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Georgian media signs memorandum in support of press freedom

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, February 2
A Memorandum of Solidarity for Media Freedom was signed by 31 media outlets on Wednesday, in an attempt to "[fight] against injustice and protect one another".

One of the initiators of the union is a founder of Maestro TV. Mamuka Glonti explained that the association intends to combat press freedom violations. "If such action is carried out against one [member] of the media, the whole media union would stand with it," he asserted, mentioning that international organizations would be involved if circumstances required it. Ghlonti believes that the formation of such a union is especially important for smaller media outlets, "as in the case of any problem, a big organization protects its interests”.

Editor-in-chief of Rezonansi, Lasha Tughushi, says the union will be more effective if a large number of media outlets participate, reiterating that the press "should protect ourselves and others at the same time". Encouraging every media outlet to unite under the umbrella of the memorandum, Tugushi promised to consider all opinions of people interested in freedom of speech in Georgia.

Members of the newly established group intend to draft regulations with the support of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) before proceeding with any events or activities.

As for the rules governing the membership, Ghlonti affirmed that the organization’s door is open for all types of media, although a consensus from all parties would be necessary for inclusion of a new member.

The impetus for the memorandum came from a conflict between Maestro TV and the state government. Representatives of the network claim that Georgian authorities put undemocratic pressure on media outlets, and are all talk and no action when it comes to defending freedom of the press. The government cites a financial issue between the channel and their parent company as reason for their interest, although Maestro calls the incident a "misunderstanding".

Members of Georgian opposition parties regularly speak about serious problems in the media, citing sectors of the press under government control as a major problem.

A recent report from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe criticized Georgia's media landscape, particularly its lack of diversity in television news.