-of-kortskheli-this-is-why-they-brought-in-zaza-kedelashvili-s-sonders/ - Kakha Kaladze – Minister of Energy – Verdict Lie

10. http://factcheck.ge/en/article/the-wages-of-the-minister-and-his-deputies-in-the-ministry-of-finance-of-georgia-have-decreased-by-40/ - Nodar Khaduri – Former Minister of Finance of Georgia – Verdict – True

These few examples demonstrate that FactCheck Georgia enjoys full independence and is committed to nonpartisanship and fairness. No matter factcheck is applied to the representatives of the government or opposition parties, verdicts are issued in compliance with the accuracy of their statements. In other words, when the claims of public figures (despite their political disposition) prove to be correct, given verdicts adequately reflect that. So is the case, when claims prove to be wrong.
The archive material published on the project web-page proves that FactCheck Georgia responds directly to the importance of adhering to the principles of defendable fact-based research, journalistic integrity on the highest of professional levels, unbias and fairness in reporting, and the accountability and transparency of sources.
Fact-checkers work according to an internal FactCheck Guideline document developed in 2013. The document has been subject to several updates and improvements and it has corresponded to the FactChecker’s Code of Principles even before it was established. FactCheck Guideline contributes to maintaining coherent standards by establishing a set of rules for fact-checkers concerning the structure of articles, writing style, duties, terms, timelines, and procedures, etc. (see: http://factcheck.ge/en/about-us/guideline/).
In addition, monitoring, evaluation and reporting is ongoing throughout the course of the project. The project team regularly meets to discuss project activity and implementation, propose and implement troubleshooting mechanisms as needed and prepare and submit all internal and donor reports according to pre-established timelines.
Naturally, FactCheck recognizes the possibility that mistakes can occur in the process of writing and finalizing the articles. Therefore, should politicians or public figures disagree with our assessment of their statements (or any of our readers as well), FactCheck encourages them to send us a relevant argument in written form. The received proofs are closely examined by the FactCheck board and in the event of their validity, we revise or amend our research as well as the verdict accordingly.
Complete:
FactCheck Georgia does not show any indication of biasedness or partisanship. The given examples show opposing verdicts for different statements of the same politicians through all parties. Moreover, comparing all checks between June 2013 and April 2016, the distribution of verdicts is very similar for both major parties close to statistical independence. The range of issues is also very broad and seems to fit the characteristics of the public discourse.
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Criterion 2b - Nonpartisanship and fairnessAccording to the guideline document (http://factcheck.ge/en/about-us/guideline/), project team members are obliged to leave their political preferences behind and maintain absolute nonpartisanship during fact-checking. In addition, the biographies of FactCheck team members are transparent and published on the project web-page (see: http://factcheck.ge/en/team/), which demonstrate and is proof of their non-partisanship.
As for the policy of the organization, nonpartisanship is one of the major requirements, which is applied to job candidates during their selection process. In addition, if any member of the organization will decide to join or advocate for any political organization, it automatically results in termination of the labor agreement and he/she is immediately dismissed from his/her obligations and duties. In several cases, particular members of FactCheck Georgia have left the project in pursuant of political career, be it in the government or opposition parties. In such cases, their membership at FactCheck Georgia was suspended prior to their engagement in political activities.
GRASS is non-partisan and with its activities it only aims to benefit the public interests. GRASS as a whole and FactCheck Georgia, particularly, do not advocate for any political party or candidate. It is of fundamental interest for the organization to remain non-partisan and non-affiliated with any political organization. According to its statute, GRASS is non-entrepreneur, non-commercial entity, which does not aim to conduct political advocacy initiatives.
This policy also applies to FactCheck Georgia, which has developed a common approach to all political organizations. For example, during the 2016 Parliamentary Pre-Election Campaign, FactCheck has interviewed more than 200 majoritarian candidates from all major political parties participating in the elections. All of the candidates were inquired upon the same questionnaire and all of their interviews were published at factcheck.ge and FactCheck Georgia’s – FactMeter Newspaper (materials can be submitted upon request).
