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Media Landscapes

Georgia

Written by Maia Mikashavidze

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Georgia is one of the three states composing the South Caucasus. It has a population of 4.3 million people. Ethnic Georgians make up the majority of the population, 83.8 percent. The largest minority groups are Azerbaijanis, 6.5 percent of the population, and Armenians with 5.7 percent. Eightythree percent of all Georgians belong to the Christian Orthodox Church. Others practice Islamic, Armenian-Gregorian and Catholic religions. Seventy-one percent of the population speaks Georgian. Income per capita is $2881.

The breakup of the Soviet Union gave a major boost to the independent media in Georgia. Some 600 newspapers were registered in the country between 1990 and 2000. An audience hungry for uncensored news and editorial freedom found it in Georgia’s first regularly published independent newspapers, 7 Days and Resonance. Rustavi 2 television, established in 1994, quickly gained audience and influence. Media became one of the most trusted institutions in Georgia.

Georgian people put high value on the freedom of expression and press. Post-Soviet governments chose to allow independent media.But as media grew more and more critical of the chaos, abuse of power and rampant corruption in the country, government pressure strengthened. There were two attempts to shut down Rustavi 2 TV, the killing of a prominent TV anchor, Giorgi Sanaia, and numerous other attacks against journalists.

The biggest victory won by independent Georgian media has been the free and thorough coverage of the rigged parliamentary elections of 2003, leading to the Rose Revolution. Mainstream media reported that the results of exit polls and parallel vote tabulation contradicted numbers released by the Central Election Commission. The population took to the streets demanding free and fair elections and the resignation of the government of Eduard Shevardnadze. The Rose Revolution brought to power the government of current president, Michael Saakashvili. At the time, media were the second-most trusted institution in the country after the Orthodox Church, with a 73 percent approval rating.

The post Rose-Revolution era brought the liberalisation of media legislation, business incentives following strong economic growth but also new challenges. The government took charge of the news agenda. Many journalists practised self-censorship either out of fear or to give the young government a chance. Two TV stations and several newspapers closed down. National TV channels were taken over by businesses close to the government.

Relations between the government and the press further deteriorated in 2007.In November 2007 the violent closure amidst political protests of TV Imedi, which was strongly critical of the government, damaged Georgia’s standing as a country with a fledgling free press. The August 2008, war with Russia further complicated the environment for independent media.

In 2009, freedom of the press became one of the top issues in Georgian politics. The opposition waged a war for the control of the Georgian Public Broadcaster, and against other
TV stations, which, in their view, favoured the government. At times, the protest took ugly forms, such as pickets and “corridors of shame” in front of the Georgian Public Broadcaster and various other instances of intimidation of journalists. International organisations voiced sharp criticism of the media situation in the country. During his annual address before the Parliament on 20 July, President Saakashvili proposed moving toward a “more open and unbiased” media environment and ensuring the independence of the Georgian Public Broadcaster.

Regional media in Georgia have practiced greater independence and ethical standards. But they have been struggling on the business side. Regional media do not reach large audiences; national television programming dominates the media landscape.

Newspapers enjoy freedom in Georgia; they provide diverse views. Despite global decrease in newspaper readership, one quarter of all Georgians said in polls newspapers were their primary source of political news.

Of 502 newspapers in Georgia, 376 are registered with the Department of Statistics in Tbilisi and 126 are registered in the regions; most are published irregularly. There are 28 circulating in Tbilisi and 61 regional newspapers that are are reasonably active. Tbilisi-based dailies Resonance and 24 Hours lead the list of serious press. The weekly Kviris Palitra has the biggest sales. These newspapers have loyal readership, diverse content and modern management. Other popular central newspapers — Alia, Akhali Taoba, Versia and Asaval-Dasavali — have less stringent professional standards. Most Tbilisi dailies are distributed in the regions.

Regional newspapers come out once a week. The leaders are Batumelebi, Akhali Gazeti, PS, Guria News, Kakhetis Khma, Spektri and Samkhretis Karibche.

