Tag Archives: Georgia

Georgian journalists facing physical threats

The Georgian Charter of Journalism Ethics called on the government to investigate physical attacks on journalists by government employees.

But it didn’t help.

Right after the call was made to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, another attack occurred.

Cameramen Otar Dalakishvili and Tamar Zartania had their video cameras seized at the prosecutor’s office when they went in to report a bomb threat against them. Only after the footage of them entering the office was deleted were the journalists allowed to have their cameras back.

Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics Responds to Restriction of Journalists’ Professional Activities

BTW, Georgia was listed as PARTLY FREE in the latest Freedom House Press Freedom report. It is tied with Bangladesh and Kenya.

Leave a comment

Filed under Harassment

FOI training in Georgia — With help from the US

Exciting news out of Georgia. (The country, not the U.S. state.)

The National Security Archives, an independent non-governmental research institute based at George Washington University, is running a course on how to use the Freedom of Information Act.  The event is being sponsored by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information in Georgia.

Okay, this is all about how Georgians can use the American Freedom of Information Act to get U.S. government documents. But this is an important step in helping train citizens how to access government documents.

The Georgian constitution guarantees citizens the right to access government documents. Subsequent laws define the process to access those laws. Now it is just a matter of training people on how to use those laws.

And as in any new process there are issues:

However there are still problems with implementation including a lack of promotion by officials, demands for reasons for requests (declining but still common), failure of some bodies to create registries, failure of administrative appeals and sanctions, and slowness by courts. — Freedominfo.org report on Georgia

Now, why is this important?

There is clearly a move within Georgia to get experts to help train Georgian citizens how to exercise their right to access to government documents. And this seminar — not the first of its kind in Georgia, by the way — is an important part of the process of moving from dictatorship under Communist rule to democracy.

And it is not always an easy process. But it is something that can be helped along by the U.S. government and by private American groups with expertise in this area.

FYI, the announcement of the event was posted at Media.ge, a website that gets support from the Open Society of Georgia and the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy. (Yep, U.S. taxpayers are helping fund efforts to build and strengthen democracy in Georgia. How radical!)

Those of us who subscribe to Media.ge were made aware earlier than others of the cyber attacks on Georgia during its brief war with Russia in 2008. It took a few more days for the Western media to start reporting on the new warfare.

And now, one of the biggest topics of discussion about future warfare is vulnerabilities to cyber attacks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Europe, Freedom of access, Freedom of Information, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

Georgian editor beaten, MPs implicated

Temur Tskhovrebov, editor of 21st Century in Tskhinvali, Georgia was attacked and severely beaten July 24. His friend Tskhinvali-based human rights defender Besarion Aseev said Tskhovrebov was beaten by around ten people leveling threats against him with guns.

According to Besarion Aseev the attackers included legislators from the local People’s Party and the Communist Party.

Besarion Aseev said Tskhovrebov’s beating is related to his civil activities.

On July 16 he took part in the Georgian-Ossetian civil forum that sent an appeal to the Geneva talks’ seeking a peaceful end to the fighting taking place in Georgia. The appeal was seen as an act of  treason against the separatist Ossetian state interests.

“Around ten people including three incumbent MPs Kazimir Pliev, Dmitri Vaneev and Alan Khasiev launched an attack against Tskhovrebov in Isaak Kharebov Street. Temur has his finger broken on one hand, and the throat slashed. His head and lip have been stitched. Ahead of the incident Osinform and TV aired Boris Chochiev’s speech. He declared the people having taken part in the Georgian-Ossetian forum as traitors. Tskhovrebov’s beating is the consequence of Chochiev’s statement. The latter accused the newspaper editor of betraying the interest of Ossetia.”

Full report: Tskhinvali-based Newspaper Editor Severely Beaten

1 Comment

Filed under Europe, Press Freedom

Media.ge interesting portal to Georgia

For some time now I have subscribed to Media.ge out of Georgia — the country, not the U.S. state.

The site provides an interesting look at the growth of free media in a country that was once part of the Soviet Union.

Now Media.ge is beginning to get some extra publicity: Media.ge – Unique Web Site about Georgian Media

Georgia has clearly done much better than many of the other former Soviet states. One can hardly say Uzbekistan has free media.

According to Freedom House, Georgia is ranked as “Partly Free.”