As the methodology document of the project points out, FactCheck Georgia is politically independent and nonpartisan (http://factcheck.ge/en/methodology/). But in the first instance, its nonpartisanship is proved by the articles published on the project web-page and the verdicts, which are solely based on the objective analysis of information. FactCheck Georgia’s work does not incite any doubts about its non-partisanship and impartiality. Donor organizations, such as USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, German Marshall Fund, European Endowment for Democracy, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Georgia, US Embassy in Georgia, who have been funding FactCheck during these years, will also confirm the impartiality of our initiative based on the partnership process and reports submitted.
Public references are yet another recognition of FactCheck Georgia’s reliability and objectivity. For example, Mr. Ivan Vejvoda, Senior Vice President / Programs of the German Marshall Fund of the United States emphasized the importance of Factcheck.ge during the meeting (12.07.2016, Washington) of Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats (Committee on Foreign Affairs). According to Mr. Vejvoda Fact-check in Georgia, implemented by the NGO GRASS is probably the best example of ensuring the transparency of both political and economic governance (https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-corruption-danger-democracy-europe-eurasia/).
Complete:
FactCheck Georgia provides in detailed guideline to structure ist working-processes and to ensure impartiality of its fact-checkers. In particular paragraph 4 addresses this issue and states: "FactCheck team members are obliged to leave their political preferences behind and maintain absolute nonpartisanship during fact-checking" /http://factcheck.ge/en/guideline/). The initiative safeguards this requirement by hiring particularly young people hoping for less prejudiced worldviews, by double-checking articles before publication (at least by one editor), and by disallowing political activities alongside the job as fact-checker. The latter came particularly into effect before the last elections when some members left the organization in order to seek a political candidacy. In addition, the variety of donors and their repeated cooperation with GRASS and FactCheck Georgia are further indications for the impartiality of the project.
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Criterion 3 - Transparency of sourcesIn the course of their research, FactCheck experts examine multiple open sources as well as interview different public figures and experts from various fields. Another cornerstone of our research process comprises the use of public information requested from government agencies as well as other local and international stakeholders. FactCheck Georgia has created a database on its web-page, which stores all the public information requested from our side and submitted from the state agencies (http://factcheck.ge/database/).
As required as a part of the fact-checking process, FactCheck experts contact the authors of the statement (or their representatives) as a means of further information gathering or verification. In the research, FactCheck experts use the most reliable sources of information in order to determine the accuracy of fact-checkable stable. These include, but are not limited to the international or local reports, expert analysis, data of reliable research institutions etc.
In the first instance, provided sources are explicitly mentioned in the article (for example: “according to The World Bank data”; “the data from the National Statistics Office of Georgia” etc.) In addition, a hyperlink is attached to each source of information, which is utilized for the interest of research. In doing so, readers can check the accuracy of provided data directly by clicking on the hyperlink.
Finally, the source of the statement or claim, should it be in the form of video or text, is also attached to each article.
Complete:
The output of FactCheck Georgia shows a high standard in substantiating the given information with sources and referring to them by hyperlinks. Nearly all sources are named and the majority of references is backed by a corresponding link. The same holds true for the statement checked: beside information concerning the location and date of the statement`s occurrence, a video shows the moment of interest in the majority of cases.
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Criterion 4a - Transparency of funding & organization
GRASS has publicly listed sources of funding for each project, including for FactCheck, on its web-page. See: http://grass.org.ge/en/projects/ FactCheck Georgia has also put the badges of all donor organization on its web-page: See: http://factcheck.ge/en/ Grass is member of Civil Society Portal and discloses detailed financial information on its web-page. See: http://www.cso.ge/organization_projects.php?slug=saqartvelos-reformebis-asoiacia&lang=enComplete:
GRASS/FactCheck Georgia discloses its funding in very detail on its website as well as on a Civil Society Portal. Mainly financed by major funding organizations (Open Society, National Endowment for Democracy) and foreign governmental development funds (Kingdom of the Netherlands), the initiative is subject to certain accountability rules and obligated to prepare financial reports.
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Criterion 4b - Transparency of funding & organization
About FactCheck: http://factcheck.ge/en/about-us/ FactCheck Team: http://factcheck.ge/en/team/ GRASS Team: http://grass.org.ge/en/grass-team/ Complete:
The project provides a detailed list of its members including information about their educational biographies and responsibilities.
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Criterion 4c - Transparency of funding & organization
