This assessment finds that, while Georgia has mostly progressive and liberal laws governing the establishment and operation of media entities, in practice the media remains less transparent, accountable and independent. The degree of independence varies across different types of media, as well as between those based in the capital and those in the regions. Print media, radio and online outlets generally operate freely in Georgia. The government has not resorted to censorship but is generally understood to have established control over the country's most influential TV stations through their acquisition by government-friendly businessmen, forcing journalists employed by these stations to practice self-censorship. Transparency of television ownership remains a major area of concern, while the lack of effective self-regulatory mechanisms has produced problems in terms of accountability and integrity of the media. Georgian media have not been particularly successful in exposing cases of corruption as very few mainstream outlets have engaged in investigative journalism. Those that do are only able to reach small audiences. The media, as a whole, provides the public with a variety of views but its ability to provide unbiased coverage of political developments is undermined by the deep polarisation of the political and therefore media landscape.
Structure and Organisation
Television is by far the most popular and influential type of media in Georgia. There are only three main stations that provide news coverage on a national level: Rustavi-2, Imedi and the Georgian Public Broadcaster's (GBP) Channel 1. GPB's Channel 2 televises political parties' press conferences and parliamentary sessions. Two more stations with original news reports, Kavkasia andMaestro TV, reach a significant audience in Tbilisi but cannot be received in other parts of the country. Ajaria TV, a state-run channel operated by the Autonomous Republic of Ajaria, is broadcast in large parts of the country. There are 26 other regional TV stations but, with only a few exceptions, they do not play a significant role in reporting original news. There are a host of radio stations, newspapers, magazines and news agencies, although their impact is less significant than that of the TV channels. The same applies to the nascent internet media.
To what extent does the legal framework provide an environment conducive to a diverse, independent media?
Georgia's legal framework does not establish any significant hurdles to achieving a diverse and independent media sector.
Entry into the journalistic profession is not restricted by law, nor are there any restrictions on setting up print media entities. Print media outlets do not need to obtain a license are exempt from paying value added tax, and there are no special legal provisions governing their activities.
The Public Broadcaster's funding comes from the state budget, set at an equivalent of 0.12 percent of GDP.The law does not permit it to air advertising during prime time hours, weekends and holidays.
The rules for the establishment and operation of broadcast media are outlined in the Georgian Law on Broadcasting. Under the law, all broadcast media entities (except for the Georgian Public Broadcaster Ajaria TV) need to obtain a license from the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC): the law directly states that unlicensed activities in the broadcasting sphere are a punishable offence.The GNCC can issue "general licenses" (requiring the license holder to air news and current affairs programs during prime-time) or "specialized licenses" (defining specific content requirements) for either national or local terrestrial broadcasting.The GNCC must make a decision on whether to grant a license within 30 business days from receiving an application.If the application is denied, the Commission's decision may be challenged in court.Importantly, the law stipulates that the GNCC is the only body authorized to issue broadcasting licences and it isprohibited for any other body to require broadcast entities to obtain any additional licences or permits.The law allows the establishment of public, community and commercial broadcast entities.
The Georgian Constitution states that neither the state nor any individual can monopolise information or the media.The Law on Broadcasting also contains provisions designed to promote competition by prohibiting concentration of media ownership.
To what extent is there a diverse, independent media providing a variety of perspectives?
Georgia has a large number of different types of media entities operating both in the capital and the regions. Newspapers, radio stations and news agencies provide a variety of views to their audience throughout the country, but access to diverse TV content is problematic outside the capital. There also seems to be a significant gap between the central and the regional media in terms of their access to resources.
While the print and radio sectors are usually described as diverse and pluralistic,a 2009 report by TI Georgia found that the current regulatory framework is inadequate for the establishment of a "competitive and pluralistic television market".In its Media Sustainability Index, the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) has also suggested that current regulation has not effectively prevented concentration of media ownership.For several years, the GNCC has not issued new terrestrial broadcasting licenses, creating a barrier to market entry for new players.
