Zugdidi municipality should cooperate with the local broadcasters on equal basis
While the relationships between numerous regional private media outlets and local government bodies have improved over the past year, recent developments in Zugdidi suggest that in some areas, tensions between local government and local broadcasters remain high.
TV Odishi, a channel based in Zugdidi, accuses local municipality and its public relations officer Maia Gurtskaia of pressure, saying that the local channel cannot receive any comments and statements from representatives of the local government.
The municipality’s spokesperson, on the other hand, speaking to Transparency International Georgia, alleged that the channel had repeatedly reported false information about the activities of the municipality, and because of misleading coverage stopped providing comments and responses to the media outlet.
In a letter to Transparency International Georgia, TV Odishi has described several cases of its journalists being refused an official comment from the Municipality and being prevented from attending public events held by different organizations in a municipality building. The head of PR department denied the latter accusation: “I have never prevented anyone from attending other organizations’ events. I am a head of municipality public relations and I can’t control or influence other organizations’ activities, even if they are organized in the municipality building.”
Odishi TV is fully owned by Emma Grigolia whose son Aleksandre Kobalia served as Head of the Zugdidi municipality (Gamgebeli) from 2005 on. He resigned in December 2012, shortly after Parliamentary elections. Kobalia was one of the original founders of Odishi. In the late 2000’s, the other founders of Odishi withdrew from the company, and Emma Grigolia became the sole owner. The company’s director is Davit Grigolia, Emma Grigolia’s nephew. Grigolia’s late husband Grigol Kobalia was a member of the parliament between 2004-2008 as UNM representative.
It is important that the Zugdidi municipality, an administrative body, recognizes its responsibility as a public institution to provide easy, non-discriminatory access for journalists to local government buildings and public events and to provide them with the opportunity to conduct interviews and receive responses from local government representatives.
Government bodies should not have a selective approaches towards media representatives and should cooperate with all media outlets regardless their editorial policy or ownership. We ask the Zugdidi municipality to reconsider its decision and to cooperate with the local broadcaster.
It is also important that journalists provide fair and accurate coverage of the developments in the community. The owners of Odishi TV company, it’s management and staff should ensure that they follow ethical principles and professional guidelines. Local media outlets should try new ways of engaging local government representatives and contribute to developing a professional and constructive working relationship with them.
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