IAGJ: The Media Must Be Freed from Political Ownership
22 October, 2012

The Independent Association of Georgian Journalists appeals to the new government to implement reforms in media ownership

With the handover of power the media market in Georgia is being redistributed among political groups, a process associated with the violation of journalists’ rights, closing down of television programmes, unfair dismissal from service and not paying of wages.

Journalists Vakho Sanaia and Eka Khoperia stated that their TV programmes were shut down by the Director of Georgian Public Broadcaster Gia Tchanturia without any

prior discussion. Broadcasting company PIK has cut journalists’ salaries. Financial problems emerged at Real TV, which has suspended broadcasting for an indefinite period. After giving back the broadcasting company Imedi to Patarkatsishvili’s family, the channel has temporarily suspended the broadcasting of news.
The processes caused by the governmental changes demonstrated once again that Georgian TV media is in a state of deep crisis and is far from independent media standards. The allocation of shares among the members of former governors, the unjustifiable and unfair recording of debts for some broadcasting companies is creating an unhealthy environment in Georgia’s media space and further worsening the situation of freedom of speech in the country.
The Independent Association of Georgian Journalists considers that over the years, the management and subsidization of broadcasting companies and the advertising market by members of the government hampered the development of independent broadcasting companies and print media. As a result, the quality of freedom of speech has worsened and credibility of the journalistic profession in Georgia has fallen.
After the parliamentary elections on 1 October, a new opportunity has been given for the mistakes of the previous years to be corrected. Government, media and civil society should ensure together the exemption of broadcasting companies from political ownership.
Legislative changes should be implemented in the field of the regulation of media ownership and policy. These changes should exclude the possibility of media monopolization and subsidization by the government or politically motivated groups close to the government.
To develop a mechanism of implementation for this purpose it is necessary to begin discussions between all interested sides in the immediate future.
Media owners should sign such agreements with journalists to ensure their independence and editorial non-interference.
The changes should apply to the National Communications Commission, which has been limiting the distribution of broadcasting frequencies to independent media-companies. Changes must be applied to the Public Broadcaster as well to rule out the possibility of the implementation of government policy and the violation of journalists’ rights in the future.
Journalists must show solidarity, guided only by the principles of journalistic ethics and not by political or financial interests.
The Independent Association of Georgian Journalists, member of the International Federation of Journalists, urges the new authorities to pay attention to the issues of media independence. The Association calls on all media-organizations, international organizations and authorities to start joint discussions on changes to be implemented in Georgian legislation and in the media in general. IAGJ, together with its partners is more than ready to facilitate these discussions and assist the new government with these changes.

Zviad Pochkhua, President of the Independent Association of Georgian Journalists

Geno Jokhadze, Vice-President

Beso Maminaishvili, Vice-President