There are newspapers published in minority languages. Russian-language newspapers circulating in Tbilisi include Svobodnaya Gruziya, Golovinski Prospect, Argumenti i Facti – as well as Komsomolskaya Pravda v Gruzii, Ajaria (in Russian and Georgian). Armenian-language newspapers include Javakhk, Arshadius and Samkhretis Karibche (in Armenian and Georgian). Azerbaijani language newspapers include Gurjistan, Hairat, Timer (bimonthly magazine in Azerbaijani and Georgian published by the Civil Development Agency).

The Messenger, Georgia Today, the Georgian Times, Georgian Business Week and Financial are English-language newspapers catering to the international community.

Precise data on newspaper circulation are not available. The reasons are a lack of circulation audit and sales data from distributors as wel as publishers’ unwillingness to disclose figures. Average circulation of most Tbilisi dailies is between 4,500 and 5,000, while weekly circulation ranges from 25,000 to 30,000. Regional newspapers have lower circulation at about 2,000.

Magazine publishing is on the rise in Georgia. Sarke, Tbiliselebi, Gza and Raitingi, which offer a mix of gossip about entertainment and politics on low-quality paper and at a small price have the highest circulation in the print press. Cosmopolitan Georgia and Tskheli Shokoladi are the most popular glossies. M-Publishing, the publisher of Tskheli Shokoladi, recently launched bi-weekly magazine Liberal to respond to the demand for serious reporting and analysis.

Some 9 percent of the population claimed to get most of their political news from magazines.

There are 27 radio stations in Tbilisi, nine in the regions.  Most airtime is filled by music. Leading Tbilisi-based stations include: Fortuna, Fortuna Plus, Imedi, Utsnobi, Avto Radio, Ar Daidardo and Green Wave.  These stations have niche audiences and offer a mix of news, talk shows, music and entertainment.  All but Utsnobi air nationwide. 

Soviet-era state radio was transformed into the public radio, and is now part of the Georgian Public Broadcaster. GPB operates two radio channels: Sakartvelos Radio – Pirveli Radio and Radio Ori – Kartuli Radio. Sakartvelos Radio broadcasts nationwide with news and various programmes. It lags behind in the ratings, as does GPB’s Channel I television. 

In the regions, the best radio stations are Dzveli Kalaki, Hereti, Harmonia and Atinati.  These stations broadcast news, music and talk shows.  They strongly compete with Tbilisi-based stations for local audiences.  The four radios are united as Georgian Radio Network. 

Archived programmes of member stations are posted on the GRN website.  There are two community radio stations in the regions, Marneuli and Nori, which broadcast three hours per  day via loudspeaker.

The number of radio stations has increased over past years.  The trend is for specialised programming.  There are classic, jazz, rock, folk music stations as well as stations with sports, traffic or business news.  Abkhazetis Khma broadcasts in Georgian and Russian, aiming to reach the breakaway region Abkhazia.

Listeners can tune in to the Radio France International and re-broadcasts of America’s National Public Radio and BBC World on Radio GIPA.

Georgia does not have 24-hour talk radio station.  Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty fills the niche with four hours of locally produced news and analysis. 

Most radio stations are available online.  Many have websites with live streaming and programme archive. The RFE/RL website is the most developed, with news updates and blogs to complement on-air content.

Seventeen percent of Georgians say they get their political news from radio.

Television is by far the most preferred medium in Georgia, with 95 percent of Georgians getting their political news via television.  There are 40 television stations in Georgia, of which nine are Tbilisi-based. There are 31 based in the regions. 

Four stations, Georgian Public Broadcaster Channel I, Imedi, Rustavi 2 and Ajara have nationwide audiences.  All but Ajara TV are based in Tbilisi.  Regional stations have limited programming, and have less local viewership than national channels. 

Rustavi 2 has the biggest viewership in Tbilisi, followed by TV Imedi and the Georgian Public Broadcaster. 

