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Media Freedom representative visits Tbilisi

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, November 12
OSCE representative of Media Freedom, Dunja Mijatovic is visiting Tbilisi as part of the 7th Annual South Caucasus Media Conference on November 11-12 – a two-day event which provides a “forum for discussion on media developments and challenges” facing journalists in the South Caucasus, according to the OSCE press service.

Mijatovic first visited Georgia in her capacity as OSCE media representative in April, 2010. Speaking to media representatives at Frontline Georgia media club on Wednesday she said, “It was my first official visit abroad in this capacity; my flight was delayed during to the volcanic ash cloud and I had a chance to spend several days in Georgia and meet high level officials and NGO representatives.” She pointed out that the licensing and media ownership issues were raised during the meetings.

“I found very encouraging the promise of the Georgian Parliament Speaker, Davit Bakradze, about starting work on the issue of media ownership. This is something that is happening right now,” the OSCE media freedom representative said, adding that she is not aware of the details of the initiated draft law so far. “I will talk about this issue during my meetings with Georgian government officials,” she commented.

Georgia is a country in transition undergoing many reforms, including reforms in the media field, Mijatovic said at Frontline Georgia club. “The situation is not perfect, but generally as soon as I feel that there are even small steps taken in the right direction, I think it is a good start,” she stated, naming decriminalisation of defamation as one of the major leaps towards media freedom in Georgia. “As soon as I see that defamation is decriminalised in the country, I am always much more relaxed,” Mijatovic said.

The OSCE media representative hailed Georgian officials for being “open” and “cooperative” on freedom of the media issues. “They have a genuine will to discuss things. I am not saying that everything is completed but the most important thing for me in my job is to have doors opened so that I have a possibility to work with the government and a possibility for dialogue,” Mijatovich noted, adding, “Georgia is one of the countries I value very much when it comes to supporting the work of the OSCE.”

Later on November 11, the Annual South Caucasus Media Conference opened at Radisson Blu Iveria hotel. Government officials, international and media experts, as well as journalists and civil society representatives from three South Caucasus states – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia participated in the first session of the Conference dedicated to international standards and practices of access to information and their practical implementation in the South Caucasus.

Georgian officials attending the conference evaluated the event as very important for the development of media freedom in the country. “This conference triggers a lot of important discussions and brings up many important issues,” Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Foreign Relations, Akaki Minashvili said, noting, “This event is one of the most significant incentives of discussion between the government and civil society and between representatives of different countries. It is an opportunity for us to share opinions, experiences and to talk about what should be done in the future.”

The MP said several crucial changes in terms of media freedom have been made since 2008, naming the changes applied to the Georgian Public Broadcaster board as some of the most important. “A new political channel was also created, which gives the opposition an opportunity to express their opinions and ideas without any editorial limits,” he noted.

The second day of the Annual South Caucasus Media Conference will be dedicated to recent media freedom-developments in the South Caucasus. Editor-in-chief of Liberali magazine, member of the GPB board of trustees, Shorena Shaverdashvili, Chairman of the Committee to protect freedom of expression Ashot Melikian and Chairman of Yeni Nasil Journalists’ Union, Arif Aliyev will speak on the issue. The participants of the conference are expected to adopt the conference’s declaration at the closing session on November 12.