IREX reports that the content of the main TV channels has become "increasingly homogenous" in recent years.The content offered by the two leading, privately owned TV stations with a nationwide audience is predominantly favourable to the government. The reporting of the Public Broadcaster's Channel 1 has become less politicized.
Maestro TV, a station highly critical of the government that is associated with a political opposition group, does not broadcast outside the capital.This is due to a lack of funding to pay for satellite transmission and reluctance from cable providers to carry the station.
The national private TV companies based in Tbilisi offer competitive salaries but pay levels are very low outside the capital, resulting in a drain of qualified reporters from the regions to Tbilisi-based media entities or other sectors. Similarly, Imedi and Rustavi-2 are said to have "state-of-the-art gear", while regional broadcasters and newspapers have to get by with low-quality and obsolete equipment.
Georgian media entities face considerable financial challenges. Recent studies have concluded that profitable media are a "rare commodity"and the main TV stations have a "history of operating in the red".The top TV stations based in the capital receive financial injections from the government or private owners, while the cash-strapped regional media survive mainly through donor aid. Georgia's small advertising market is a major factor preventing media outlets from becoming self-sufficient.In addition, there are also concerns about a monopolization of the advertising sector by companies that are associated with the national channels.
In April 2010 Parliament passed a tax amnesty for television stations worth GEL 36 million (USD 21.6 million). Lawmakers declined to publicly disclose the beneficiaries of this amnesty. Media market observers found that although amnesty also forgave tax debt of the independent Channel 25 in Batumi, it mostly benefitted the pro-government stations Imedi TV and Rustavi-2 as well as the GPB, while other independent stations like Maestro and Kavkasia claimed they had paid all their taxes.TI Georgia concluded that the tax amnesty distorted the market in favour of government-friendly stations.
There are considerable problems in terms of professionalism of media employees. A study by the Caucasus Research Resource Centres found that the lack of professionalism "was readily apparent" among the main TV stations which aired unbalanced reports, presented opinion as facts and provided misleading and confusing information.The level of professionalism is very low in print media, as well.After graduating and joining media outlets, journalists devote little time and attention to professional development and improvement of their skills.University journalismdepartments have not adapted their curricula to the demands of the media sector and only offer limited practical training. Without high quality staff, a critical resource to any successful media business, all other areas of integrity are jeopardized, including accountability, independence and the media's role as a watchdog.
To what extent are there legal safeguards to prevent unwarranted external interference in the activities of the media?
Overall, Georgia's legislation is generally robust as far as freedom of media is concerned. The legal framework has been described as "liberal and progressive"and contains extensive safeguards designed to prevent unwarranted interference with the operation of the media. Freedom of expression is protected by the Constitution and The Law on Freedom of Speech and Expression and there are legal provisions guaranteeing editorial independence and access to public information. The provisions on libel are very favourable for journalists. On the negative side, certain flaws in the licensing law could undermine media independence, and the rules for the formation of the Georgian Public Broadcaster's board allow for political appointments.
Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Georgian Constitution, which states that "every individual has a right to freely receive and disseminate information and to express and disseminate his or her opinion whether verbally, in writing or by other means". The Constitution also emphasises that the media are free and censorship is prohibited.The above principles are reinforced by the Georgian Law on Freedom of Speech and Expression, whereby citizens have the right to trace, obtain, create, store and disseminate any type of information or ideas; the media's editorial independence and pluralism is upheld; and the right of journalists not to disclose the sources of their information and to make editorial decisions according to their conscience is protected. The law also forbids censorship.Violations of freedom of speech and illegal obstruction of a journalist's work are criminal offences under Georgian law.
