All the nation-wide television stations’ editorial policies are fully controlled by the authorities, Sozar Subari, the Public Defender, said on November 14, while presenting his report on freedom of media covering the first half of 2008.
“We are witnessing a very serious censorship every evening during the news programs,” Subari said. “When and which news story should be broadcasted is decided not by the TV companies themselves, but by the governmental officials.”
The report says that the control of TV stations is carried out through TV company owners and the ownership itself remains not transparent. Subari brought an example of the Rustavi 2 TV company, which is co-owned by an offshore firm that makes impossible to find out who is behind that firm.
The report recommends the parliament to amend law on broadcasting providing additional mechanisms for transparency of ownership.
Subari also said that licensing issue had become a tool for pressure as well; the Public Defender brought an example of Maestro TV in this context. He criticized the Georgian National Communication Commission for, as he put it, being “a body fulfilling political instructions” from the authorities.
The report also notes that although unlike other television stations the Georgian Public Broadcaster was balanced, providing diverse range of political views ahead of the May 21 parliamentary elections, “after the elections public TV suspended political debates and unbalanced news emerged again.” “And during the Russian-Georgian military confrontation, the public TV, like Rustavi 2 TV, was a propaganda vehicle,” it added.
The presentation of the report was attended by opposition politicians, media and civil society representatives. Nino Burjanadze, a former parliamentary speaker, and Zurab Nogaideli, a former Prime Minister, were also attending the event.