Censorship is not main problem of Georgian media but self-censorship
Our guest is Irakli Berulava, production manager of the Internews Foundation, producer of the TV program “Our Express”; he spoke about the reasons why their TV program is not aired on Imedi TV any longer; he spoke about general problems of Georgian journalism.
-Irakli, TV Program “Our Express” has not been on air for a long time already. However, the materials you have prepared have been still very urgent at the online forum-discussions; what has happened?
-The specific of the program did not comply with the image of TV Imedi at all. We try to prepare as many materials as possible about informal movements and groups of people; to cover the problems of minorities; religious issues, sexual minorities. We try to resist those phobias that destroy and disfigure our society. Now everything is homogenous and journalism requires “one drop of fresh air”. It all influences us. Unfortunately, most part of our society has very primitive taste; though neither TV companies can boast for their tastes. There is kind of alliance established in the society - the TV stations provide the society with the information that is very common for the audience. Furthermore, they cannot offer better materials because the taste of TV stations does not differ from the one of the audience.
Maybe, somebody will not agree with me and say that TV Company cannot survive without high rating but who concluded that our audience will not accept better product like talk-shows, music programs and other entertaining programs?
We were called from Imedi and suggested not to prepare a program about minorities because they think it could complicate the situation… they completely cut out one item from the program. I do not want to comment on this innocence.
-Do you mean a TV release about Halloween?
-Yes I do. Film-crew of “Our Express” prepared a large reportage how people celebrated Halloween in the center of Tbilisi. We saw the apparatus were broken there, young people were beaten; we recorded men in cassocks who were active on that day.
I am a journalist. There must not be any tabooed topic for me; nobody should indicate to me on concrete facts that should not be covered because somebody will be against it; even the church should not do that. In normal society the church has the same rights as ordinary people. But when employees of TV Companies think that church is more important than elementary norms of journalism, nothing should be claimed and urged for.
We might fail to find a progressive person among Georgian politicians but when journalists act like that, it is already nonsense.
To tell the truth, I am ashamed to talk about such problems in the 21st Century; it demonstrates how far we are from free society…
For example, the incident about TV program “Didi Ateuli” (Ten Great People) prepared by the 1st Channel of Georgia is astonishing for me. Member of the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcasting claims that position of a concrete person is above the law. It is a shame! And nobody, except two people, ever resisted him. It is not a fear, it is foolishness. That’s why media sources admire to the past and not to the alternative reality.
I used to say and will repeat now too, censorship is not a single problem of Georgian Media which really exists but self-censorship. Very often when a journalist restricts his/her professional activities because of education, traditions and customs, s/he is lying while claiming to be a patriot. Similar journalists work on TV programs with the sense of fear because his understanding of freedom of expression is disfigured. Self-censored journalist demonstrates the level of the development of the society.
-You have not been on air for a long time. What are you doing now? Do you have any future plans?
-We are working. We are still working on youth programs because I like it very much. Independent, originally thinking teenagers and students come to our office and we prepare TV releases, films and then post them on our website (http://blog.teentv.ge/). By the way, very often the production of our youth has become the topics for online forum-discussions; of course we receive both negative and positive responses.
Maybe soon we will be aired on Rustavi 2; we are negotiating on this issue. In any case we will try to assist the programs like “Our Express” not to disappear from TV. Georgian TV Companies really lack youth programs, programs with alternative thinking and those free from clichés. However, people with alternative opinions will be attacked soon. Can you imagine what will happen if monarchy will be restored in Georgia? You should be sure that any politician, supported by similar institutions will be automatically voted for by the population and then they will start to feed the people with provincial and outdated legends; any alternative opinion will be considered as treason; consequently we will have worse Georgia than we have now during current government. In similar regime we should not dream about independent journalism at all.
-If we follow the logic of your speech, we will conclude that Georgian journalism has no perspective at all.
-Journalism does not develop in our country; just the opposite it is regressing. This situation - uninteresting, banal topics and faces in Tbilisi - makes me sick. Journalism is scared and socially disregarded in the regions. Journalism is very often laughed at by such media organizations who consider themselves as independent; and most important point is that nobody is willing to change the ongoing situation and everybody is ready to put up with it.
We are getting angry with enemies and friends; we blame others for the diseases we have but when we are spoken about the only thing we hear is - you are clever and nice people; you are interesting and original… all this is nonsense and these words are for stupid people only.
Consequently, if there is anybody with original ideas, our program Internews Foundation is ready to support them in order not to leave them in minority. The slogan of “Our Express” has the same spirit – “if you notice that you start thinking like majority try to change it immediately.”