Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum Georgian National Platform Statement on Media Environment in Pre-election Period in Georgia

5 Sep, 2012



August 29, 2012
Tbilisi, Georgia

The Parliamentary Elections scheduled for October 1st, 2012 in Georgia are pivotal for country’s
democratic development and European integration prospects. Hence, ensuring a free and competitive
electoral environment, with a healthy media environment as one of its core components, is of the
utmost importance.
Despite certain improvements to the situation regarding media pluralism, equal access to diverse
sources of information for citizens and voters still remains a serious challenge. We believe that the
enactment into law of so-called ‘must carry/must offer’ principles, obliging cable TV operators to
include national broadcasters in their service packages, is indeed a step forward. It should be noted
though, that this regulation is not sufficient to satisfy the public need for diverse information sources,
since cable TV services are available to a part of mostly urban population only. For the majority of the
rural population, satellite receivers remain the sole means of accessing diverse media sources.
We express our concern over the impoundment of Maestro TV company satellite dish antennas. We
believe this action is inadmissible, as it hinders the exercise of constitutional rights and freedoms,
including freedom of speech and expression, the right to obtain and spread information, as well as
property rights, and falls beyond the established legal framework.
At the same time, the decision contradicts the spirit of the Government-endorsed ‘must carry’ and
‘must offer’ regulations and in practice leads to discriminatory conditions for a considerable part of
Georgia’s population with no access to cable TV providers’ services.
We deem the duration of the ‘must carry’ and ‘must offer’ regulations as currently defined by law
(implying their termination on the day prior to the elections) unreasonable and not fully reflecting
public interest. In relation with the elections, diverse media sources should be accessible continuously
as the function they serve is not solely informing voters in the pre-election period. A pluralistic media
environment represents an important mechanism to ensure the transparency and credibility of the
whole electoral process and, in general, is an inherent part of the democratic process.
We express our concern also over the recent cases of violence against journalists and cases of
hampering their professional work. Ensuring journalists’ unhindered access to and ability to report on
electoral activities is a necessary precondition for voters to receive thorough information.
We call upon the Government of Georgia to immediately take appropriate measures in order to carry
out proper investigation of each case of violence against journalists and hold the instigators and
perpetrators accountable, thereby deterring the occurrence of similar cases in future.
We call upon the Government of Georgia to take efficient steps towards providing citizens with access
to diverse media sources, including via lifting restrictions on the distribution of satellite dishes by the
private TV company. Civil society expresses its readiness to participate in the monitoring of the
process in order to ensure its compliance with the law.
The National Platform takes note of and expresses its appreciation for the statement of the
Ambassadorial Working Group (August 18th, 2012) reflecting upon the electoral environment,
including the media, and expresses its readiness to regularly provide updates on electoral processes in
Georgia to accredited diplomatic missions, respective institutions of the EU and international
We call upon the EU, the embassies accredited in Georgia and international representations to further
maintain the issues above as a priority in official communications with the Government of Georgia
and thus, further support the interests of Georgian civil society and voters.