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School Directors Are Forbidden to Give Interview to Journalists

Gela Mtivlishvili

Directors of public schools cannot make comments with journalists unless they agree the issue with the press-center of the Ministry of Education. On January 21, minister of education and science Dimitri Shashkin stated in the TV-program “Dialogue with Davit Paichadze” that based on his resolution directors of public schools cannot give interview to journalists unless they agree the issue with the press-center of the ministry of education.

Lawyer Tamar Kordzaia assessed the statement of the minister as a restriction of freedom of expression; head of Trade Union of Teachers threatens with protest demonstrations.

The minister clarified that reason of his statement was wish to assist directors to get in touch with journalists.

Nino Protebzhskaia, spokesperson of the Ministry of Education: “Minister made this statement in the TV-program of Davit Paichadze. He clarified that journalists often ask directors about reforms in education system and directors do not have competent answers on these questions; thus they should call us and we will provide them with complete information. It does not mean that we ban school directors to give interviews to journalists.

-In the TV-program, the minister stated that based on his resolution school directors shall agree every interview and comment to journalists with the press-center of the ministry. The minister did not clarify whether he meant only those issues which are not familiar to directors.

-Yes it is true. In order to avoid mistakes, we request directors to agree every issue with us; though we do not ban anything them. If they are sure in their competence in the field of questions, they can make comments.”

Chairperson of the Trade Union of Teachers and Scientists Manana Ghurchumelidze assessed the statement of the minister as attempt of complete subordination of directors.

According to Ghurchumelidze, similar decision will restrict the autonomy of schools. However, the reform in education system aimed to grant more freedom to schools. Besides that, public school is legal entity and director is elected by the council of trustees.

“Directors were always afraid to make comments about different issues. After this, you, journalists will never get any information from schools. The Trade Union requested normative documents from Dimitri Shashkin based on which similar restrictions were introduced in schools. We have already sent written request of these documents to the ministry. However, I doubt Shashkin will reply to us because there are no documents at all,” said Ghurchumelidze who added that Trade Union demands to abolish this restriction. Unless the ministry satisfies their demand, teachers are going to hold protest demonstrations.

Lawyers of the Young Lawyers Association Tamar Kordzaia also assessed the new imitative of the minister as restriction of freedom of expression.

“It will be resolution approved by the minister which will regulate responsibilities of the press-center. I have not seen the resolution but I heard the initiative. In any case, adoption of similar protocol means restriction of freedom of expression of directors,” said Kordzaia.

According to the lawyers, journalists shall not have chance to get any information from schools without agreeing the issue with the press-center of the ministry.

“Press-centers of state institutions shall be entitled to complicate the procedure for the release of public information as much as possible. However, obligation of the press-centers is to release the information. There are about 3 000 public schools in Georgia. When a journalist will call a school director to get some information, s/he will be refused. In any case, school directors will be afraid to report something to journalists and will always avoid cooperation with journalists. Thus, I think it is restriction of freedom of expression,” said Tamar Kordzaia.

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