A media watchdog group, led by Polish activist-journalist Adam Michnik, kick-started its activities on December 14 with its first televised discussions.
The group has been set up to monitor Georgian broadcasting standards and ethics for the next two months and along with Michnik himself it involves seven Georgian journalists, civil society and academic figures.
The first program, which was aired by the Georgian Public Broadcaster, featured three members of the group: Alexander Rondeli, the president of Tbilisi-based think-tank Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies; Lasha Tugushi, the editor of the daily Rezonansi and Michnik.
The 25-minute long program saw participants discussing the more theoretical aspects of the media’s role in general, especially in a Georgian pre-election context. Greater focus is expected on specific television news reports in later programs. The program will be aired once a week. Michnik's apppearance as a moderator was a surprise, given his earlier comments that he wouldn't participate in the TV discussions.
On December 13, Michnik made his first direct criticism, saying it was not positive when a TV owner [business tycoon and presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili] was in politics and especially was running for the presidency.
Michnik, speaking on Imedi TV’s late-night political talk show, On the Air, said that a similar problem existed in Italy, describing it as “Berlusconism.”
In response, the TV show host, finding herself in an uncomfortable situation, went on the defensive, saying that News Corp. had power of attorney over Patarkatsishvili. Patarkatsishvili maintains that he handed over management rights of his shares in the company to co-owner News Corp. late in October after announcing that he planned to finance the opposition.
Michnik, however, brushed off the argument, recalling his own experience of when he had, as he put it himself, made “a mistake” and “a sin” by maintaining his position as newspaper editor and at the same time being in politics.
Meanwhile, all four national television stations are airing late-night political talk shows, almost every night, featuring debates between opposition and ruling party figures – a rarity before the November events.
Signifying a major U-turn, officials are even appearing on Imedi TV political talk shows. The authorities had for a year and a half refused to participate in Imedi political talk shows and debates.