The Law on Broadcasting states that an individual or legal entity can only hold one TV broadcasting license and one radio broadcasting license (Article 60). Political parties and their officers, administrative bodies and their employees, and legal entities linked with administrative bodies are prohibited from holding broadcast licenses (Article 62). The law requires the GNCC to takemeasures in order to promote diversity of views in the media and prevent concentration of ownership.
There are a number of provisions on editorial independence in broadcast media. The Law on Broadcasting requires the state-funded Georgian Public Broadcaster to ensure editorial independence,while the Broadcasters' Code of Conduct, a mandatory legal document adopted by the GNCC on 12 March 2009, requires private broadcast entities to protect editorial independence and professional liberty fromdifferenttypes of pressure.The Law on Broadcasting contains a number of provisions designed to ensure independence of the GPB, as it expressly forbids government bodies from exerting pressure on the GPB.However, there are valid concerns over the manner in which the GPB's board is formed. The law essentially allows the ruling party to appoint the candidates of its choice - candidates are nominated by political parties, pre-selected by the President and appointed by Parliament.
Access to information is regulated by the General Administrative Code, which states that all information kept in public agencies is open unless stipulated otherwise by the law (Article 28).
There are no legal prohibitions on the establishment and operation of private and community media (such as print, broadcast, internet, etc) though private and community broadcast entities do need to apply for a license under the procedure described above.
The rules for licensing of broadcast media do not contain any specific or direct mechanisms by which the authorities may exercise political control of the process. Broadcast licences are issued by the GNCC, which, according to the Law on Broadcasting, is an independent regulatory body and is not subordinated to any state agency.The law explicitly prohibits interference with the activities of commission members.However, since the members of the commission are selected by the president and approved by parliament by a simple majority, the potential for politically-motivated appointments is especially strong whenever the president's party dominates the legislature, as has been the case for most of Georgia's recent history. Another potential problem stems from the fact that licensing goes beyond the technical aspects of broadcasting and regulates some aspects of programming as well. The GNCC issues content-specific broadcasting permits (e.g. political programming and entertainment) rather than general ones. As IREX's 2009 report suggests, the licensing powers of the GNCC are too broad and enable the agency to influence a broadcaster's editorial content.
The Georgian Law on State of Emergencygrants the executive branch the power to establish control over media entities during a state of emergency.The Georgian Law on State of Warcontains a similar provision applicable during the state of war.The existing legislation does not allow the government to exercise this kind of control at other times.
Under the Georgian legislation, there are no criminal penalties for libel. The Law on Freedom of Speech and Expression states that lawsuits over alleged libel can be filed against media owners but not against journalists.Compared to private citizens, public figures are required to provide stronger evidence when filing libel-related lawsuits against a media outlet.Furthermore, the law says that an individual cannot be held responsible for libel if he/she did not know and could not have known that he/she was disseminating a libellous statement.
To what extent is the media free from unwarranted external interference in its work in practice?
While the Georgian legislation governing the freedom of speech and expression is generally considered to be progressive and liberal, there is a mixed picture in the implementation of these legal provisions among different media types and between Tbilisi and the regions.
The print media, radio stations and news agencies, as well as some TV stations, generally operate without direct government interference. However, media professionals have blamed government interference as well as a lack of market transparency and cronyism for distortions in advertising spending.According to Freedom House, the authorities have sought to suppress independent TV stations that broadcast nationwide, while tolerating those with a limited audience.
Ownership of leading television stations remains opaque. The government is believed to have established control over the country's most influential broadcast entities through their acquisition by businessmen loyal to the authorities.TV station owners tend to promote their political agendas at the expense of editorial independence.Consequently, a 2008 report by the Public Defender highlighted the lack of editorial independence as a major issue.
There are no documented cases of the government resorting to direct censorship. However, self-censorship is believed to be a widespread phenomenon in television media.Journalists rarely enjoy any protection under labour contracts, the fear of losing one's job prompting many of them to practice self-censorship and to accept editorial limitations from their editors and managers. In spring 2009 several dozen employees of Imedi TV signed a petition protesting against internal censorship and restrictions imposed by the station's management. Consequently two media workers were fired, four left the station in protest and several other signatories were pressured to withdraw their support for the statement.