Two Tbilisi-based stations, Kavkasia TV and Maestro, increased their ratings by voicing opinion of the opposition. This coincided with the surge in the opposition activities in 2008 and ’09.  Maestro, which began as a music and entertainment channel, started airing political chat shows.  This put the station in trouble with the Georgian National Communications Commission, which found Maestro in breach of licensing terms. GNCC’s subsequent decline of Maestro’s request for a broader “general programming” license resulted in an eight-month dispute and criticism from media watchdog organisations. The license was granted only after personal intervention on the part of the chairman of Georgian Parliament.  Maestro also received a license to satellite broadcasting to reach nationwide. 

Private ownership of TV is “often nontransparent,” the watchdog group Freedom House wrote in the 2009 edition of its Freedom of the World Report. This analysis rings true in Georgia, where ownership stakes in the biggest TV station, Rustavi 2, are not clearly stated.  The other big station, TV Imedi, is in a legal battle over ownership. Currently, a 90 percent stake of Imedi is owned by Georgian Media Holding, a subsidiary of Rakeen Investment, and managed by President Saakashvili’s former minister of economy.

Imedi TV, launched by late Georgian tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, had been strongly critical of the authorities.  During major political protests on 7 November, 2008, the government accused the station of instigating violence. It sent masked police to put the station off air.  The police destroyed equipment and “excessively ill-treated” journalists (Georgian Public Defender, Parliamentary Report on State of Human Rights, 2007).  Imedi reopened a year later, after the death of Patarkatsishvili and takeover by a pro-government businessman.  The station’s editorial policy subsequently changed and reporting lost sharpness.

News coverage on all national stations lacks balance and neutrality.  As Freedom House observed, “broadcast media reflect the quality of the country’s political debate, which is sorely lacking in thoughtful discussion of public policy.”

The stations Rustavi 2, Mze and Imedi are viewed as supportive of the government, while Kavkasia and Maestro lean toward the opposition.  In 2006, two new TV stations opened: Sakartvelo and Alania.  Sakartvelo is financed by the Ministry of Defence to cover the defence sector.  Alania broadcasts in Russian to reach the population of the breakaway South Ossetia region.

Georgian Public Broadcaster is a publicly-funded entity, and required by law to “provide accurate and up-to-date information that is free from political and commercial bias” and “to address the needs and interests of the larger Georgian society through diversity of programs and viewpoints” (Article15, Law on Broadcasting).  The decision to transform state TV into a public broadcaster was made in 2004 and the resulting Law on Broadcasting crafted. 

GBP has been much criticised lately for having grown “more friendly with the authorities.” (Freedom House, Freedom of World Report, 2009).  It now has its fourth governing board and third general director.  In 2009, the company “has been at the center of the ongoing political struggle for media supremacy” (IREX Media Sustainability Index 2009). The opposition parties staged pickets and “corridors of shame,” intimidated journalists and disrupted operations. On 20 July, 2009, President Saakashvili spoke of GBP at its annual appearance before the parliament. He proposed that GPB’s governing board be formed on the basis of parity between political parties, with four members representing the authorities, four members representing the political opposition and one member representing the civil sector. In December 2009, the number of board members increased from nine to 15. 

GPB is funded by an annual allocation in the state budget equal to 0.15 percent of Georgian GDP.

Independent television studios produce television programmes and documentaries.  TBC TV, Prime Time, Formula Creativi and Utsnobi Studio all produce films and programmes for the Georgian Public Broadcaster and other television companies in Georgia.  Studios “Reporter” and “Monitor” have produced a number of much-discussed documentaries about crimes after the Rose Revolution in Georgia.  Reporter, a recent documentary about the misuse of funds at the Georgian Public Broadcaster sparked heated debates in the management practices at GPB.  Former reporters of Rustavi 2 TV started the studio GNS.  It produces weekly investigative programmes and documentaries and airs them on Maestro TV. 

