The International Foundation for Better Governance welcomes the international attention being paid to the plight of the independent Georgian television station, Rustavi 2. Concern has been mounting that the television station is under pressure from the Georgian government. Rustavi 2 has long been recognised as a beacon of free speech and pioneering broadcasting in Georgia, with dynamic journalists and innovative formats, such as the political talk show.
The station first came under government pressure with legislation to eliminate the channel's sources of revenue by changing the laws on television advertising. Rustavi 2 had been unusual in the Georgian market because it enjoyed healthy revenue from advertising, and the ensuing independence that such revenue brings. It meant Rustavi was not reliant on the government or patronage from wealthy owners and so had been unafraid to include political talk shows and public affairs programmes in their scheduling. This had been an important forum for NGOs and voices of the opposition to openly air their views.
The second wave of pressure arrived in the form of Rustavi 2 facing court action to seize control of a majority shareholding in a suit brought by a previous owner. Even the US Department of State has voiced concerns about this recent move, which can be found in Ambassador Kelly's statement on the US Embassy website: http://georgia.usembassy.gov/news-events/emb_news2015t/08102015statement.html
In an article published today in EU Today magazine in Brussels, Giorgi Targamadze, the leader of the Christian-Democrat party in Georgia, spoke of his concerns: "Georgia is a developing democracy, and what happens here has implications for the whole region. In the run-up to next year's parliamentary elections, it is absolutely vital that all parties should be able to reach their voters through the medium of television. There is a multitude of small political parties in this country, and if a ruling government coalition suppresses free speech, then none of the opposition parties will have any chance in the elections."
Also quoted in the EU Today article was Tom Weingartner, the President of the Association of International Journalists (API). He stated: The freedom of the media is constantly coming under attack. It is vitally important in any democracy that there are a range of different voices free to express their views without fear of coercion of any sort."
The full article from EU Today can be found at http://eutoday.net/news/georgia-1 .
A court decision on Rustavi 2 is expected this week.
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The International Foundation for Better Governance AISBL is an International not for profit organisation registered in Brussels (en formation) for the purpose of promoting and lobbying for the rights of citizens, and defending their freedoms and rights enshrined in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. The organisation is registered under the European Commission’s Transparency Register, and is headquartered in Brussels from where it undertakes work to support national and international organisations that share its values. The organisation is entirely funded by membership subscriptions and by private donations from individuals and organisations that support the Mission of the Foundation.