Ia Antadze: "The government fully controls the information policy"27.04.2012 | 15:31
What's really going on with the Georgian media? Are they free, or are they under the pressure of the authorities? Can the independent press operate freely? Does it exist in Georgia? Well-known journalist Ia Antadze described the situation in an interview Gtimes.
Ia Antadze is engaged, as she says, in "pure journalism" on the radio Tavisupleba ("Freedom") and works in an NGO "Institute for Civil Development", where she also works with the media.
What is the situation with the freedom of speech today in Georgia?
Before answering the question, I must say that the rights of citizens of Georgia are infringed by the fact that they do not have full information about what is happening in the country. The population is not fully informed about the processes in public life. In order to remove this problem the media must be independent and the public sector is required to report to the society, and there must be no problems in the distribution of public information.
As for the journalists, of course, their rights are infringed by the fact that the state controls most information policy. That's why the journalists working at the public channels are unable to meet the journalistic standards and their conscience. This is the biggest problem for my colleagues, especially in the regions.
Also, in the regions, where public information is especially unavailable, there are facts of direct pressure. Such facts took place in Gori, Kakheti, Poti and Batumi. Often, in addition to the threats, they are subjected to physical abuse. In Tbilisi, there much less of such facts. We face only censorship here.
However, there are a lot of journalists who are ready to serve the government.
Not so categorically. There are journalists who are not subject to government censorship and do not work in the pro-government media. It is a matter of personal choice. But in fact, journalists have little choice. For example, the journalist has protested censorship and left job. Unfortunately, there's little chance for him to find justice and that the court would protect his rights. This problem is much wider - the problem of Labor Code and judicial system. The journalists have little chance after leaving job. A lot of my friends journalists left job because of censorship and "pressure". They had to change profession because they did not find another job in their field.
Have you received offers from any political organization to become a member of their team?
Yes, I've received many proposals. It started from the time of Zurab Zhvania, when they offered me to cooperate. After that I've received many other proposals. I did not agree. These two professions, I would say, are radically different. Journalism is a profession of free men, and every good journalist must be free; and in politics you have to consider the interests of the team. I've made the choice in favor of journalism. People love journalism because of the truth. People trust me, I am very grateful to them.
How do the authorities control the television in practice?
The Government actually appoints the owners of TV channels to carry out their policy. All the pressure on journalists is being put through these owners. Each of them is a part of this government, or very close to the government. The government has reached the situation when every owner or manager is the person whom they trust. First of all, they did it in the regions. I'm sure these owners do not pay money for the purchase of TV channels. They were simply appointed, and now they adhere to the government's course on TV, and the real owner is the government.
What must be changed in the media to make them free?
It is impossible that in the country one area is free, while others - are not. It is impossible that television is free, and the court is not free. The reality is that we must live either in a free or not free country. A free country is the main motivation of everything I do.