Advertising income in the TV sector is about 35m.  The market is not big enough to sustain many stations. Some stations receive financial injections from the government or private owners.  The advertising market is concentrated in Tbilisi, with Rustavi 2 TV leading in advertising sales.  Media House is one of two media sellers and has exclusive rights to sell advertising on Rustavi 2 and other three TV stations in Tbilisi.

Georgian cinema has a history of success and international fame.  The year 2008 marked the 100th anniversary of the Georgian cinema.  Some 800 full-length, short and television films, 600 documentaries and about 300 animations and puppet films were produced in these years. A special exposition was held at Cannes Film Festival and the online catalogue of Georgian films launched at Geocinema.ge.

The prolific years of the late Soviet period were followed by the collapse of film production amid the economic and political turmoil of the 1990s.  In recent years the government has tried to revive the film industry.  Its strategy is to promote the country as “one of the most film-friendly and competitive production destinations in the world” (Georgian National Film Center) and attract foreign capital by offering improved infrastructure, skilled labour and low production costs. In 2000, the Parliament adopted the Law on State Promotion of Georgian National Cinematography.

The law served as a legal basis for the establishment of the Georgian National Film Center, a state-funded agency under the Ministry of Culture, Monuments Protection and Sports. It aims to facilitate the development of the Georgian film industry and promote Georgian cinema abroad. GNFC draws funds from the state budget and directs them to promising film projects.

All state studios have been fully or partially privatised.  Independent studios raise funds locally and internationally to make full-length and short films.  These are Sanguko Films, Film Studio – Remka, Georgian Film and Vars - studio.  J.S.C Georgian Film is heir to Soviet Georgia’s main studio, Gruziya Film. It is privately-owned and the biggest film production studio in Georgia with some 243 employees, modern filmmaking equipment, professional film crews and renovated studios.

Telecommunications market, composed of fixed telephony, mobile telephony and broadcasting, was worth  1 billion 312 million Georgian Laries in 2008, based on the latest data available from the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC).

The telecommunications sector equalled 6.88 percent of the gross national product. The most income was generated by mobile telephony (63 percent), followed by fixed telephony (29 percent) and broadcasting (7.7 percent).

The biggest player on the fixed telephonry market is United Telecommunications Company of Georgia. UTCG, commonly refered to as Georgian Telecom. Together with other large providers, Akhtel and Akhali Kselebi, it controls 90 percent of the Georgian fixed telephony market. By the end of 2008, there were 618,000 fixed telephone users in Georgia.

Mobile telephony is dominated by two private companies, Magticom and Geocell, the latter part of Swedish TeliaSonera Group. The third and newest entrant on the market is Beeline, a brand owned by Russian telecommunications giant VimpelCom. Revenues in mobile telephony market have been steadily growing, and reached 831 million Georgian Laries in 2008.

By the end of 2008 there were 2.59 million moble phone users in Georgia over a population of 4.3 million. The number of mobile phone users is growing, fueled by competitive prices and lack of land-line infrastructure. Users are not required to identify themselves when buying mobile phones, but the purchase of a SIM card and number requires registration. The latest trend for mobile phone companies has been the expansion into Internet and fixed-line services. The use of mobile phones to connect to Internet is significantly lower, with 56,500 users in 2008.

Freedom House estimated the number of Internet users in Georgia at between 357,000 and 900,000. 

There were 56,500 mobile Internet users in 2008.  Internet usage is concentrated in the capital city of Tbilisi and the large city of Batumi and is about 35 percent.  Internet penetration in the regions is hindered by high prices and a lack of landline telephone infrastructure.

Internet is free of government control.  Georgian users can freely access sites and share files around the world.  There have been some exceptions, notably, during the 2008 August war with Russia. 

Most developed Internet media in Georgia are blogs, forums, social networking sites and various film and music-sharing sites. Avoe.ge, a film-sharing site, tops the list of most viewed websites

Tbilisi has growing blogging community.  Most blogs are personal diaries, creative work or professional pages.  There are some 50 active bloggers.  Caucasusreports.ge is a blog maintained by the students of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management about major events in the Caucasus.  

