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14.01.2010 19:11

Journalists should be aware of laws to protect themselves and “punish” officials, Oleg Panfilov

David Mchedlidze
Media Discusions

Reporting to Media.ge prominent Russian journalist Oleg Panfilov having moved from Russia to Georgia talked about all those problems, achievements and the expected outcome Georgian and Russian journalism faces nowadays. Through the interview obtained from the Russian journalist you are going to learn how the Russian journalist sees the prospective of development of Georgian media, what setbacks the journalist found after moving to Georgia and what the Georgian journalists lack most.- Dear Mr Panfilov, how would you assess the current situation in Georgian media?

- It's hard for me to assess Georgian journalism since I don't speak Georgian. But I can somehow guess whatever is going on. Like other post-Soviet countries the newspapers are sharply marked off from televisions. In general people in all the countries obtain more information from television than from newspapers. The newspaper market in Georgia, like other post-Soviet countries is scanty. The circulation is also scarce and print media is distinguished with aggressive information policy.

Georgian journalism should be assessed according to two factors: according to the first one Georgia is in a very good condition since it has got the best law regulating media.

According to media pundits this law is much better than the ones in the East European countries. In fact Georgia is the only country in the post-Soviet space where the Constitution bans the existence of governmental means of media.

It is important that no accreditation is needed in Georgia and foreign journalists enjoy a possibility to work freely in the country.

- But still there are problems we cannot avoid, what kind of problems do we face from your point of view?

- Unfortunately there is a problem related to education. These two factors actually exist in two different atmospheres having no connection, this is to say there is a good legislative base but it is not conducive to the advancement of journalism since the journalists traditionally, yet from the Soviet period, dislike being aware and adherent to the laws.

It's a normal thing in the post-Soviet space that governments dislike observing laws but the journalists being unaware of laws and being unwilling to apply laws in the activities is the most acute problem. In general the freedom of speech is not just words but it's a responsibility as well. Therefore journalists should be well aware of laws to be able to protect themselves and "punish' officials.

For instance, when denied information they could apply administrative code.

In short awareness of laws in Georgia is insufficient. During a meeting with the representatives of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) I was told the regional journalists are more or less active while Tbilisi-based media professionals apply laws very seldom.

The second factor is rather important. Journalists' education should be changed. Unfortunately the Soviet inheritance is still maintained in the education system at a number of universities, therefore a new school should be set up corresponding to European standards. That should be master studies and teaching journalism at secondary schools should be terminated since a child cannot turn in to a professional journalist at a school desk, without having specific education and life experience.

- If comparing Georgian and Russian journalism, what kind of conclusion can be made?

- Georgian journalism cannot be compared with the Russian one any longer. When telling my friends in Russia that there are two TV channels in Georgian such as Maestro and Kavkasia censoring only one person and his circle from morning till evening, they looked surprised since pluralism has been forgotten in Russia for ten years now. The only news channel airing more or less objective and alternative information is RNTV. All the rest is just the state propaganda.

Unfortunately there is no tradition of freedom in Russia. But there are a number of features a journalist should be gifted with. First of all it's a skill of feeling freedom. The second one is curiosity. Very few are aware in Russia what freedom is!

There are journalists in Russia who try to maintain profession and freedom but they are too few and the reason of my movement to Georgia was no prospective of carrying my activities on. When seeing no result the work gets dull.

- What is your recipe to change Georgian journalists for better?

- They must be intelligent... A short while ago I was invited to one of the radios and two journalists were trying to impasse me for that simple reason they had heard some rumors about me and I was to keep answering: "That is not true, it's a rumor"... I had to keep proving that I am not a fool. Therefore I would like the journalists to be better than politicians since their activity is public. This is the rule the opposition shall be adherent to as well. I keep telling the Georgian opposition should be wiser than the authorities. But the opposition cannot yet manage that. Thus the level of journalism in Georgia is rather low. The questions posed by them are based on rumors. For instance I was asked whether the common Caucasian channel had been set up through Berezovsky's money. I answered it was a lie. I was asked whether I really try to separate South Caucasian countries through this channel. My Lord! The channel is being set up to explain people there is united Caucasus and Russia is trying to separate it, not Georgia. I am going to produce a publicistic programme on the channel, free from politics, since I haven't lived in Georgia.

- Is journalism as a profession losing popularity worldwide, what do you think? This trend is pronounced in the post-Soviet space...

- No, not across the world. Did you know that unpopularity of this profession is evident in the post-Soviet space. At least everywhere I used to conduct lectures the students are mainly girls. It never means girls are smarter; it's just a matter of prestige and earning.

It's non-sense when journalism is said to be the profession one should never think about money. Just the opposite, poor journalism can never be journalism! At this time the prestige of the profession falls, moreover journalists cannot protect themselves from the pressure exerted by the authorities, they are frustrated by their profession. But in Georgia the situation in this regard, from my standpoint, is not worrisome: in case you dislike First Channel or Rustavi 2 you can switch to Maestro TV. No wish to Kviris Palitra? Then you can buy the 24 Hours.

When there is diversity it means the country is alive. Georgian journalism has got prospective.

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