Media Bias Claims in Georgia Exposed

Media portrays conflict areas as peaceful, endangering lives, people allege.

Media Bias Claims in Georgia Exposed

Media portrays conflict areas as peaceful, endangering lives, people allege.

Friday, 27 November, 2009

A report for IWPR has revealed widespread discontent among the people of the Caucasus state of Georgia about what they see as pro-government bias in the media.

The report, Georgians Accuse Media of Pro-Government Bias, by freelance journalist Natia Kuprashvili, quoted ordinary Georgians, media experts and analysts. It referred to allegations that news reports are distorted, including coverage of the recent EU report on last year’s Russia-Georgia war.

Archil Razmadze, a 33-year-old refugee, abandoned everything he owned when he fled his home near Tskhinvali last year. He blames the national media for his loss, saying their reassurances of the success of the Georgian operation against the rebel South Ossetian government left him unprepared for the disaster that swept over him.

Many refugees have the same complaints about the media, and their claims have been checked by a group of experts supported by the Open Society – Georgia fund, the IWPR report said.

The experts assessed the work of all broadcasters of the period, and concluded that reports were “one-sided, and information was often not verified”.

“The Georgian media, especially the central television stations, often transmit sensational material from the conflict zones. We investigated several facts and discovered that the information was unchecked, or distorted,” said Ucha Nanuashvili, director of the Human Rights Centre.

Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze told IWPR that the most recent example of the authorities using the media to broadcast propaganda was in their reports on the European Union investigation into the Russian-Georgian war of 2008. The report, published on September 30, concluded that Georgia’s attack on Tskhinvali was unjustifiable under international law.

International monitoring organisations agree that the Georgian media’s level of freedom has worsened. They say that, despite an adequate legal system, the Georgian media are under pressure from the government, which wants to use them for its own purposes, the IWPR report said. The government strongly denies putting any pressure on the media.

President Mikhail Saakashvili’s most recent expression of this was in a speech at the United Nations on September 25, when he cited as evidence the fact that the government had given the opposition Maestro channel permission to broadcast by satellite.

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