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US Ambassador says GD Gov’t does not pressure media

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, February 26
The United States’ (US) Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly, stated that the current Georgian Government does not pressure the media, but added that much still needs to be done to ensure total media freedom in the country.

The US diplomat made his statement toa Georgian newspaper, Rezonansi, and spoke about the importance of free media especially in the election period.

“The role of the media is crucial in building a democratic state and the more increases during the election period,” Kelly said.

The Ambassador stressed that balanced and unbiased information provided through the media helps voters to be better informed and make the right choices at the ballot box.

“The media should do its utmost to retain a balanced and free editorial policy. In the case of Rustavi 2 (a Georgian private broadcaster), there was a threat of damaging the main goal, as the change in management might have affected the channel’s editorial policy,” Kelly said.

“During that time, we repeatedly expressed our concern over the issue. However, with regards to putting pressure on the media, I do not believe the current Georgian Government is engaged with it,” Kelly added. However, Rustavi 2's leadership still claims that the Government wanted to take control of the media outlet and staged the dispute between the acting and former shareholders of one of the most popular private broadcasters in Georgia.

Kelly said there were various reports provided by influential foreign organisations that the media is relatively free in Georgia, but the Ambassador said much was still to be done in this regard.

Moving on to this year’s parliamentary race, Kelly stressed that Georgia should take one more step forward and conduct high-level and transparent elections.

“I reiterate that the free media role in the process is very high, as it should provide impartial information over all election players. We will be independent observers of the elections together with other organisations,” Kelly said.

The US official also commented on Georgia-North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) relations and said that Georgia would become an alliance member when NATO is ready to include it.

Kelly stressed he is familiar with the strong and weak sides of the organisation, as he worked for NATO for three years.

Kelly said the major weakness of the Alliance was the fact that it was hard for all its 28 members to reach a consensus, while its strength lay in the sheer power of its combined assets.