The flow of information within a society contributes to that society’s social integration, well-being, and democratic development. As a result of the media’s important role in society, they are expected to be neutral and independent in carrying out their responsibilities. Although the media is an excellent source of information, it can also be used to spread propaganda.
Georgia is one of the countries where political parties have fought for control of the media for a long time, but there is hope for a better future. In Georgia, the post-election media trend includes the establishment of several new independent TV stations that are not afraid to criticize the ruling party’s actions. In a country like Georgia, where democracy is fragile, the media landscape plays an important role in strengthening democracy, which is where David Kezerashvili comes in. Under his leadership, Formula TV, one of the new private TV stations established in Georgia over the last two years, has already established itself as a reliable source of unbiased journalism. When the TV station was created in 2019 the owner David Kezerashvili published a statement saying, “Formula TV is the voice of freedom and progress in our country, and we are committed to supporting the entire civil society, not a political party, group, or elite unity.”
In all countries, news reporting should be unbiased and free of political, ethnic, or religious bias. The task of sanitizing the broadcasting industry should not be taken lightly if a country is to avoid falling into totalitarian rule. It is encouraging that the post-election period in Georgia has seen an increase in the number of media owners willing to take on the role of spearheading responsible and fair reporting. New political turbulence, as seen in Georgia in the last month, will put the new TV stations’ commitment to the test.
A Sinister Strategy
The concept of media oppression is not new. It is actually a strategy that has been deployed in other climes by dictatorial and totalitarian regimes. It’s not news to anyone that governments of several countries in the world, in a bid to propagate legitimacy, may begin to crack down on media houses especially radio and television stations deploying them as a watchdog to manipulate public opinion and pollute the image of their political rivals. In most cases, the undue influence of the media serves as a precursor to the onset of a dictatorial regime.
Georgians are generally information-centric people who rely majorly on TV stations for their daily dose of information and the government is latching on this to tilt public opinion in its direction. The strategy of the Georgian regime at achieving media subjugation is not generic but rather precise as it is focused majorly on the TV stations. Georgia has positioned itself in recent times as the poster boy of the government’s subjugation and emancipation of the media. The Georgian populace values press freedom hence the government is taking a latent approach to curtailing press freedom by shutting down TV channels or influencing the change of leadership at some of the TV channels.
Challenges During Political Turbulence
The recent arrest of an opposition leader is a pointer to the fact that the reign of freedom and democracy in Georgia may be gradually winding down. Actually, some experts warn this could be the first of many arrests to come even as the media reportage of these events may be censored by the government through their cronies in the media. The resultant effect of this would be gross misinformation of the masses who unknowingly are being led towards the path of oppression. The quest for unbridled power by Georgian government officials will be harmful to every Georgian both in the short and long run. If allowed to fester, it could become a long battle into despondency for all and sundry. In a politically unstable country like Georgia, the media functions as a beacon of hope for the masses. Hence, it should not be compromised. The stronger the broadcasting stations in Georgia, the stronger the democracy of the nation would be. Democracy is the best governance structure that safeguards the freedom of the masses and all hands should be on deck to ensure Democratic rule in Georgia is not completely eroded. The slide into tyranny would be a free fall if fully set in motion, hence, it should be avoided at all costs.
The New Media Landscape
The hope for a healthy media climate in Georgia now rests on improved media legislation, increased transparency, and the ability of private TV channels to remain unbiased even during a political crisis. This is not an easy task in a country like Georgia. According to the owner of Formula TV, this will be guaranteed by the use of an international supervisory board established by his initiative to ensure the editorial independence of the channel”. The development of stronger relationships with Europe and the US will further help maintain focus even in the face of oppression and intimidation from the government as they would be backed by foreign media stations. Such a maverick move could motivate other channels to rise against intimidation and undue governmental influence and abide by the ethics of their profession.
With new broadcasters and owner diversity, there is hope that the Georgian press will be able to serve society with unbiased news, assisting the country in its transition to a strong democracy.