The GNCC is often reluctant to enforce provisions of the Law on Broadcasting and the Law on Advertising. In particular, provisions that ban government entities or officials from holding broadcasting licenses are not enforced and, in fact, are systematically violated. Many local stations receive funding from regional governments in violation of the law.
The 2011 budget envisages GEL 25 million (USD 15 million) for the Public Broadcaster.In addition, approximately GEL 17 million was allocated from the Presidential reserve fund for the operation of the Russian language news channel "PIK".55
There is no systematic intimidation and harassment of journalists, although there have been a number of notable cases of this sort in recent years. In November 2007, the Imedi TV station, a pro-opposition channel at the time, was raided by the police and taken off the air, allegedly for inciting anti-government riots. IREX documented reports, mostly from outside the capital, of pressure on journalists during the 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections.During the spring 2009 street protests in Tbilisi, journalists were harassed by both the law enforcement and opposition supporters.In May 2009, an unidentified individual threw a hand-grenade towards the entrance door of Maestro TV.The Ministry of Internal Affairs forces attempted to blackmail a leading reporter of the independent weekly Batumelebi paper into cooperation.Riot police assaulted journalists during the dispersal of an anti-government rally in Tbilisi on 26 May 2011.Most of these cases were not fully investigated.
Aside from government interference, a number of studies have highlighted deep polarisation and partisanship of the media as a major problem that hinders the development of independent journalism. The agendas of journalists are frequently influenced by the government or the opposition, as a majority of the media are generally understood to be on one side or the other. IREX's 2009 Media Sustainability Index asserted that "political agendas permeate the media, turning them into tools in partisan political toolkits."According to Bertelsmann Stiftung, practically all TV channels side with either the government or the opposition at the expense of professional journalism.Media monitoring conducted as part of a study by CRRC showed that the channels that are considered pro-government or pro-opposition frequently broadcast misleading, inaccurate and highly partisan information.
IREX reports that some media entities that are commonly perceived as pro-opposition are finding it difficult to attract advertising due to businessmen's unwillingness to be associated with this kind of media.Government-friendly outlets, however, are most likely to be receiving subsidies either directly from the government or from government loyalists.
Allocation of licenses by the GNCC is another area of concern. According to Freedom House, the GNCC panel remains subject to government influence.The Public Defender has urged parliament to investigate the commission's "arbitrary" decisions, suggesting that the allocation (or lack of allocation) of licenses had become a tool for political pressure.
The state of affairs in terms of media independence is also different in the capital and the regions, as journalists appear to be facing more serious challenges outside Tbilisi, especially in terms of journalist freedom.The majority of the violations against journalists recorded by the Public Defender took place in the regions. According to the Public Defender, local government bodies that buy airtime on regional TV stations to place public service announcements often believe that they are entitled to interfere with editorial policies. Local government officials often view normal journalistic behaviour, such as obtaining comments from local residents about their problems, as a hostile activity. Mirroring the situation in the capital, there is a considerable difference between the print and the broadcast media in the regions in terms of editorial independence, the former being much more independent and critical of the government while the latter tending to be more "lenient"towards the local authorities.
To what extent are there provisions to ensure transparency in the activities of the media?
Georgian legislation contains a number of important provisions designed to ensure transparent operation of media entities. In particular, amendments passed by Parliament in April 2011 to the Law on Broadcasting improved rules for transparency of broadcast media ownership and ban any ownership from entities located in offshore zones. These rules are not in force, but are set to take effect in 2012 before the next election cycle.
