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Journalists in Regions Are Still Prohibited to Cover President’s Visits

27.06.2012

Lana Beridze, for Information Center of Kakheti, Tbilisi

President’s administration still creates problems for local independent journalists to cover President’s visits in the regions of Georgia. Although, on June 2, head of president’s administration Irma Nadirashvili met media representatives and discussed how to simplify coverage of the president’s visits for journalists, the situation has not changed since then.

A week after the meeting, journalists faced problems to cover President’s visit in Guria and then in Shida Kartli several days ago.

On June 15, journalists were not allowed to highlight president’s visit in Farmers’ Service Center in Kareli; Information Center of Shida Kartli [qartli.ge] reported about it. “Please understand us correctly; only one personal camera will work there and then we will disseminate materials to everybody. Please leave the area; we will send photos and videos to you. You see that neither Rustavi 2 nor Imedi TV is covering the visit,” head of President’s press-center Natia Bandzeladze told qartli.ge.

Publisher of the newspaper GuriaNews and chairwoman of the Regional Media Association Ia Mamaladze told ICK that meeting between media and president’s administration representatives had only formal purpose because nothing was simplified in covering of president’s visits for journalists afterwards.

“Several days after the meeting with the President’s Administration, President arrived in Guria but we were not allowed to work there at all. Natia Bandzeladze had even counted how many news was published on Guria News about the event. During this visit, Bandzeladze arranged press-zone in the place from where we could not see, hear and footage anything. It is useless to arrange press-zone in similar area; why should I be there if I cannot hear, record and see anything? They even complained about our footage saying we were breaching the agreement; I am not breaching the agreement. I would not have even accepted their proposal to cover the visit, if I had known in advance they were going to arrange a special press-zone there. They just video-recorded the visit by one camera and then disseminated it. It is unacceptable format for public meetings. We do not need the truth observed only by one camera. We want to cover the meeting and make footage independently. We will also follow security rules but they should not hinder our activities. I can say that journalists’ meeting with the president’s administration was formality; at least I cannot make different evaluation so far,” Ia Mamaladze said.

ICK got in touch with Irma Nadirashvili to comment on the restrictions imposed on GuriaNews and qartli.ge during president’s visits in the regions.

-Information Center of Shida Kartli and GuriaNews were not allowed to cover president’s visits and you promised them to send them only your own footage. You also claim that president’s administration shall decide which particular events will be open for journalists and which not. Can you tell us when do you allow journalists to attend your events and how do you select places where to allow journalists or not? Are there any particular restricted places and journalists do not know about them?

-The only comment I can make about this issue is that format to cover president’s visits or other events has not been changed for several years already and this format complies with international standards how similar events must be covered. Regardless the information spread by different news agencies, we have not changed rules and do not intend it either. The only thing the president’s administration did is simplification of procedures; we offered all journalists to take accreditation who wish to cover president’s visits. This is my comment on this issue. No rules were amended and nothing new is happening since Mikheil Saakashvili became president. Those rules were worked out in accordance to the standards of all presidents’ administrations worldwide. That is my comment, good bye.

-Excuse me; I have one more question because I have not received full answer to my previous question. About two weeks ago, administration representatives met media representatives in order to make attendance and coverage of president’s visits more simplified. Despite that, you still did not allow journalists to attend several events; how do you select those vents and where is it written that journalist cannot attend this or that particular place; in accordance to which document you act?

-I again reply to your repeated question that rules of coverage of president’s visits were not amended and they are the same as they were years ago; we just simplified procedures for journalists. There were some events in the past which were shot only by personal cameras; the same rules work now; but this is not new rule and it has worked during many years.

-I am asking which particular events are covered by personal camera only.

-I repeat again, no rules were changed and we cover all events as we always did.

-Will you make one and the same reply to all my questions; I am asking completely different thing.

-My answer to all your questions will be same because I am not going to change my opinion.

-I am asking different question…

-Why do ask these questions now and why did not you ask them in the past? Because of some disinformation? It is not my problem when incorrect information is circulated. No rules were changed. It is my comment.”

Executive director of the Georgian Journalistic Ethic Charter Tamar Kordzaia, who also attended the meeting at the President’s Administration, stated that there is no law, which could allow administration representatives to either allow or block journalists to enter any particular places. Kordzaia said if the administration still creates same problems or creates press-zones where journalists cannot work, the meeting with administration and attempt of inter-institutional commission to smooth cooperation between president’s administration and journalists, was useless.

“There is no provision in the law which could estimate the place where administration members can allow or ban journalists to enter. It is also false to claim that president’s administration has worked out any list of similar places; similar list does not exist. Those places are estimated and selected by the president’s administration according to their own decisions. As for the meeting where president’s administration demonstrated its position about cooperation with journalists, they said there are some meetings where presence of media causes noise because a lot of journalists cover it. This issue might be acceptable at some point but purpose of media-source is to cover facts. They said there are meetings where all media representatives cannot be allowed but they said they could allow only cameramen to enter the area and then the materials will be disseminated. They also spoke about creation of places where journalist could interview people participating in that particular event. If president’s administration does not implement those minimal promises, the effort of the inter-institutional commission to resolve cooperation problems between president’s administration and media, was useless,” Tamar Kordzaia told ICK.

She added if the press-zone, which is created by president’s administration, does not assist journalists to obtain information but rather hinders their activities, violates all agreements which were achieved during the meeting.

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