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PM says his Gov’t did its best for media freedom

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, October 30
Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili spoke about the legal dispute and controversies surrounding Georgia’s private broadcaster Rustavi 2 at an October 28 Government meeting.

“Georgia’s free media environment is one of the top gains for our Government,” Garibashvili said, referring to the ongoing legal ownership dispute between the former and current shareholders of Rustavi 2.

The PM stressed that owing to the democratic reforms carried out under the Georgian Dream (GD) coalition leadership, media has become free from Governmental influence.

“Through our reforms, a new broadcaster might be opened in ten days and start functioning after another three. Under the previous state leadership it would be impossible to open a new broadcaster even in 10 years.”

“There are about 300 media outlets functioning in Georgia and they have never been hindered by the Government’s steps. Moreover, we have provided maximally liberal legislation to encourage them,” Garibashvili added.

The PM emphasised that it was in the state's interests to have as many media outlets in the country as possible so that information and truth can be widely available for Georgian citizens.

“It does not matter whether we approve of the media outlet’s editorial policy or not,” Garibashvili said, adding that he might have sometimes criticize some media outlets or NGOs, but it never meant that the organisations faced the threat of closure.

“Thus, I will never take the criticism that the Government is somehow involved in the Rustavi 2 case. It is a solely legal dispute,” Garibashvili said.

Georgia’s top official underscored that each Georgian citizen had the right to address the court in the case they felt any injustice to him/her.

“Everyone should be equal before the law. We should let the court deliver a fair verdict,” Garibashvili said.

The PM addressed all political players and requested that they refrain from interfering in the court’s activities through their statements and publicly disclosing what they believe the judge's verdict should be.

The PM also addressed sceptics and reminded them about the situation of Imedi TV under the previous state leadership in 2007, when the former state leaders “raided the broadcaster, dispersed the staff and took control of the TV Company until 2012”.

“I remind sceptics of the case of Imedi in case they have failed to appreciate our democratic approaches and reforms,” Garibashvili added.

On another note, the PM focused on the leak of the sexual abuse videos on the Internet and the public’s negative reactions to the current opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), which was in power when thousands of such videos were filmed and used for blackmail purposes.

The PM stressed that any citizen could be “uptight” after watching the videos but he requested that the public refrain from any emotional actions.

“Stability is the country’s top interest,” Garibahsvili declared.

The PM then asked Interior Minister Giorgi Mgebrishvili about the legal procedures concerning the recent rallies in front of the UNM offices, during which several UNM headquarters were painted in red by the demonstrators as a sigh of protest to the sexual and torture footage.

The Minister announced that legal proceedings have been launched in 22 cases and three individuals have already faced administrative punishment.

The opposition and the Rustavi 2 leadership stated that the Government wanted to close Rustavi 2 and the current trials against the channel were staged by GD authorities as they disliked the channel’s critical attitude towards state officials’ activities.

Later, that they head of Rustavi 2, Nika Gvaramia, stated that the Government planned to raid the broadcaster’s building. However, his statement was ultimately proved to be groundless, as no such raid took place.