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WPFC releases report on freedom of news media in Georgia

(WPFC/IFEX) - 11 September 2011 - A mission to assess the state of freedom of the news media in Georgia before the forthcoming closely fought general election in the independent republic concluded, in a special report released today, that while the press is free, the country is so polarized politically that professional journalistic impartiality has been made extremely difficult, if not impossible, to maintain.

The mission, undertaken for the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC) and the Centers for Pluralism, affiliated with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, was conducted by WPFC European Representative Ronald Koven and leading Bulgarian journalist Tatiana Vaksberg.

They concluded that the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili has forced news media to be either for or against it, rejecting attempts at balanced reporting as a form of political opposition. Their report noted that the leader of the Georgian Dream opposition coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has mirrored the official attitude by publicly warning pro-government journalists that it will be "difficult" for them to "keep your place in society" if they are not "objective."

The report noted widespread conflicts of interest in the media structures and numerous arbitrary measures by the police and authorities to prevent normal coverage. Ms. Vaksberg conducted a detailed content analysis of one day's main evening news programs of the primary pro-government television outlets and found near-identical programming, centered on the activities of government leaders, on the three channels, despite their differing ownerships.

The authors outlined practical and legal measures that could improve the press freedom environment in the medium term.

Read the report:
Georgia_news_media.pdf (307 KB)

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