GRASS contact information: http://grass.org.ge/en/contact/ FactCheck contact information: http://factcheck.ge/en/contact/ Complete:
The project provides contact information on its website including email and telephone as well as its address.
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Criterion 5a - Transparency of methodologyFactCheck Methodology: http://factcheck.ge/en/methodology/ FactCheck Guideline Document: http://factcheck.ge/gzamkvlevi-phaqt-metris-analitikosebisthvis/Complete:
FactCheck Georgia provides a relatively detailed description of its methodology on the project`s website explaining how it monitors the political sphere, how it selects claims, how it approaches the verifications process, and the definition of the possible verdicts.
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Criterion 5b - Transparency of methodology- Each article has a comment section, where readers express their claims or opinions about the research - http://factcheck.ge/en/; - Readers also send their claims through contact section of the project web-page, which allows them to directly send their message to the project team - http://factcheck.ge/en/contact/ - FactCheck offers a service, Check Your Fact, which gives the public an opportunity to verify facts that are of particular interest to them - http://factcheck.ge/sheamotsme-sheni-phaqti/ - Other than FactCheck web-page, readers submit their claims and opinions through project’s Facebook page, e-mail and post. FactCheck Georgia has engaged in correspondence with its readers, including politician, which can be submitted upon your request. See FactCheck Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Factcheck.ge/?fref=ts See GRASS Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/grassgrouporg/?fref=ts Complete:
The project tries to engage readers by the segment "Check your facts", an online entry form to submit statements they would like to be checked (http://factcheck.ge/sheamotsme-sheni-phaqti/). The site includes basis information about the requirements a claim has to meet (no estimations, no forecasts) and the time needed to verify it (from one week to one month). In addition, readers can get in touch with the project via Facebook for the purposes of commenting on an article, providing further information, or submitting a claim. All checked statements that have been received by readers are labelled as such on the website after publication.
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Criterion 6a - Open & honest corrections policyCorrection policy is the part of the project’s methodology. Particularly, FactCheck allows for the possibility that a mistake can occur in its work. Therefore, in the case if the politicians whose statements were verified by FactCheck (or any other reader) disagree with our research and judgement, FactCheck urges them to send the relevant argumentation in a written form. The received proofs are closely examined by the FactCheck board in due time and in the event of their validity, we correct and revise our research as well as the verdict accordingly. In the case if a significant piece of information is added to the research/article, but the addition does not lead to a change of the verdict, we revise our article; however, if the added piece of information alters the issued verdict the article is corrected. This practice serves the purpose of ensuring maximum objectivity and political impartiality in FactCheck’s work. See FactCheck’s Methodology: http://factcheck.ge/en/methodology/ Complete:
As stated, the initiative welcomes any kind of useful additional information after publication and receives sometimes requested information from governmental bodies with great delay. If the information are relevant, FactCheck Georgia adds the new information and marks them as "revised". If the changes have an impact on the final verdict, too, the article is tagged by the word "corrected". In both cases, an editorial note at the end of the article explains the changes. The website shows plenty examples of such cases and indicates a very serious implementation of the correction policy, as stated in the methodology on the website.
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Criterion 6b - Open & honest corrections policy1. http://factcheck.ge/en/article/the-contactless-patrolling-system-which-we-are-introducing-is-practiced-across-europe/

Editor’s Note: The initial version of this article was published on 14 March 2016. On 15 March 2016, the Deputy Ministers of Internal Affairs met with NGO representatives to discuss the contactless patrolling system and the respective law. FactCheck also attended this meeting and we presented our readers with a revised version of this article which includes the information from the aforementioned discussion.

2. http://factcheck.ge/en/article/exports-have-gone-down-to-the-level-of-2011-2/

Editorial Note: The initial version of this article was published on 5 December 2016. After publishing the article our reader contacted us, indicating a flaw in our study. Specifically, the initial version of the article did not calculate the value of exports from Georgia in fixed prices, which has a trend of growth. Taking all this into account, the article has been corrected, with the FactCheck verdict changing accordingly. Sergi Kapanadze’s statement was hence rated as MOSTLY TRUE instead of TRUE.

FactCheck Georgia has also several other examples of corrections. They are in Georgian and can be provided upon your request.
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Georgia