The constitution and the Law on Freedom of Speech and Expression guarantee press freedom, but these rights are often restricted. In 2008, the government increased its control over the media and showed a reduced willingness to adhere to the progressive legislation it had adopted in recent years. Despite a rule that allowed the parliamentary opposition to nominate a member to the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC), the panel remained subject to government influence.

The Media.ge web site is a good way for an outsider to have a peek at the struggling media situation in that country. Funding comes from a variety of sources, for Americans, we can be proud that some of our tax dollars go to support this operation. Some money comes straight form the U.S. embassy in Georgia and other funds come from the National Endowment for Democracy.

(For me, the NED is a spectacular and underrated government operation. Love or hate Ronald Reagan, he created the NED and gave it the support necessary to survive. Even put a former social democrat in charge.)

Back to Media.ge.

It was through a report on Media.ge that many in the non-intelligence community first got reports of how the Russians used a form of cyber-warfare against Georgia back in 2008. (And that is why so many of us were not surprised when cyber-warfare became a topic of discussion after the China-Google dust up. We were just wondering what took the rest of the world so long to recognize the situation.)

Sometimes the topics covered in Media.ge are ultra-parochial and difficult for the non-Georgian experts to follow. But most of the time the issues are the same we all face. It is well worth a visit.

The constitution and the Law on Freedom of Speech and Expression guarantee press freedom, but these rights are often restricted. In 2008, the government increased its control over the media and showed a reduced willingness to adhere to the progressive legislation it had adopted in recent years. Despite a rule that allowed the parliamentary opposition to nominate a member to the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC), the panel remained subject to government influence.

1 Comment

Filed under International News Coverage, Press Freedom

Russian-language station in Georgia suspended

We all know there is no love lost between Georgia and Russia.

Remember that little war in 2008?

Oh, and remember that this same war was seen as the first cyber-war?

Now, we have accusations of Russian pressure to censor news from Georgia. (See below for a list of related articles.)

Georgian Public Broadcast had its new Russian-language channel, First Caucasian, carried on Eutelsat for the last half of January.

And here is where it gets interesting. The Georgians say the channel was dropped because of pressure from Moscow. The satellite company says the two-week run was just a trial.

The French newspaper Le Figaro, cited an unnamed French diplomat in Tbilisi who said the “Kremlin is putting strong pressure on the Eutelsat to compel it to annul the contract with Georgia”.

Representatives of Eutelsat told the newspaper the transmission was terminated due to the expiration of the trial period.

The line the Georgians are taking is that Russia wants to make sure that it controls the Russian-language news.

According to the Georgians, Eutelsat, stopped transmitting the channel only after it signed a “lucrative contract” with the Russian satellite company Intersputnik.

Then, say the Georgians, the Gazprom Media Group, a subsidiary of Russia’s state-run natural gas monopoly, bought most of space on the Intersputnik satellite. They say the remaining space on the Intersputnik satellite that Eutelsat is offering First Caucasian is not enough to provide reliable coverage for the region.

First Caucasian told the AFP that Eutelsat’s move “leaves Intersputnik and Gazprom Media Group — both of which adhere to the Kremlin’s editorial line — with a de facto satellite transmission monopoly over Russian-language audience.”

This is not the first time the Paris-based Eutelsat was accused of caving in to pressure. In 2008 Chinese authorities asked it to suspend the use of one of its satellites for an independent Chinese-language broadcaster.

The founders of First Caucasian Channel said their main goal was “to bring truth to peoples in North Caucasus – to Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan as well as to Russian republics in the Caucasus that fight against the Kremlin’s armed forces “.

The only other Russian language broadcasts in the area are from the Russian government and, say the Georgians, biased toward Moscow.

The issue escalated from a business dispute to a major war of words this week when the Georgian president. Mikheil Saakashvili, in a written statement, said:

“At first free speech was blocked in Russia, then Gazprom managed to take control of various western media sources. Now Russia tries to block free speech outside Russia.”

The president expressed his support of the journalists at the channel. He assured them that they will continue to have  editorial independence as they operate.

Media reports have the GPB leadership in Europe talking to Eutelsat and possibly other providers to get First Caucasian Channel back on the air.

Reports on the situation:

Some Russia-Georgia Background:

Leave a comment

Filed under Censorship, Europe, Press Freedom