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Free media discussed in Georgia

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, July 18
Journalists should be able to work unhindered, regardless of the political affiliation of the media outlets they represent,” Dunja Mijatovic the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, said on July 16 referring to the recent cases of violence against journalists in Georgia.

Emphasizing that “it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the media can perform their duties without the fear of violence, or any other form of obstruction,” Mijatovic called the Georgian authorities to investigate the “repeated occurrence of violence.”

The statement released by the OSCE representative referred to the much talked of Karaleti case, in the Shida Kartli region where on July 12, ten reporters from the Info 9 News Agency, the Ninth Channel, Trialeti, and the Shida Qartli Information Center, received injuries during a clash between the Georgian Dream and ruling United National Movement (UNM) supporters.

Mijatovic also mentioned the incident involving Info-9 and the Ninth Channel crews on 26 June in the village of Mereti in the Shida Kartli region, when Bidzina Ivanishvili was holding a campaign meeting with the local population.

According to the OSCE press release, Info-9 and Trialeti journalists have been physically and verbally harassed while reporting on issues of public interest from other parts of the Shida Kartli region over the past two-months.

“I am concerned by these incidents and I hope the authorities will do their utmost to reverse this worrying trend,” Mijatovic said, noting that already in May she “exchanged letters” with the Georgian government “over other cases of violence and harassment against journalists.”

Mijatovic also mentioned the case of Maestro TV, whose 10,000 satellites were seized by the government over allegations of voter bribery.

Political analyst Soso Tsintsadze said when international organization like the OSCE expresses its worries, it might have the relevant proof which should be considered by the government, but during the pre-election period, no one is insured from the nervous disorder against the journalists.

He said Georgian media has no traditional understanding of “the fifth estate” and the journalistic corps has a law qualification. “Free media is nothing without the influence,” he told The Messenger and added that journalists had the right to do anything freely since Eduard Shevardnadze’s governance but with “zero reaction.”

He said although the media is moving to a new stage of protecting civil rights, Georgia is still far from the European values on which OSCE is standing on.

Chair of the Georgian Young Lawyer's Association (GYLA), Tamar Chugoshvili, worried that the cases of hindering journalist activities is increasing in the country recently without the proper investigation. Chugoshvili told The Messenger that the Georgian government should be attentive and careful towards media related issues, but no violators of journalist’s rights are being punished.

Chugoshvili said the fact that the main victims of violence have been the journalists of Info 9, highlights the fact that every case of violence has political reasons. “The problem that exists in Georgia (and reported by international organizations) is that there is no limit between the political parties and the government,” Chugoshvili said, discouraging the identification of the UNM and the state bodies. She said the nonexistence of “political neutrality” remains a serious problem for Georgia.