The Law on Broadcasting requires the enterprises that hold broadcast licenses to annually submit to the GNCC information about the station's management and about owners who hold at least five percent of the entity's shares. If the license holder is a non-profit entity, it must provide information about its founders, members, sponsors and board. License holders also have to provide information about any other broadcast licenses they hold or any shares they hold in another entity that has a broadcast license. Moreover, license holders are required to supply information about any newspapers or news agencies they posses, or their ownership shares in newspapers and news agencies, as well as information about ownership of another enterprise or its shares. As an additional safeguard, license holders are also to provide similar information about the assets of their founders, shareholders, sponsors and family members.License holders have 10 days to inform the GNCC about any changes in the ownership of shares.
From 2012, broadcast license holders will be required to report to the GNCC on the identity of their management staff and beneficiary owners, and provide abreakdown of financing sources, including revenue from advertising, sponsors and donations. In addition, information on the management and beneficiary owners must be published on the media outlets' websites.
A further change in 2012 establishes a ban on ownership of media by entities based in "offshore zones", defined as "a state or territory where the property, sphere of activity and data on ownership/shareholders of a legal entity is confidential."(Relaxed regulation before the new amendments resulted in the frequent use of offshore shell companies to conceal the ownership structure of several major TV channels.)This reference to offshore ownership is a unique approach to media regulation that is rarely, if ever, seen in other countries and its passing reflects the particularly severe problems in practice.
Since Georgia has no special legislation governing the establishment, licensing and operation of print media, these types of media entities are not required to meet any specific transparency provisions.
The question of how to improve broadcast media regulation was subject of intense debate in fall 2010. The speaker of Parliament announced a reform to ban offshore ownership in broadcast media. A group of media activists drafted an alternative package of legal amendments calling for full disclosure of media ownership, transparency of financial flows to broadcast media outlets and their owners, and improved access to public information. These proposals were introduced to Parliament by the opposition Christian Democratic party,but the amendments passed by the Parliamentary majority in April 2011 did not include most of the civil society activists' reform proposals.
To what extent is there transparency in the media in practice?
Georgia's media landscape lacks transparency in several key areas, including ownership of TV stations and in operational areas such as availability of business statistics and ethical codes.
Freedom House describes media ownership in Georgia as "opaque"77and IREX suggests that "Ownership of the leading Georgian broadcasters remains obscure due to complicated corporate ownership structures and chronic changes in majority control".The lack of transparency of television ownership has prompted various allegations about who the real owners of different TV stations are. High-ranking government officials, government ministries and the leaders of both the ruling party and the opposition groups are suspected of controlling the country's top media outlets. Due to the lack of information about the real owners of media organisations and the broadcast entities in particular, it has become impossible to prevent "high degrees of concentrated ownership".
For example, there has been a great deal of confusion regarding the ownership of Imedi and Rustavi-2 TV stations. The latter is partly owned by Davit Bezhuashvili, an influential businessman and MP for the ruling party, whose brother heads Georgia's secret service. In 2009, these two stations that are widely regarded as government mouthpieces, had a combined TV audience market share of more than 60 percent.
Moreover, the opaque ownership structure is used to conceal the subsidies that media entities receive from the government or government-friendly businessmen. By comparing estimated television advertisement spending with officially reported turnover reported to the GNCC, TI Georgia found that private TV stations received millions of Lari from unknown sources.This has had a considerable negative impact on the independence of these media outletsand has made it easier for the authorities to exert pressure on them.
The situation is somewhat different in the print media and smaller TV stations operating exclusively in the capital. While the ownership of these media outlets is quite transparent, it is rather difficult to track their funding, especially in the case of newspapers.
According to IREX, it is uncommon for the Georgian media entities to make information about staff, reporting and editing policies publicly available. Newspapers rarely disclose circulation or sales numbers - if they do, these numbers are often inflated to lure potential advertisers.The lack of independent market data in many areas poses a burden to the sector's professionalization and development.
To what extent are there legal provisions to ensure that media outlets are answerable for their activities?
