Freedom of Speech at Death’s Door:
“Putin-ization” of Mass Media Starts in Georgia
Another television company may join the list of closed newspapers and magazines, stopped popular programs and sealed television stations. The government that “was brought to power by roses” “pricks another thorn” into another victim – the independent television company Caucasia. If the organization does not pay 12,000 GEL in five days, it will be closed. Nino Djangirashvili, Director of Caucasia, states that it is at the command of the government.
The Executives of the Tbilisi Office for the Executive Department of the Justice Ministry submitted a warning to the Caucasia television company stating that if the organization does not pay 12,000 GEL within five days, it will be closed.
According to Stephane Tumanishvili, the Deputy Chairman of the Executive Department of the Justice Ministry, the company must pay the debt to Sakteleradio corporation (Television and Radio Corporation of Georgia) for the use of a TV tower.
As the director of Caucasia told the Human Rights Information and Documentation Centre, the court imposed a 23,000 GEL fine and Caucasia must pay the money on a monthly basis for a year, as in agreements between the debtor and the creditor.
The decision of the Justice Ministry was based on the fact that Caucasia did not pay the money in April. Nino Djangirashvili considers the accusation to be absurd and declares that she showed the investigators the invoices proving that the money has really been paid. “Despite the fact that we showed the investigators all the invoices, he said that the decision had already been made and he could not change it,” the director of Caucasia said.
This gesture is perceived within the company as unwarranted government pressure, because the government has been unable to exert control over the station. The representatives of the company think that this is exactly the reason why some businessmen do not dare bring their advertisements to Caucasia. This has not been the first incident at Caucasia, there have been repeated attempts of exercising pressure on the station before.
We would like to remind the reader that after the “Rose Revolution” in Georgia, the transmission station of Caucasia was turned off for a certain period of time. Furthermore, there have been several cases when journalists of the company were not admitted to official briefings of the President of Georgia.
Human Rights Information and Documentation Centre expresses serious concern about the unhealthy processes working against mass media in post-revolutionary Georgia. The practice of direct or indirect pressure on free media established by the government has already risen to an alarming level, considering the number of newspapers, magazines and television stations that have been forced to close. The Centre appeals to the government to defend freedom of speech.