Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Georgia
|Publisher||Committee to Protect Journalists|
|Publication Date||February 1997|
|Cite as||Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Georgia, February 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5650223.html [accessed 16 September 2014]|
Georgia's community of independent newspaper editors, reporters, and broadcasters continue to expand their horizons, despite frequent government interference from President Eduard Shevardnadze and his political associates.
Georgian lawmakers debated changes to a controversial draft media law that would adversely affect journalists if enacted and also considered amendments to the criminal code that journalists feared would curtail their freedom. Journalists' groups lobbied vigorously against restrictive features of the proposed media law. The Free Press Association, a group made up of several of the major newspapers (Alia, Resonance, Droni, and others), issued a statement on June 20 noting that at a government meeting that day, Shevardnadze had accused the media of bias and libel and called on law-enforcement agencies to protect the government from the press. The association urged that the judicial system handle such cases under the rule of law and vowed to appeal official "insult" suits to the courts.
Journalists were also concerned about a clause in the proposed media law that would create a "National Press Council" to regulate advertising and impose journalistic ethics. At year's end, the journalists had managed to defeat a draft of the law in the national legislature that would have enabled the council's members to be selected largely by the government and the ruling party in Parliament.
In another victory for press freedom, some journalists successfully lobbied to eliminate some of the subjects that another piece of pending legislation would classify as "secret," because publication would "damage national security."
The government's arbitrary broadcast licensing procedures prevented Rustavi-2, an independent television station, from securing a permanent license, effectively forcing the station off the air. The government's stance on Rustavi-2 may stem from the independent electronic media's increasing competitive edge in a field formerly dominated by state-run channels.
The press felt the effects of the ongoing civil war in Abkhazia, a region of Georgia seeking autonomy. During an election campaign carried out amid violence in the region, the Glasnost Defense Foundation in Moscow received reports of a number of attacks on news organizations. On June 5, for example, equipment was stolen from the news agency Abkhazpress, and on Nov. 2 an explosion damaged the printing house in Gal District that typesets Abkhazia's main newspaper.