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Battle for the high ground

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, August 6
When two forces confront each other they donít immediately engage in direct combat. They try to take the high ground and launch their attack from there. Figuratively speaking this is the situation we are seeing in Georgia now, when both the administration and opposition have taken time out and are mobilising their forces in readiness to take further steps. One should say that the administration has been more successful in this as it has already gained one important height, the position of Ombudsman. Current public defender Sozar Subari has been unbiased, and therefore considered by the administration to be on the oppositionís side, but has now been replaced by the Governmentís own nominee, whose willingness to challenge official misconduct has yet to be proven.

The next height up for grabs is the position of General Director of Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB). This is a very important, if not crucial, position and much depends on who is appointed. Will it be an impartial, unbiased person, principled and democratically-oriented, or will it be an obedient lapdog fulfilling orders received from the Government? Recently the Georgian public has become very much engaged with this issue. Both political sides recognise that this is a very important position, as of the different media outlets the TV plays the most influential role in creating public opinion and manipulating it.

The Rose Revolution administration has very good experience of how Rustavi 2 worked for it before, during and after 2003. It played a great if not decisive role in the success of the Rose Revolution, conducting propaganda work as well as instructions, telling people where to go, what to do and how to do it. It also conducted very intensive ideological work. People watched the channel and their political awareness developed accordingly. Then owner of Rustavi 2 Erosi Kitsmarishvili, one of the leaders of the Rose Revolution, understood perfectly the organising role of TV and played it. Therefore the present administration knows that he who possesses the TV channels has a considerable advantage.

In 2007 the Governmentís position was challenged by alternative TV channel Imedi, which was on the opposition side and created a really serious pro-opposition mood in the population. So the National Movement is doing its best to prevent the opposition getting hold of GPB. That is why it is promoting its own candidate for this position rather than give the opposition or a neutral person the chance to use such an important tool of manipulating public opinion. By using GPB in harness with two other broadcasters, the privately owned but state-controlled TV channels Rustavi 2 and Imedi, the Government can easily combat the climate of unfavourable public opinion in the country as there will be fewer contrary opinions to be heard in the most accessible information medium.

The two channels with a clear opposition orientation, Maestro and Kavkasia, have limited technical capabilities and cannot therefore compete with the leading three. Consequently the administration is giving very little or no chance to any other candidate apart from its own - Giorgi Chanturia. Among the figures known to have submitted applications to become General Director of GPB are well-known journalists such as Lali Moroshkina, Marina Salukvadze, Zviad Koridze, Temur Koridze etc. The most prominent among them is the above mentioned Erosi Kitsmarishvili, who is now in opposition and promises to establish a really unbiased and democratically-oriented TV station if he is selected. However most political analysts suggest that the decision of the supervisory board is predetermined and Giorgi Chanturia will be appointed. Thus yet another height will be occupied by the administration, which is taking into its own hands all the necessary means for winning next yearís local elections.