John Bass, the U.S. ambassador in Tbilisi, said Georgian media lacked investigative journalism about government’s activities that over time could be damaging for democracy development.
“I think the state of media in Georgia is, what I would call, work in progress, where there is clearly wide range of viewpoints available for the public, but not necessarily an objective approach to the variety of issues or a range of opinions being expressed on specific channels or shows,” the U.S. ambassador said.
“I think there is a lack of investigative journalism about the activities of government and about the intersection of government and business in this country that over time could be corrosive to the development of the democratic society. That is something we will continue to work on,” he said and added, that the U.S. would continue its assistance in development of free media as part of the efforts to help strengthen Georgia’s democracy.
The U.S. ambassador made the remarks in the town of Gori on December 22 after visiting a local TV station Trialeti, which has accused the authorities for number of times this year of exerting pressure on its management and journalists.
Ambassador Bass said that he had heard concerns expressed by Trialeti TV journalists about pressure they were experiencing when trying to ask hard questions and when focusing on issue that the authorities were not particularly pleased to be aired.
“Those depictions concern me and I’ll be looking into those allegations and talking with authorities about how to improve environment and climate for journalists working in Georgia,” the U.S. ambassador said.
While investigative reports, mainly produced by independent studios funded by foreign donor organizations, are aired on Tbilisi-based Maestro and sometimes on Kavkasia television stations, the nation-wide broadcasters, including the Georgian Public Broadcaster, have no investigative pieces in their programming.
Gia Chanturia, the general director of the public broadcaster, pledged when he was running for the post in August, 2009 to launch investigative reports – the promise, which has not yet been delivered.
A November, 2009 survey by Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) showed Georgian viewers’ appetite for investigative reporting with 75% of respondents saying they would like to see such reports on healthcare, the courts, elections, the protection of freedom of speech and 64% saying they would also like to see relations between politicians and the Georgian Orthodox Church investigated.