While there are extensive legal provisions establishing accountability mechanisms for broadcast media, there are no such provisions to regulate the work of print and Internet media. Broadcast media are required to submit annual reports to the regulatory body and to set up self-regulation mechanisms in order to deal with appeals relating to their content.
According to the Law on Broadcasting, the GNCC is charged with supervising the operation of broadcast media. Broadcast license holders are required to present to the commission annual reports containing information about their compliance with the license terms and their sources of funding, as well as the next year's plan and an audit report. From 2012, license holders will have to report to the GNCCinformation about the sources of their financing, and account separately for revenue from advertising, sponsorship, TV-shopping and donations. Similarly, media outlets will have to publish systematically updated informationon their management and beneficiary owners on their own and the regulator's website from next year.
The commission is authorised to request additional information and to impose sanctions in case of a breach of license terms. Broadcast entities must provide the requested information within 15 days.In the event of a breach of Georgian legislation or licensing terms by a broadcast license holder, any "interested party" can file an appeal either with the GNCC, which has the authority to impose fines, or a court. Moreover, the law says that a broadcast entity is required to "set up an effective mechanism of self-regulation that will ensure consideration of appeals and provide a timely and substantiated reaction to them."
Additional accountability rules are provided in the Broadcasters Code of Conduct, which was adopted by the GNCC in March 2009. According to the Code, a broadcast entity has the right to set up a "self-regulation mechanism" that will ensure effective and transparent consideration of appeals.(In this regard, the Code is weaker than the law, which as mentioned above,requiresthe establishment of this mechanism.) The information about the appeals received by the mechanism and the decisions it has adopted must then be submitted to the GNCC along with the broadcast entity's annual report.The code also establishes rules for adjudication of appeals by the self-regulation body and for challenging the decisions made by such a body.The code requires broadcast entities to refrain from airing "false or misleading information" and stipulates that "significant factual mistakes" must be corrected "openly and immediately, through proportionate means and forms during appropriate airtime."An individual subjected to accusations in a media program must be given an opportunity to provide a prompt and proportionate response, which should be covered in a fair and accurate manner in the same program where the accusation was made.There are no similar provisions in place for print entities.
To what extent can media outlets be held accountable in practice?
Ensuring accountability of Georgian media entities has proved to be problematic in practice, due in part to the weak self-regulatory and regulatory mechanisms.
While the law requires broadcast media entities to set up self-regulation mechanisms that would deal with appeals related to the content of their programmes, no such mechanisms have been implemented in practice.Meanwhile, the effectiveness of the government regulatory body, the GNCC, is undermined by its political bias and lack of independence. For example, during the 2008 parliamentary elections the GNCC failed to sanction a number of TV stations even though the monitoring conducted by the Central Electoral Commission revealed violations in their coverage of the campaign.The government-backed station Alania TV was able to broadcast for months without having any license in 2008 and 2009.95Managers of independent TV outlets perceive the GNCC's rulings as lenient towards pro-government broadcasters and strict against stations that are critical of the government.On the positive side, the GNCC recently consented to investigate alleged violations of the law on advertising by Imedi and Rustavi-2 after reporters from Studio Monitor, an independent film studio, filed a complaint.
No Georgian media outlet has an ombudsman or has set up forums through which the public can interact with editors and reporters.However, media entities usually do grant interested parties the right to respond to allegations or reports concerning them.An expert interviewee noted that newspapers generally try to correct erroneous information when a mistake is brought to their attention, although TV stations generally fail to do this.
To what extent are there provisions in place to ensure the integrity of media employees?
Georgia has legal provisions designed to ensure the integrity of media employees, but these provisions are limited to broadcast entities only.