Internet forums have increased in popularity.  Forum.ge is the biggest discussion forum. It allows users debate politics, employment, education, health, sports, leisure, etc.

Odnoklasniki.ru is the most popular social networking site in Georgia, followed by Facebook.

Online news media are developing in Georgia, but at a slower pace than elsewhere in Europe.  The reason is a low level of Internet penetration, weak business incentives and lack of knowledge of technology.  Users perceive the Internet as a “source of entertainment or as a place to state contesting views,” according to Freedom House’s report Freedom on the Net, 2008.  Websites of most traditional media offer archived material and livestreaming but no original content or multimedia components.  Many news sites were launched in 2008, a response to the interest of media consumers. Between February and June 2009, the number of people who indicated that they use the Internet to find political information grew from 3 to 8 percent.

Civil.ge is a reliable, fact-based online newspaper.  It has news and analytical stories, and is operated by the United Nations Association of Georgia.  Civil.ge, which accumulates over 300,000 views per month, was launched in July, 2001.  It is published in three languages (Georgian, English, Russian).

Media.ge is a good source of news and analysis about the Georgian media.  It has been active since August 2005, and is operated by Internews.

Presa.ge and Internet.ge aggregate news headlines and stories published by the traditional press. While print media circulation is dwindling, Internet.ge has had more than 5m unique visits since it opened in 2008.

Rustavi2.com is the website of leading TV station, Rustavi 2.  It is among the dozen most-viewed websites in Georgia.

iTV.ge is an Internet TV site operated by Caucasus Internet Media Group.  It has news headlines and videos of major news events, with user comments.  iTV established itself as a good source for news that is filtered out at big television stations.

Gogroupmedia.net, a website by startup GoGroup Media, operates Eye Witness Studio and posts videos by professional journalists and eyewitness reporters. Stories focus on social issues and enhanced coverage from the regions.

There are a number of local and international news agencies operating in Georgia. News agencies InterPressNews, Prime News, GHN, GBC, Pirveli are among the leaders. The agencies are independent, profit-making enterprises. Most news agencies are based in Tbilisi.  RegInfo is an agency in the Kvemo Kartli region.

International agencies represented in Georgia are: Agence France Presse, Reuters Bureau, Bloomberg, Itar Tass, AP Bureau.

Several trade associations were set up with international donor funds between 2005 and 2007.  The Georgian Regional Media Association and the Georgian Association of Regional Television Broadcasters are two most visible organisations, but their influence is marginal. 

The associations lobby against intimidation and violence against journalists, rejection of public information requests and in favour of legislative changes to serve interests of the regional media.

Georgia does not have active professional association.  The oldest association, Georgian Federation of Journalists, is the successor of the Soviet-era Union of Journalists and is currently dysfunctional.

Creation of a modern professional association of journalists was at the heart of the effort of regional journalists, led by the Civil Society Institute, to unite around the Georgian Charter of Journalism Ethics. The Charter was adopted in December 2009 and the Georgian Charter of Journalism Ethics Association established

Georgia has liberal and progressive media legislation.  The Constitution of Georgia and the Law on Freedom of Speech and Expression guarantee freedom of press. The Law on Broadcasting regulates activities in the broadcast sector. The Civil Code has important provisions guarantying access to public files.

Article 19 of the Constitution states:

  1. Every individual has the right to freedom of speech, thought, conscience, religion and belief;
  2. The persecution of a person on the account of his/her speech, thought, religion or belief as well as the compulsion to express his/her opinion about them shall be impermissible;
  3. These rights may not be restricted unless the exercise of these rights infringes upon the rights of other individuals.  
  4. Article 24 of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of media and information:
  5. Everyone has the right to freely receive and impart information, to express and impart his/her opinion orally, in writing or by in any other means;
  6. .Mass media shall be free. Censorship shall be impermissible;
  7. Neither the state nor particular individuals shall have the right to monopolise mass media or means of dissemination of information;
  8. The exercise of the rights enumerated in the first and second paragraphs of the present Article may be restricted by law on such conditions which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of ensuring state security, territorial integrity or public safety, for preventing of crime, for the protection of the right and dignity of others, for prevention of the disclosure of the information acknowledged as confidential or for ensuring the independence and impartiality of justice.

