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29.03.2010 22:12

How Does Georgia Meet its European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan Commitments?!

David Mchedlidze
Media Discusions
ჩრდილოვანი ანგარიშის პრეზენტაცია (photo: )

Promoting the institutional environment for the operation of independent media within the scope of the European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan, implementation of Georgia's economic obligations in the framework of European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan: legislation and practices, promotion of democratic institutions, principles of good governance and democratic control in security sector as defined by ENP Action Plan for Georgia are of those three priority directions selected by the Open Society Georgia Foundation for monitoring, analyzing and eventually having been published as a shadow report European Neighborhood Policy: Implementation of the Objectives of the EU-Georgia Action Plan. In November 2009 the short version of the report was introduced to representatives of the EU, European Parliament and different non-governmental organizations. The full version of the report presented on March 26, Tbilisi Marriott Hotel covers the findings of OSGF experts Tamar Pataraia, Revaz Sakevarishvili and Nino Danelia. The EU-Georgia ENP AP was launched in November 2006.  Strategic goals of cooperation between the EU and Georgia were defined in the document. Some representatives of the Georgian civil sector regularly keep track of the implementation of the ENP AP.

In 2009, along with the 5-year ENP, the Eastern Partnership plan was also launched.  The Eastern Partnership plan aims to improve the EU relations with the six Post-Soviet states (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan).  It seeks to promote democracy and good governance, economic integration, sustainable development and encourage people to people contacts.  Both programs aim to speed up the progress of the states towards moving closer to EU accession goals and make democratic and liberal processes irreversible in the region.

"Even though currently the attention is focused on the Eastern Partnership program, partly because it is more recent, it cannot be detached and considered separately from the ENP.  Our country has experienced both ups and downs regarding the latter, therefore any progress or regress the country may see under the Eastern Partnership program will remind us of the lessons we have learned from the ENP.  This is why it was important to the OSGF in 2009 to draw attention of national and international civil society, the national and European governments to its implementation"- says Keti Khutsishvili, Executive Director of the Open Society Georgia Foundation.

The first part of the report which covers media is focused on several problems, for instance, while the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting establishes the independence of the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC), civil society questions its actual independence. To illustrate the GNCC activities Nino Danelia cited the case of TV Company Maestro that had been refused a license modification for public and political programs, at the same time that the TV company Alania, which is loyal to the ruling party, continued to broadcast without a license for a year and a half. Further, on October 10, 2008, after a meeting with the parliamentary opposition and the Chairman of the GNCC, the chairman of the parliament announced that "a compromise" had been reached to allow Maestro to receive a license for political programming.

According to the media researcher the civil society and international supervisory organisations have noted more than once that nomination and approval of candidates to the GNCC essentially constitutes state influence.

In accordance with the report the transparency of media ownership is another issue. Moreover, several regional TV companies are run by the representatives of the authorities or the persons affiliated with them.

Media market, according to the report, is not protected from the state interference especially when it comes to the distribution of advertising among the TV companies. Therefore media business failed to translate into commercial business and funding by international sources remains as the only source for independent media to exist.

The issues related to media editorial independence, self-censorship, adherence to journalism ethics and professionalism still remain problematic.

Though the inclusion of civil society members into the Board of Trustees of the Georgian Public Broadcasting is regarded by the authors of the report as a positive step towards complete depoliticization of the council of the Public Broadcaster.

The report includes recommendations to the Government and Parliament of Georgia, to the media, to the civil society and the European Union. For instance, donors should carry on supporting independent media and individual projects and emphasize the need of editorial independence of national TV companies as the main priority in media policies while negotiating with the Government of Georgia.

The government is recommended to amend the Law on Broadcasting that will legally guarantee the transparency of the owners of the media outlets, not only on the legal entity level but also the individual level. Namely, it should be stated explicitly in the Law on Broadcasting that the media owner company should not be registered in any of the off-shore zones. Amend legislation, namely the Law on broadcasting to prevent concentration (direct or indirect, through a third party, etc.) of the media services; Guarantee the publicity of information about the owners of the media services (both the electronic media and the press) in order to make it available for all interested individuals; Amend the Labour Code to better protect employees through labour contracts; Amend the Law on Broadcasting by stating that GNCC can issue only technical, general licenses instead of content broadcasting licenses; Depoliticize the council of trustees of the Public Broadcaster by announcing that members won't be elected according to political quotas, but rather encourage CSOs to nominate and advocate their representatives in transparent and public discussions.

As regards media Nino Danelia recommends to develop a model for a solid and active professional union; to create effective mechanisms of self-regulation and uphold professional standards and provide professional standards and focus on constantly raising the level of professional skills and professional growth.







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