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12.11.2012 18:30

Some Journalists Have No Access to Developments in Prisons

Maia Tsiklauri
Media Discusions

“The journalists taking part in the monitoring of penitentiary establishments are misusing the monitor’s status for personal interests through releasing exclusive information in their media outlets while other journalists enjoy no such possibility since they are not included in the monitoring team," - says Eliso Janashia, Editor, TS Press, reporting to Media.Ge.

The monitoring possibility was granted to the team of 51 members, six of them journalists, during Giorgi Tughushi’s ministership. The rights and responsibilities of the monitoring team members were not though determined. While some of the monitoring participant journalists deliver information on the situations in prison to the Ministry others misuse the data for journalistic activities, since they have a possibility to.  

Zura Vardiashvili of the Liberal magazine is one of the journalists systematically publishing articles on the current situation in prisons. The mandate of a monitor gave him a possibility to obtain exclusive interview for the Liberal magazine from Bacho Akhalaia, former interior minister being currently in detention, having re-raised the issue unequal conditions for media outlets.

Vardiashvili thinks no regulations have been set for him therefore, he is using this possibility and reporting on the issues of public interest. According to him the interview obtained from Bacho Akhalaia was not solely due to his mandate of monitor his reporting skills. “I know other journalists participating in the monitoring were trying to obtain interviews but he did not agree, For three hours was trying to get his consent, eventually I managed to open him up,” says Zura. If any journalist had called, Zura says, he would have told the particulars of the interview.

Eliso Janashia believes that the monitoring participant journalists should share the data gleaned at prisons with their colleagues through the release of the case-related report or press conference.

According to Vardiashvili he is not holding the information worth to organize press conference about.

“If journalists wish so they can get together and call me, I would be willingly provide them with the data I have got,” says Vardiashvili.

The Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia should change its approach to this issue and any interested journalist should have a possibility to talk to the prisoner within a certain period of time and form. Zura Vardiashvili thinks likewise.

Journalist Ia Antadze, the head of the Civic Development Institute thinks, due to the current for of monitoring, the journalists are in unequal conditions.

“Monitoring means a bit different thing, follows certain rules and it is not a journalistic activity,” says Ia Antadze and thereby clarifies that prison monitoring and journalists’ awareness of prisoners’ conditions should be the issue of strict regulations, this is to say monitoring should be in place and journalists should have access to it.”

The Ministry, Antadze thinks, should offer the society the scheme implying prison monitoring and journalists’ access to information.

“Afterwards we can speak of the scheme’s acceptability and fairness. For today this issue is unsettled,” Ia Antadze says.

Today, November 12 Media.ge has been unable to get in touch with the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia to find out about its stance over the aforementioned issue. Reporting to the Alia newspaper Lali Moroshkina chief advisor of Georgia's Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance Sozar Subari said “Giorgi Tughushi left the last mine. He made up the monitoring team of the people no one knows anything about – who they are, where they are from. I agree with the Minister, there should be more human right watchdogs rather than lawyers and journalists. In journalists’ case whatever we have now is the principle of wandering around.”

Vardiashvili fears that in the light of Moroshkina’s statement, journalists’ complaints against the media representatives within the monitoring team might incite restriction of reporters’ entry into prisons.

FYI, the Charter of Journalistic Ethics dedicated a discussion to the issue and expressed willingness to take part in the development of monitoring regulations.

The deadline of the authority of monitoring team expires at the end of 2012. 

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