The FINANCIAL — OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir was on his two-day visit to Georgia on October 3-4 and met with Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, Deputy Parliamentary Chairperson Tamar Chugoshvili, Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili and representatives of media and civil society organizations to discuss media freedom developments in the country and the areas where his Office can assist.
According to the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir welcomed the amendments to Georgia’s Constitution, which “grant citizens the right to access and freely use the internet,” and also “enhance the right to access to information and the independence of the public service broadcaster.”
“Recognition of the growing importance of the internet and the potential of genuine public service broadcasting in the country’s fundamental law represent an important step forward for freedom of expression and media freedom in Georgia,” he said, adding that “the protection of these rights should continuously remain high on the agenda of authorities and civil society as a means of promoting diversity, access to information and quality journalism.”
The Representative also discussed the ongoing efforts to reform the Georgian Public Broadcaster, including the change of the TV programming and the process of GPB-related legislative amendments. “The reform process, affecting the important role of Georgian public service media, should be held in a transparent and inclusive manner, not to jeopardize its independence, accountability and reflection of a diversity of opinions,” he said.
Furthermore, he noted the ongoing process regarding the ownership of the private television channel Rustavi 2 in the European Court of Human Rights and reiterated the need for the channel to enjoy editorial independence, and to be able to fulfill its professional activity in the interest of the Georgian public, according to Civil.Ge.
The Representative also discussed the comments commissioned by his Office on the initiative of the Prime Minister of Georgia about establishing the Media Ombudsman’s Office. “It is essential to have wide-ranging discussions on this initiative with all stakeholders to ensure a common understanding and to look at different models and solutions,” Désir said. “My Office stands ready to continue consultations with the authorities on the issue and facilitate expert recommendations.”
In his discussions with the authorities, the Representative also emphasized the need to ensure the safety of journalists, and raised in particular the case of Afgan Mukhtarli. “His abduction is of major concern for me as Georgia has provided a safe environment for journalists. I urge the authorities to complete their investigation in a transparent manner soon,” Désir said.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in 57 OSCE participating States, provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments.