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Audit of MediaPalitra causes unrest among journalists

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, June 9
The Board of Journalistic Ethics Charter expresses hope that the audit conducted at MediaPalitra is not related to its coverage of the May 26 developments – said a statement released by the Board, during the demonstration in front of MediaPalitra office, on June 8.

The Revenue Service of the Ministry of Interior Affairs launched an audit in six entities of MediaPalitra on 7 June. Stores of four entities were sealed off. Based on the common statement, MediaPalitra does not have anything against fulfilling a tax audit. However, the simultaneous launching of the unexpected audit in six separate entities of MediaPalitra leads to logical doubts and concerns regarding possible attempts to exercise pressure on free media, “We appeal to Georgian society to fight together against any open or secret attempt for establishing censorship. We call on the society to care for the development of highly ethical journalism, “the statement of the Board of Journalistic Ethics Charter says.

Opposition representatives have connected the audit to the MediaPalitra’s recent activities. They are sure that it was revenge for objective broadcasting of the May 26 events by Media Palitra, “it is an attempt from the authorities' side to punish Palitra for this. The Opposition 8 has just met with EU representatives and released information of the case. The Government state one thing, that it supports democracy in the country but it behaves on the contrary, it is their style, “Leader of Conservative Party, Zviad Dzidziguri told The Messenger.

As Christian Democrats' representative, Inga Grigolia, told us, the development might be a source of extremely negative results for the Government, “I just remind the authorities that, several years ago, the same organization started an audit in Rustavi 2, during the Shevardnadze period. The case imposed extreme irritation of society and the first large scale rally was related to their audit, which, very soon was followed by the Rose Revolution.”

In response, the Revenue Service called on the sides not to politicize the situation, as there is nothing unusual in such actions. According to the special statement released on the same day, it was an ordinary material-technical inventory, which the office conducts in similar organizations systematically and Media Palitra is not the only organization, where such an inspection is currently being undertaken. The statement also explains that such an inspection has not been conducted in four branches of the holding so far,” The inspection is a simple and brief procedure, which will not cause any obstructions to the operation of the organization. We call on political parties to abstain from politicizing such issues and activities of the office, which are carried out in the frames of law.” The majority representatives were also surprised as to why certain forces were trying to make a political connection, “All media means had broadcasted those events as they had seen them. There is a free media in the country, which includes those favoring the opposition, and no problems are being created for them in the country. I am sure that the Revenue Office would fulfill its duties in the frames of the law and the functioning of MediaPalitra would not be disturbed at the same time, “Vice Speaker, Mikheil Machavariani, said.

As the Journalist and Media Analyst Ia Antadze told The Messenger, it was just a preventative action based on some real doubts, “we have some doubts about the case and the checking of juridical and financial documents of Palitra (which is allowed by law) can be directly or indirectly related with the restriction of the right of free expression. Palitra is an absolutely free media source and the authorities can’t control it. At some stage during its development, in Georgia, unfortunately such media outlets have problems. By this action, we say to all, that we are ready to protect such media means,“ Antadze said and mentioned that if their suspicions turn out to be true , they will do their best against such actions through their inner and foreign contacts.