The Law on Freedom of Speech and Expression, adopted after the Rose revolution, is the key legislation guarantying free practice of journalism. 

The law recognises and protects the right to freedom of expression as an inherent and supreme human value.   The law ensures and protects the freedom of every individual living on the territory of Georgia in addition to institutions such as newspapers and publishers and the Public Broadcaster. It protects confidentiality of sources.  One of the important provisions of the law concerns court guarantees for the freedom of expression.  According to the Article 6 of the law, any person may apply to a court with a request, “to prevent a violation of a right guaranteed and protected under this law” or “to eradicate the consequences of the violation.” Importantly, the burden of proof lies with the initiator of the restriction and not a journalist. 

Defamation has been decriminalised.  This is regarded as one of the core achievements of the post-Rose Revolution era. The law now recognises distinctions between defamation of private person and of a public figure.  According to the Articles 13 and 14, public figures should accept much more criticism than ordinary citizen because they are elected and have a higher responsibility to citizens. Their decisions and actions might have influence on society.  

The law explicitly states that any interpretation of it should be in compliance with the Constitution of Georgia and the principles of the European Convention of Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Thus, the law clearly considers international democratic standards of protection of freedom of expression.

The Freedom of Information Section of the General Administrative Code of 1999 guarantees access to public information that is not a state secret.  The code specifies that requested information should be made available immediately, if possible, or within a maximum of 10 days. 

The law on broadcasting establishes rules for obtaining licenses for air frequencies and sets the legal basis for the establishment of the Public Broadcaster.

The Tax Code of Georgia has important value added tax exemption on printing and distribution costs associated with the printed press (Chapter 33, Article 230, point1/ u).

Other legislation pertaining to the media include the Law on State Secret and Law on Copyright and Adjacent Rights.

After four years of deliberation, the Georgian National Communications Commission, or GNCC, adopted the Broadcasters’ Code of Conduct on 12 March, 2009. The document includes recommended and binding norms.  Adoption of the Code is written into the Georgia’s Law on Broadcasting, which defines it as “a normative act, passed by the Commission … determining the rules of conduct for license holders.” Opponents of the Code assert it will become an instrument to tame outspoken media outlets.

Georgian Public Broadcaster has a progressive Code of Conduct, and an ombudsman to observe compliance with the norms.  Few other media organisations have codes of conduct. 
The Media Council, established in 2005, failed to establish cross-media ethical standards. Its founding members — nine national and 11 regional media organisations, three nongovernmental organisations and individual journalists — charged the Council with observing the enforcement of the Journalists Code of Ethics and reviewing the audience complaints.  Having considered just six complaints, the Council is currently dysfunctional. Founding media organisations refuse to pay membership fees.

Four leading newspapers, all of which denounced the establishment of the Council as an attempt to censor media, established an alternative Press Council in 2005.  The Press Council is also dysfunctional.    

Regional journalists have rallied around the Charter of Ethics of Georgian Journalists and its key promoter, the Center of Civil Development.  The Charter was adopted in December 2009.

The GNCC was created in 2000 to regulate the broadcast sector and issue broadcasting licenses.  Created by the Law on Telecommunications and Post of 1999, the GNCC is an independent government agency with an independent source of income from licensing and regulation fees.  It is charged with regulating telecommunications sector.  The commission members are appointed by the president.  Commission members serve for six years.

The commission aims to prevent the establishment of monopolies in the broadcast sector and create an equal and fair competitive environment. It also facilitates the introduction of new technologies. 

The commission holds competitions and tenders to distribute licenses on the use of frequencies.  It monitors activities of license holders to ensure their compliance with the terms of their license.  It also arbitrates litigations between license holders and between license holders and consumers.