In March 2009, the GNCC adopted the Broadcasters Code of Conduct, which aims to "ensure that all types of broadcasters, especially Georgian Public Broadcasting, approach the norms of professional ethics and their accountability to the public with an equal degree of responsibility". The code is a comprehensive document that covers the following areas: self-regulation and accountability; accuracy; unbiased programming; fair treatment; socio-political programmes and election coverage; opinion polls; editorial independence; diversity, equality and tolerance; right to privacy; protection of underage individuals; crime and anti-social behaviour; armed conflict, accidents and emergencies; protection from harm and abuse; advertising; sponsorship; copyrights; and competitions and lotteries. The code establishes a number of mandatory rules in each of these areas, while also offering recommendations.
There is no similar mechanism for Georgia's print media at present. According to an expert interviewee, very few media entities, whether electronic or print, have their own codes of ethics or ethics committees.
Integrity Mechanisms (practice)
To what extent is the integrity of media employees ensured in practice?
There are considerable problems in Georgia in terms of ensuring the integrity of media employees in practice.
The GNCC Broadcasters Code of Conduct mentioned in the previous section is not implemented effectively in practice and theprovisions of the code are violated by various media entities on a regular basis. Broadcasters may not face legal sanctions for violating the Code of Conduct and they may themselves decide how to react to violations that are reported to them.
Professional organisations defending journalists and governing media ethics remain weak. A media analyst told TI Georgia that many of Georgia's journalists view professional ethics as a theoretical issue irrelevant to their practical work, and any attempts to enforce ethical standards are instantly labelled as censorship.
A vivid example of a lack of journalistic integrity was a fake news report of a Russian invasion that Imedi TV aired in March 2010 without clearly marking the lengthy report as a make believe scenario as it was aired.
A recently founded union of journalists has yet to have a significant impact on the working environment for journalists. Professional media associations tend to depend on donor funding and are not self-sustainable.Civil society activists founded a self-regulatory mechanism in 2009, the Association of the Georgian Charter of Journalism Ethics, which individual journalists can join. The Charter's council reviews complaints about violations of the ethics code. IREX found that the mechanism gained some traction, although a few signatories have challenged its non-binding verdicts.
Journalists frequently fail to prepare reports based on multiple sources and to present the views of all relevant parties when reporting on controversial issues. IREX concludes that tightened political control in tandem with lax editorial commitment to established journalism standards hindered delivery of objective and well-sourced information.As noted before, as a result of the deep polarisation and partisanship of the Georgian media, editorial pressure, a lack of resources and qualified staff, many journalists resort to biased and inaccurate reporting at the expense of professional standards.
To what extent is the media active and successful in investigating and exposing cases of corruption?
Georgian media, as a whole, have not been particularly active or successful in investigating and exposing cases of corruption in recent years. Only print media, as well as a few TV production studios have engaged in investigative reporting, while the channels with a nationwide audience do not have such programs at present.
IREX noted that investigative journalism is "barely visible" in the Georgian media, emphasizing that the development of this genre is hampered by "poor investigative skills" of reporters and a "growing fear of retribution."Freedom House suggests that the fear of possible punishment deters journalists from investigating possible cases of corruption.The efforts to investigate alleged cases of corruption are also hindered by the fact that the authorities often create barriers to the media's efforts at obtaining public information, particularly the information regarding the activities of law enforcement bodies and government spending.
The ability of the media to expose corruption has suffered considerably as a result of its lack of independence from the authorities. This is particularly true for the major national broadcasters. Investigative journalism programmes disappeared from Rustavi-2 immediately after the Rose Revolution and were also removed from Imedi when the channel was taken over by an allegedly government-friendly businessman, Joseph Kay, in 2008. Georgian Public Broadcasting does not presently air investigative reports either.
The majority of investigative documentaries that are produced today are done by the handful of independent studios sponsored by foreign donors. However, the national TV stations have all declined to air these documentaries, despite the fact that the studios offered to provide them for free. As a result, they only appear on the Kavkasia and Maestro channels, neither of which broadcast outside the capital.A 2009 analysis of the Georgian media highlighted the fact that there are no dedicated investigative programs on any national channel even though one survey found that over 75 percent of respondents that they would like to see such programmes.A number of central and local newspapers have also engaged in investigative journalism. However, an expert interviewee told TI Georgia that these investigations are not always well documented or substantiated, which casts a shadow upon their credibility.
