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Different 2010

31.12.2010 12:20

New-York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) recently published its annual report. According to the document, 44 journalists were killed in the world in 2010. The deadliest place for journalists was Pakistan where 8 journalists died. According to the report, 90% of all murder cases remain unresolved. The only solace is that the number of journalists killed on duty decreased in comparison with the previous year. In 2009 world lost 72 journalists.

Executive Director of CPJ Joel Simon partially blames the governments for the deaths of journalists "as they encourage impunity, which causes more violence". After reading that phrase I recalled Leonid Parfyonov's words: "A journalist isn't beaten because of something he wrote, said or filmed, but because this thing was read, heard, or seen."

Thank God no journalist was killed in Georgia this year and according to official statistical data, no journalist was detained for their professional activities; however, at the end of November journalist of Kvela Siakhle newspaper was arrested on a charge of robbery. According to CPJ report, as of December 1, 145 journalists, editors and photo journalists were behind bars all around the world.

Most of them were arrested in Iran and China; however, more importantly the report offers us the following conclusion: treason, undermining activities and fighting against national interest are the most frequently cited reasons for arresting journalists, at least 72 journalists are charged with the abovementioned accusations. As the report reads: "motives are almost always the same: subduing those who challenge the government authority".

Now, regarding the physical abuse... For Georgian journalists this year was quite "busy" in that regard. Director of TV channel Tanamgzavri, photographer of TV station Maestro and script writer of Daily Pills show of the same TV station as well as Director General of TV station Trialeti were all physically abused. As the directors of Tanamgzavri and Trialeti TV stations state, they were beaten by representatives of authorities. Besides, the doctor who confirmed the fact of beating of Trialeti chief was later fired.

There are even more journalists who were beaten while carrying out their professional duties. During a fistfight near Lilo market the journalist of Kavkasia TV station was beaten and an online TV station's camera was broken; journalist Gela Mtivlishvili was beaten while filming the eviction of IDPs from Abkhazia; his camera was seized and damaged in Dedoplistskaro administration building; while filming the dismantlement of Stalin statue in Gori journalist of Trialeti TV channel was beaten and his camera seized; while filming the demonstration of IDPs the photographer of Maestro TV station was beaten; journalist Saba Tsitsikashvili was physically abused in Shida Kartli administration building.

All those incidents have one interesting feature in common: neither of the journalists is distinguished for being particularly loyal towards the government. Being loyal to authorities is not the characteristic feature that adds much weight to a journalist anyway. This year even US Ambassador in Georgia reminded the Georgian media about that simple fact of life. At the end of December Ambassador John Bass visited Gori district. After visiting Arbo and Tirdznisi villages he went to the office of Trialeti TV station and spoke with the employees of that media outlet behind the closed doors.

"Unbalanced reporting, lack of investigative journalism that would cover the issues concerning the relations between the government and business could be an obstacle for democratic processes" - that statement was made by US Ambassador John Bass after the meeting when commenting about the Georgian media. The national TV channels were not interested in covering this statement. It seems that part of Georgian media has finally given up itself as hopeless. This and other incidents unfortunately clearly indicate that fact.

2010 was also important for Georgian journalism because a Georgian journalist applied for political asylum in Switzerland. Vakhtang Komakhidze cited pressuring from government as reason for the application. The decision made by that journalist is a kind of watershed for deciding whether Georgia is a democratic country or not for those who receive information about us mainly from commercials and ads.

The local elections held in spring were also that kind of watershed as international organizations found many serious deficiencies in the way Georgian media covered those elections. Whether these deficiencies were deliberate or not is less interesting. The fact is that national TV channels were the most "active" in that matter. However, the main surprise provided by Georgian media to the whole world community and not only the world community was the news report hoax aired in early spring.

Even through moderate statements one could see outraged diplomatic corps, flabbergasted public, scared population and unflinching government - such was the result that Georgia got from the Modeled Chronicle newscast. "That report is as close to reality as it gets" - the Georgian President said then, the recordings of phone conversation between the authors of the TV program were anonymously posted online, Imedi apologized as it was directed to do and the case was closed.

But before that Georgian Council of Charter of Journalism Ethics decided that one of the first signers of the Charter - anchor of the Special Report TV program (that aired the news report hoax) had violated one of the principles of the Charter. And how did the journalist react? She didn't attend the Council meeting, called the decision tendentious and annulled her signature on the Charter. That was quite a telltale behavior.

After all these incidents and taking into consideration that principals of Georgian schools are forbidden to give interviews to the journalists without the permission from the press center of Ministry of Education, journalists are forbidden to attend open meetings (as it happened in studio Monitor's case), criminal cases are launched against underage children of journalists in order to influence them (the case of journalist Tamila Gurashvili from Dedoplistskaro) it's no surprise that Georgia worsened its position in world press freedom index by 18 grades.

The index published by Reporters without Borders may be considered a kind of incentive that made the government announce certain initiatives in connection with media at the end of October. Speaker of Parliament made a speech regarding the transparency of media outlets ownership. Despite the fact that government was speaking about the media transparency with great enthusiasm media experts had to make a lot of effort in order to actually get the authorities to do that.

For example the parliamentary majority was surprised when together with the transparency of media ownership experts and journalists also raised issues concerning access to public information and transparency of funding of media outlets. Even in this issue, which was initiated by them, the parliamentary majority still tried to allow offshore-registered firms to own 10% of shares in media outlets. Eventually they had to concede that issue and agree to complete financial transparency of media; however, so far only verbally.

Several new media outlets appeared in Georgia this year, including online media outlets. That sphere became particularly interesting for Georgian and, generally speaking, world public as a result of Julian Assange's WikiLeaks scandal. The phenomenon called WikiLeaks showed the world that it's facing an absolutely new reality, - the reality that creates unprecedented opportunities of accessing information.

Assange showed the world that there's nothing hidden anymore and the people who showed support to him demonstrated that they will not relinquish the right to freely receive and disseminate information. In the epoch mainly governed by information that was a very important action. In this regard 2010 was really a different year for the history of not only media by other spheres of life too.

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