Attack on Journalistic Investigation and Draft Law on Improving Media Space
24 November, 2010
Attack on Journalistic Investigation and Draft Law on Improving Media Space

The draft law prepared by media representatives and lawyers for improving media space is ready for hearing at the legislative body. The team of initiators consists of constitution expert Vakhtang Khmaladze, Journalist Eliso Chapidze and team Coordinator Lasha Tughushi.
Basically the draft law regulates access to public information, financial transparency, cheap and fast justice and licensing.
However, the main task of the new law is the issue of specifying the identity of media outlet owners. There are TV owners in Georgia

whose companies are registered in offshore zones creating a veil of secrecy over the ownership.
Experts say that there is no precedent in the world when a media outlet is registered in the offshore zone and its owner is not known to the public.
As the initiators of the draft law explain, it is necessary to know identity of the people who own media companies. They also hold that the issue of offshoring must be cleared completely, contrary to what the Georgian Parliamentary Legal Committee supposes (they think of allowing unidentified ownership in case of 10% or smaller ownership). Members of the team say that the Committee will not solve the problem with this method. Moreover, it will exacerbate transparency problem because owners of a media outlet who are registered in an offshore zone and who receive finances of unknown origin may be the real owners of the outlet.
The financial transparency is an acute problem too. It is directly related to the independence of media outlets. Experts think that origins of money – be they coming from commercials or other channels – that fill purses of media outlets must be always known. The draft law also tackles the issue of licensing and problems existing in this sphere. There is also a package on international regulations. In addition, the draft law envisages solutions for the accessibility of public information which is the weakest point of today’s media.
The law speaks about cheap and fast justice which is not accessible for the journalists today. It also foresees abolishing of GEL 100 court entry fee which both journalists and citizens were unable to pay.
We would like to remind the readers that this initiative was devised long ago but the legislative authorities gave a green light to it only after the survey of an international organization, which placed Georgia in a middling place in the media freedom rating.
As for the chances of the draft law that has been prepared by the initiative team, to compete with the similar draft of the parliamentary majority, its Coordinator Lasha Tughushi says that if the interest of the public is high, the Authorities would not be able to evade the process.
“It is necessary to continue discussion because media is a very important sphere not only for specific groups but also for the entire society. Therefore, we think that it would be correct if we continue discussions and would be allowed to express our argumentation. The dialogue, debates and discussions would undoubtedly happen; and then we would come up with a decision, which the public craves for. We cannot continue as before,” he says.
It should be noted that this initiative drew feedback from non-governmental organizations. Georgia’s Young Lawyer’s Association supports the package of legislative amendments prepared by the media experts and journalists. Its leadership pledges its contribution. As its head Tamar Khidasheli asserts, the GYLA will help the initiative team in lobbying the cause which aims at drastic changes in the media and information freedom spheres. Khidasheli calls on the Authorities to exercise political will so that the problem is solved in the shortest time possible.
Some time ago the information spread news about the attack of the officer of Special Forces on Enri Kobakhidze, director of Tanamgzavri TV Company operating in Telavi, Eastern Georgia. Kobakhidze sustained multiple body injuries. In his own words, before the attack certain Gela Chvritidze, who, as he says, is a MIA officer, was trying to exert pressure on him, provoke him and interfere in the work of the TV Company.
It turns out that the intimidation of TV director started after the TV station aired the beginning of the journalistic investigation. By the way, personnel of the TV Channel have similar opinions.
Kobakhidze states that on his way home he was attacked and he received multiple knife cuts. Nobody knows if a formal investigation was launched. The victim himself says that he was interrogated. Something completely opposite is asserted by the Governor of the region. He says that nobody has ever applied to the police regarding the alleged case, nor has anyone stood witness.
It should be noted that the main police department of Kakheti region is not commenting on the case. As a high ranking official of Telavi police told Kakheti information center, law enforcers work on the version of ‘self-inflicted wounds’. If true, it will contradict the information widely reported by many information sources.
The press release issued by the regional broadcasting association reads: “For several months Chvritadze is trying to hook Enri Kobakhidze, President of Telavi TV. There were instances when he provoked Kobakhidze, using various methods. He uses a number of outdated intelligence methods; Chvritidze tries to harass Kobakhidze and provoke aggression. After the policeman failed to get the desired outcome, one of the persons of Chvritidze’s group attacked Kobakhidze with knife.”
Human Rights Center appeals to Georgian Public Defender, media and international human rights organizations to react to the fact of physical harassment of the head of the media outlet.
We would like to tell our reader that Telavi TV Company ‘Tanamgzavri’ is the only local TV channel in Kakheti which is not funded by the budget. According to the Kakheti information center, Tanamgzavri frequently airs programs in which Authorities are sharply criticized.
On our part, we trust that law enforces will act swiftly on the case of the attack on the mass media representative and complete the investigation in the shortest time possible, in order to prevent further attacks and threats directed at the journalists.

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