To what extent is the media active and successful in informing the public of corruption and its impact on the country?
As is the case with investigative journalism, the Georgian media has not been active and successful in informing the public of corruption and its impact on the country.
An expert interviewee told TI Georgia that, in recent years, the government has assumed the lead role in terms of informing the public about corruption-related matters, while the media's activities in this field have mostly been limited to airing police footage, often recorded by hidden camera, about arrests of public officials charged with corruption. According to Paichadze, the media usually receives ready-made stories from the authorities and does very little investigation of its own.
Georgian TV stations presently have no dedicated programmes that aim to inform the public about corruption and its impact on Georgian society.
To what extent is the media active and successful in informing the public of the activities of the government and other governance actors?
Georgia has many media outlets presenting diverse views and a variety of political programmes. At the same time, the ability of the media to inform the public of activities of the government and other political actors in a balanced manner is often undermined by the lack of independence and notable bias of most outlets. Georgian journalists tend to be generalists and only few have developed expertise on specific issues.
As noted before, the Georgian media landscape is presently characterised by strong polarisation and partisanship and editorial censorship within outlets, which makes it difficult for journalists to provide an objective and balanced coverage of current events. Freedom House has suggested that the fear of possible consequences prevents some journalists from engaging in overt criticism of the government or providing in-depth reporting on controversial political issues.
A 2009 analysis of the Georgian media showed that Rustavi-2, Imedi and Georgian Public Broadcasting have refrained from airing reports that could have harmed the government's image, while Maestro and Kavkasia did not cover stories that could have led to bad publicity for the opposition. Media monitoring conducted as part of the analysis showed that both pro-government and pro-opposition channels frequently broadcast information that is "misleading, inaccurate and highly partisan".
Another analysis of the Georgian media noted that there is a lack of journalistic competition between the three major TV stations (Rustavi 2, Imedi and Georgian Public Broadcasting). As a consequence, their news programmes are almost identical as they tend to cover the same stories in largely the same manner and are "highly reluctant to air reports that are critical of the president and his government."The same analysis concluded that the Georgian TV landscape lacks programmes that dare to ask tough questions and report critically on politicians from all camps.
These problems have had a negative impact on the media's ability to cover important political developments such as political campaigns. The OSCE/ODIHR observation mission of the 2010 municipal elections found that many Georgian media outlets remain strongly influenced by their owners, with only a few of them pursuing a more independent editorial policy.The mission noted that, while the media generally provided voters with a diverse range of views, the campaign news coverage lacked balance on all TV stations except for the Georgian Public Broadcaster and that critical and independent opinions on the performance of the authorities and analysis of contestants' platforms were generally absent from the news programs of the main TV channels.
Media monitoring conducted by the Caucasus Research Resource Centres (CRRC) around the 2010 elections confirmed that pro-government and pro-opposition channels relied on the use of negative and often aggressive attitudes toward the opposite camp, while information was often presented from one angle only. According to CRRC's findings, political talk shows were characterized by "subjectivity, low professionalism and media bias". Both, on newscasts as well as talk shows, journalists provided information the source of which was often not presented, not reliable or not named at all.
The GPB was criticised for not devoting a single television talk show to major changes in the Constitution that were passed by Parliament in September 2010.Similarly, Channel 1 failed to cover an anti-government protest by war veterans in early 2011, raising questions about its editorial independence.
A positive development is the reform of the GPB's Channel 2 (only broadcast in Tbilisi). Channel 2 is devoted to airing unedited, live broadcasts of parliamentary debates and committee hearings as well as press conferences, including those of opposition parties.On the whole, Georgian Public Broadcasting is believed to have recently made progress towards becoming a forum for different ideas.