April 27 in Tbilisi Marriott Hotel the Civil Development Institute summarized the results of regional meetings. During 2010 the organization held 6 meetings in Georgian regions (Kutaisi, Batumi, Poti, Gori, Sighnaghi, Ozurgeti) in the Dialogue Between Media, Society and the Government Project framework.
Members of government, opposition, non-governmental sector, media and civil society participated in all the closed discussions aimed at the determining of the problem between the governmental and non-governmental institutions and finding relative solutions.
The given project was implemented by the Civil Development Institute in framework of the EU funded Media Strengthening Program for Georgia.
"In all the regions government was represented by governors, deputy governors, heads of Sakrebulos (City council) and local governors. It was the meeting of people who solve problems locally", said the Director of the Civil Development Institute Ia Antadze.
The total of 122 persons participated in the discussions including 33 media representatives (27%), 28 NGO representatives (23%), 26 government representatives (21%), 17 opposition representatives (14%) and 18 civil society representatives (15%).
Participants of meetings were to outline 3 main problems hampering media relations with government and society.
4 main problems have been determined during the discussions as follows:
1) Low level of professionalism (67 votes);
2) Political will (51 votes);
3) Weakness of the society (49 votes);
4) Fear (36 votes).
One additional problem was raised in Gori and Ozurgeti.
Problem of communication was outlined in Ozurgeti (18 votes).
Participants of the Gori meeting named favoritism as a problem (7 votes). According to journalist Saba Tsitsikashvili government has favorite journalists who they never refuse to give an interview to.
4 recommendations have been worked out for solving the above mentioned 4 main problems:
1) Strengthening of independent media - having three subparts: freeing media from control, strengthening of export and analytical journalism, provision of precise information to the society;
2) Activation of the society - increase of public consciousness, identification of local leaders and promotion of civil participation;3) Education (university and professional education);
4) Dialogue between media, public and the government.
Meeting participants have also outlined two risk-factors which may hamper the implementation of recommendations: pressure from government and lack of finances; hard social background.
Participants of meeting also worked with three closed questionnaires consisting of three blocks: evaluation of inter-sector cooperation, identification of problems with cooperation and evaluation of the sector role during last three years. 107 persons answers all the questions; 15 participants of the meeting did not fill in the questionnaire).
It appeared that cooperation between media organizations, local governments, opposition parties, public organizations and business sector is either absent, or is oriented at mutual profit. Representatives of all five sectors have the most successful cooperation with non-governmental organizations.
Lack of funding for organizing meetings has been outlined as the main reason for the problems with cooperation. The respondents believe it is necessary to promote trust and deepen the advocacy and monitoring knowledge.
The respondents also gave evaluation to the role of all five sectors during last five years. The criterias were as follows: participation in public life, public trust and coverage of activities by media.
Representatives of non-governmental, media organizations, local governments and opposition parties agree, or partly agree to the more intensive coverage of problems by media. Majority of the respondents believe public trust to the sector has increased just as the participation of its representatives in the public life.
The situation is different with business sector in all three criteria the problems of which are less covered by the media, public trust and its participation in public life has not increased.
"Business sector is a separate country inside the country; they do not want to cooperate with media", stressed Ia Antadze.
Project Manager at European Union Delegation to Georgia, historian Oliver Reisner spoke about the importance of regional meetings. According to him, problems that have to be solved have aroused during the discussions.
"It's most important for the media sector to understand that just professional trainings are not enough, structural changes for strengthening the media sector are necessary. Trade union of media workers and the Ethics Charter have been created. Those are the elements which are to strengthen the media sector institutionally," Reisner told media.ge.