“GNCC has been criticised by media observers for its nontransparent operations and licensing procedures,” Freedom House Freedom reported in its Press Report, Georgia, 2008.  Most criticism related to GNCC’s dealings with the traditional media, while its regulation of Internet companies was said to be “fair.”

There are several academic and training programs in Georgia.

Tbilisi State University is the oldest educational institution in Georgia.  It offers bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. programmes in journalism as part of the Department of Social and Political Sciences. 

The Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management of the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs offers practical, hands-on education at a master’s level. It is the first Western-style graduate school of journalism. It draws students from Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.  CSJMM has journalism, media management and public relations programmes.

In 2007, the Caucasus School of Media was established at the Caucasus University. It offers bachelor’s and master’s level programmes, with three academic tracks: journalism, media management and strategic communication.

The University of Georgia, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, offers bachelor’s and master’s level programmes in journalism, media management and pubic relations.

Chavchavadze State University offers journalism programmes as part of its Philosophy and Social Sciences Department.  It is the only university that has three-year bachelor’s level non-degree program, which train journalists and technical staff (cameramen, light, sound engineers, video editors).

Tbilisi Theater University, a cradle of Georgian cinema and theatre, is the leading institution for cinema studies.  It also offers a television journalism programme at the bachelor’s level.
Regional universities in Batumi, Kutaisi, Telavi and Gori offer journalism curricula. 

Internews, Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management and the Caucasus University run regular training programmes and professional courses for media professionals.  Tbilisi Theater University and Georgian National Film Center offer trainings for cinematographers. 

CSJMM, Chavchavadze, CSM and UG started a resource website for media educators, MediaEducation.ge.  It offers translations of media research, tips, curricula and original reporting of interest to media educators.

A highly charged political climate in the aftermath of the August, 2008, war with Russia resulted in greater intertwining of politics and news media. The media “have essentially split into two opposing camps, leaving little room for neutrality and balance in the news,” said the IREX Media Sustainability Index 2009.  Media organisations recognise this may cost them public trust, and have repeatedly insisted on political neutrality.

April, 2009, saw major political demonstrations by the Georgian opposition.  One of their key issues was the freedom of press. The opposition protested against TV companies they view as supportive of the government, including the Georgian Public Broadcaster.  The work of GPB will be closely monitored to ensure compliance with its mission. 

There is greater plurality of views in the media, and this trend will continue. Maestro TV, an outspoken critic of the government, has acquired a license to satellite broadcasting to cover Georgia.  In July, President Saakashvili announced his support for spreading the signal of all television stations over Georgia. 

Georgian media legislation is liberal and progressive.  The biggest challenge has been implementing provisions of the law.  Courts and regulatory bodies practice little independence, and the public trust is dwindling.  Media organisations, when in trouble, address international organisations and civil rights groups rather than courts. The success or failure of recently announced government initiative to ensure the independence of courts will have direct effect on the media. 

Sustainability of media is in the question, and many organisations are struggling to stay in business. The pace of Georgia’s recovery from economic hardships caused by the world economic crisis and the 2008 war with Russia will determine the future of many media outlets, especially in the regions.

The Internet is playing a bigger role in media practice.  All traditional media outlets have acquired domain names and started websites. Georgian media has yet to learn the rich possibilities offered by the Internet.  With further growth of Internet penetration, media companies, consumers and advertisers will display greater interest towards media on the ’Net.

There is growing will among Georgian journalists to practice objective and ethical journalism. The Charter of Ethics will bring regional journalists together and achieving much-needed unity in the media space. 

International donors organisations and media watchdog groups will continue monitoring developments in the Georgian media as part of Georgia’s transition toward democracy. This interest, combined with targeted assistance effort, will open and improve the media environment.

Maia Mikashavidze
Journalist
Georgian Institute of Public Affairs
2 Brosse Street, Tbilisi, Georgia
Tel: +995 32 92 39 51
Email: maia@gipa.ge