A closed circle – What’s going on with Georgian media?
03 September, 2015
A closed circle – What’s going on with Georgian media?
In modern Georgia, the media is a powerful participant in political processes, and as a rule, it swells with power as elections draw closer. Our political elites seem to deeply believe that whoever controls the media runs the country. Objectively speaking, this notion isn’t far from truth.

However, Georgian media has a vicious twist to it that has evolved into a seemingly unbreakable cycle over the last 25 years – starting with the 90’s, highly rated political talk shows keep
unexpectedly vanishing from the screens, to return only after a new government comes into power. This process is usually related to elections, with political shows disappearing as they approach and reappearing again once they are over, ad infinitum. Not once, under any government, has this cycle been broken.

At the moment, parliamentary elections are a year away, yet the passions are already flaring. Rustavi 2 TV is now facing emergent issues with its property and ownership, branded by the company’s management as the authorities’ attempt to pressure them. In the meantime, Imedi TV, another popular broadcaster, has unexpectedly decided to cancel all of its political talk shows. It came as a complete surprise to the company’s staff, including Inga Grigolia, anchor of “Reaction”. Without any warning, the following statement was published at the TV company’s website:

“Imedi TV is announcing a temporary halt in broadcasting of socio-political shows for the autumn season. This is done due to our desire to change the existing format of our programs and develop an essentially new TV product that we shall offer to viewers in 2016.”

Inga Grigolia has labeled this decision a purely political step, saying that the ruling group simply does not need her in the upcoming elections.

This unexpected closure was followed by Public Broadcaster cancelling its political talk show as well. In a mysterious coincidence, Eka Mishveladze, anchor of now-nonexistent “First Studio” program, also had no idea of the upcoming shutdown.

Representatives of the government fier­cely deny all allegations of their involvement in the process. However, statements made by parliamentary majority members on the issue were very confusing (to put it mildly) and only served to fortify the suspicions of the government trying to suppress the media. For example, Gogi Topadze said that “it wouldn’t have happened to Imedi TV if it was impartial”, while his colleague and fellow majority member Guguli Maghradze stated that he didn’t like Inga Grigolia’s show because it “left the viewers frightened and nervous whenever it aired”.

A closed circle – just like I said before. It is hard for me, an observer, to evaluate the situation in any other way. It is unfortunate and shameful that to this day Georgian politicians still fail (or refuse) to commit all the As, Bs and Cs of their jobs to memory. Being in power sure is nice, but the fundamental democratic principle of the media being able to freely criticize the government is rarely a source of pleasure for both parties. Even if the media exaggerates and makes mountains out of molehills, fruit of its labor are still more useful for the society than any government-approved, one-sided “truth” that politicians in power are so fond of.

Even Mikheil Saakashvili admitted upon leaving the presidential post that one of his biggest mistake was attempting to limit the pluralistic environment in Georgia. As good ol’ Newton said, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and our ruling coalition better brace itself for the inevitable backlash - something they will have only themselves to blame.

Author: Rusudan Shelia
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