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Transparency International Georgia – “Government puts Newspapers at Disadvantage”

07.03.2012

Nata Dzvelishvili, media.ge

Transparency International Georgia believes that the Public Registry has put media organizations at disadvantage.  A project by the Georgian Public Registry encourages citizens to call or send the details of such private ads to them.  The Public Registry then places the advertising free of charge in the daily newspaper 24 Hours and publishes it on the websites www.eproperty.ge and www.elisting.ge, which are operated by the Public Registry.

In the blog published on March 6 (signed by the TI Team) at its website Transparency International Georgia states that advertisements are an important source of revenue to printed media in Georgia.

“With one newspaper offering free advertising space that is managed and financed by a government agency, it becomes more difficult for other newspapers and websites to attract advertising,” TI Georgia writes and says that that “24 Hours not only benefits from guaranteed advertising revenues but also from the promotion campaign implemented by the Public Registry.”

In July 2011, the Public Registry announced a tender to buy classified real estate advertising in a national newspaper.  International Transparency Georgia believes that although the tendering procedures seemed technically to be in line with the Georgian procurement law, the tender itself seemed tailored to the 24 Hours newspaper.

“The paper has been described as government-leaning – characterization that has been rejected by its publisher – and for several years has had the exclusive contract to publish all government tender announcements,” the blog says.

According to TI Georgia, “in December 2011 24 Hours expanded the original range of classified ads and started publishing announcements for the sale of used cars.  Moreover, 24 Hours launched the sale of a separate newspaper supplement that only consists of classified ads for the price of 20 Tetri.  Residents can now also file requests with the text for an ad in drop boxes, located at government-owned newspaper kiosks in Tbilisi.” 

International Transparency Georgian blog says that after the tender project had ended at the end of December, 24 Hours continues selling the separate advertising newspaper.

“We have sent several requests to the Public Registry, asking whether and under what conditions the project was renewed and how much was spent by the government agency to promote the project.  The Public Registry has failed to issue an official written response, International Transparency Georgia wrote. An official from the Public Registry told TI Georgia that the agreement with 24 Hours was renewed without a competitive tender, using a direct procurement agreement.  A manager of 24 Hours did not return several calls asking for comment.

PaataVeshapidze, 24 Hours publisher commented to the given topic on December 16 2011.  He described the conclusions made by TI Georgia on 24 Hours activities as incompetent and partial. 

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