Certain media organizations face problems with obtaining public information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Georgia. Journalists say that often they either receive incomplete, late or do not receive public information from the MIA. There are cases when reporters have problems in communicating with the MIA Public Relations representatives; they are unable to receive complete answers to their questions or cannot contact responsible authorities.
Media.ge spoke with the representatives of media outlets that have problems with receiving information from the MIA by different methods. Such media organizations are newspaper Batumelebi, Netgazeti, Guria News, Livepress.ge, Studio Monitor, Information Center Kakheti (ICK) and TV-Channel 25.
Among the media organizations that Media.ge has interviewed, Tbilisi based broadcasters have less problems in communicating the MIA. Imedi TV Information Service head Baia Tsanava and the Georgian Public Broadcaster Information Service head Sofo Mosidze say that they have no problem with obtaining information from the MIA. Producer of Maestro TV Information Service Sofo Zurabiani claims the same. Although, she stressed that there was a case when they received response to request for public information late. According to Rustavi Newscast Courier Producer Giorgi Laperashvili, they have no problem with obtaining information.
Problems with issuing public information
Journalist of investigative Studio Monitor Giorgi Mgeladze speaks about problems with requesting public information. He often has problems with receiving information from the MIA. According to him, it has happened that the MIA has provided public information after an investigative film was already aired, violating public information issuing deadlines. Last time Mgeladze requested information 4 February, although has not received a response yet.
“We have three phone number of the Public Information Bureau. Nobody answers when we call these numbers. Press-service says that that answering such questions is not their job,” Mgeladze stressed. He plans to appeal against the last case in Court.
Head of Information Center Kakheti Gela Mtivlishvili also plans to appeal to Court. He requested from MIA information about dates of appointment and dismissal of Akhmeta Police Department and reasons for dismissal, although the Ministry did not provide the information even after an administrative complaint was lodged. Ministry said that the requested information included personal information and they did not have the right to publicize it. Guria News journalist Tamuna Lepsveridze was refused public information due to the same reason. She requested information about two employees working in the Ministry.
Media.ge case against MIA has already been registered in Court. In 2013 the publication requested information from the MIA on 9 September and 4 November. We wanted to find out whether or not the GPB Director’s Adviser for Security Issues Irakli Tsibadze and Assistant to Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) Zaza Mazmishvili also worked at the MIA. Media.ge did not receive a response in neither of the cases so it appealed to Court on Tsibadze’s case.
Web-portal Livepress.ge has also sued the MIA. According to the publication Editor Geronti Kalichava, in one of the cases the MIA did not issue public information with the motive that it was confidential.
Newspaper Batumelebi requested public information three times from the MIA in November and December 2013. The publication tried to receive from the MIA information about bonuses issued, business-trip expenses taken by the Ministry during Interior Minister’s visit to Batumi expenses taken for vehicles’ repairs. According to Batumelebi Editor Eter Turadze, they received information partially, only about issued bonuses and also in summarized way.
“We have not had a single case when we received information within legal deadlines. We have not felt any change since government has changed,” Turadze told Media.ge.
Journalist Tazo Kupreishvili requested detail information about crimes taking place in the country several times on behalf of Netgazeti and Tabula. At first the journalist received detail information from the MIA but later the Ministry provided information in a summarized way. Kupreishvili says that in case of summarized way of provision of information population does not have the possibility to know in detail what types of crimes increased and what types decreased.
Problem with communication with the MIA Public Relations Service
Head of News Service of the TV-Chanel 25 Maia Merkviladze and Netgazeti Editor Maia Metskhvarishvili speak about speak about problems with receiving comments from the MIA.
“We need a lot of time to get comment for television. Finally they usually tell us that it is not necessary for their comment to be aired. They believe that just repeating their opinion on TV is enough. Nino Giorgobiani does not answer as she has representatives in regions. We have to contact them but they in fact know nothing,” Merkviladze told Media.ge.
Maia Metskhvarishvili says that MIA Head of Press-Service Nino Giorgobiani does not answer Netgazeti telephone calls. According to Metskhvarishvili, Giorgobiani readdressed heir journalists to her assistant several times.
“There have been cases when Giorgobiani’s assistant has directed us to use information published at other websites. This is the confusing approach of this specific state body,” Metskhvarishvili told Media.ge.
Nino Giorgobiani denies accusations from journalists
Head of MIA Head of Press-Service Nino Giorgobiani denies accusations expressed by media organizations. According to her, media organizations do not have problem win communicating with her office; all media organizations know their contact number and receive information.
“I am very surprised with them making such statements. If somebody answered that there is information on Interpressnews website, this means that our office issues information. It can happen that we give interview to Interpressnews and after to Netgazeti; this is because they call earlier. It is excluded that we do not give information to someone; our Ministry does not have problem with communication,” Giorgobiani told Media.ge.
Giorgobiani does not speak about problems with issuing of public information. According to her, it is not her competence and Court verdicts will show whether or not requests should have been satisfied.