While assessing local media features, experts and representatives of regional media concluded that the quality of media freedom and independence in the Kakheti region faces significant restrictions.
In fact, in World Press Freedom rankings, Georgia has dropped to a lower place that confirms existence of unsatisfactory reality of media environment.
The situation is worsened by the dependence of a major part of media sources on local subsidies, which according to media expert Zviad Koridze causes censorship and self-censorship.
Peculiarities of the media landscape in the Kakheti region were depicted clearly in the recent period by measuring the level of editorial influence and budgetary finances. Those measurements can be divided into three groups:
- Free and independent media that are not subsidized by a local public budget; small revenues from commercial and advertising blocks from local government budgets represent an exception, as they make up a very small portion of the total finances;
- Newspapers and televisions subsidized by the budget and fully influenced by the government;
- Media sources that have received regular budgetary subsidies for years, but try to create a transparent and independent editorial policy in order to receive grants form donor organizations.
Out of these three types, significance should be given to the conditions of the first group, entirely free media, which is hardly developing because of scarce advertising and commercial market opportunities. This type of media turns down budgetary subsidies and survives only by donor finances.
Radio “Hereti,” for example, belongs to this particular type of group, as during the year of 2010 it has not received a single lari from the public budget. As the representatives of the radio explained, only in 2009 was there a commercial for Lagodekhi City Assembly in Radio “Hereti,” as ordered by the Assembly itself.
The newspaper “Voice of Kakheti” /Kakhetis Khma/ is also being published without any state or local government financing. The only exception is Sighnagi Municipality, which is involved in publishing an additional monthly supplement to the newspaper, “Sighnagi Voice” /Sighnagis Khma/. The project was initiated with the financial support of German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ).
According to media expert Zviad Koridze, an open and transparent environment is the essential prerequisite for the development of media. This refers to media owners as well as to financing sources.
In the public debate held at the Telavi State University, participants included local journalists from Kakheti region, as well as representatives from the local government and opposition parties. According to the statement of Giorgi Mosiashvili, the head of the Conservative Party Telavi Organizarion, media in Kakheti is especially active. However, he expressed dissatisfaction with regards to the cancellation of “Maestro” broadcasting by Telavi Cable Channel “Gorda.” He also negatively evaluated shortening the program “Dialogue” in the “Tanamgzavri” Broadcasting Company, a decision that was made due to insufficient financial resources, and that denies a big part of population access to social-political programs.
While discussing issues of media freedom, there were remarks that one of the important problems is access to public information. Along with this problem, non-professionalism of press service representatives and information-blocking are also primary challenges in the region.
As Giorgi Gozalishvili, head of the Lagodekhi City Assembly, stated, they actively cooperate with journalists, and there are no problems in terms of information publicity. During the meeting, there were statements that the Gurjaani and Lagodekhi municipalities pursue relatively open policies towards media relations.
According to journalist Khatuna Gogashvili, the existence of the problem should be recognized by press representatives as well as governmental bodies, and information should be immediately released.
As she stated, “usually, on the events organized by local government, they invite and inform only central media representatives; therefore, local journalists are most frequently ignored.”
Journalist Madona Matiashvili addressed the low qualifications of press services and emphasized that they urgently need training.
“We journalists constantly improve our qualifications, we are given some training and we study, but unfortunately the second side, which is obliged to give and release information, is not equipped with necessary skills, and that causes problems,” explained Matiashvili.
The discussion was held at Telavi State University and was hosted by Heinrich Boell Foundation in cooperation with Center for the Regional Development and Initiatives. The public debate was moderated by the executive director of the Gurjaani Broadcasting Company, Leval Aleksishvili.