Hate Speech, 2016 report
In partnership with the United Nations Association of Georgia (UNAG) and with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Media Development Foundation (MDF) participates in implementing the Promoting Integration, Tolerance and Awareness (PITA) Program. Within the framework of the program, Media Development Foundation (MDF) implements a media component, which involves monitoring of hate speech in media and public space and reacting on possible violations, as well as analyzing how media outlets observe professional standards in covering the above mentioned issues.
The present report covers the period from January 1, 2016 to October 15, 2016. Its introductory part involves key findings, methodology, review of hate speech regulations and aggregate quantitative data by types of hate speech. Part I covers homophobic expressions by types and sources; Part II unites xenophobic expressions, which in turn involves 2.1. Turkophobia; 2.2. Discrimination on grounds of religion; 2.3. Xenophobia against various ethnicities or nations; 2.4 Armenophobia and 2.5 Racism; Part III unites the cases of intolerance on political and other grounds and calls for violence and IV part presents information on those channels and subjects who most frequently appeared as a source of hate speech.
Monitoring Editorial Policy of TV Primetime News Programs
June 1-30, 201
The subjects of monitoring: Rustavi 2, Imedi, Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), Maestro, Tabula, GDS, Kavkasia and Obiektivi (main news programs).
Monitoring methodology: see http://mdfgeorgia.ge/eng/view_news/415/
Monitoring of the main news programs for June 1-30 has revealed the following tendencies:
Rustavi 2 TV ownership dispute, Georgia’s EU visa liberalisation, ECHR’ s ruling into Merabishvili’s pretrial detention case and the Defense Minister’s decision to scrap conscription for MoD were among the priority topics covered by the televisions subject to monitoring in June. In addition, primetime news programs also dedicated their airtime to the issues of investigation into the Kortskheli incident, allocation of free airtime for political ads, the bill on police patrolling outside polling stations, political parties’ pre-election activities, official visits paid by the President and the Prime Minister. It should be noted that in June GDS and GPB aired special editions of their news programs. On June 2, GDS aired the main news program to honor its deceased journalist and on June 13 Georgian Public Broadcaster dedicated Moambe news program to the June 13 deadly flood and its consequences.
It should also be noted that broadcast of UEFA Euro 2016 matches from mid-June had a certain influence on the time and length of GPB’s news programs.
Infographics No 1
See infographics at the following link:http://bit.ly/2aBX37i
Important Topics of Public Interest Omitted by Televisions’ Primetime News Programs
Judge presiding over Rustavi 2 TV case accused of swindling
Obiektivi TV did not cover in its primetime news program the allegations made by Rustavi 2 TV director Nika Gvaramia, who accused Natia Gujabidze, one of the three judges presiding over the Rustavi 2 TV case, of swindling. Gvaramia said that Natia Gujabidze was actually living in the flat of her mother and paying the rent for this flat from the state budget.
OSCE report on pre-election environment
Maestro, GDS, Kavkasia and Obiektivi did not cover the report released by OSCE’s Needs Assessment Mission ahead of the October 8 parliamentary elections in Georgia. The report focused on a number of issues, which may have negative impacts on election environment, among them recent developments in media, amendments to election laws and release of surveillance videos of high-profile individuals.
President’s remarks about Kortskheli incident
Only GDS did not air the remarks made by President Giorgi Margvelashvili about the Kortskheli incident on June 2. Speaking about the incident outside a polling station in the Zugdidi municipality, where some leaders and activists of the opposition United National Movement party were beaten by GDDG supporters, Margvelashvili slammed law enforcement agencies for ineffective response to the incident and spoke about possible presence of “belligerent guys” in the ruling coalition.
Audit report on salary supplements of public servants
On June 6, GDS did not cover the report released by the State Audit Office, according to which the use of salary supplements saw a significant increase in 2014-2015. The report reads that the total amount of salary supplements paid by the ministries in 2015 increased by GEL 48 million compared to 2014. The ministries of corrections and justice were leading in 2014-2015 by the amount of paid salary supplements.
Issue of qualification of the judge presiding over Rustavi 2 TV case
All televisions subject to monitoring except GDS and Obiektivi dedicated their airtime to the motion filed by Rustavi 2 TV director Nika Gvaramia, who requested Judge Shorena Kavelashvili’s recusal citing her specialization in criminal law. Gvaramia said that before the Rustavi 2 TV case, Shorena Kavelashvili was involved in adjudication of criminal cases.
Rustavi public school pupils attend a screening of video showing violence
On June 9-10, only Rustavi 2, GPB, Maestro and Tabula dedicated their airtime to the story according to which pupils from Rustavi public school No 2 attended a screening of video showing violence. The head of the UNM party’s Rustavi office accused the principal of public school No 2 of exerting pressure on his child, as well as the history teacher from the same school of organizing a screening of video for the 7th, 8th and 9th graders showing inhuman treatment of inmates. The school staff denied allegations claiming that the film featured the speech made by Levan Vasadze at the Family Congress. According to the story, the fact of showing inhuman treatment of inmates was not confirmed; instead, school pupils were shown Levan Vasadze’s speech as well as dispersal of the November 7 and May 26 protest rallies.
Member of Sakrebulo, Tedo Kobakhidze accused of extortion
Georgian Public Broadcaster, Maestro, GDS and Obiektivi did not cover in their primetime news programs the story, according to which member of Tbilisi Sakrebulo, Tedo Kobakhidze was accused by a former employee of extortion. The latter claimed that Kobakhidze demanded money from him in exchange for offering a job. He also said that he had to transfer certain amount of money to Kobakhidze’s account monthly, adding that the total sum amounted to GEL 4 000. Tedo Kobakhidze’s sister, Parliament’s Vice Speaker Manana Kobakhidze was also notified of the fact of extortion. Tedo Kobakhidze denied extortion allegations and requested the prosecutor’s office to investigate the case.
Irakli Okruashvili gives testimony against Saakashvili and Merabishvili
On June 15, only Rustavi 2 and Tabula did not cover the story according to which ex-Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili gave a testimony on the case involving attack on former opposition lawmaker Valeri Gelashvili. Okruashvili hinted at possible links of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili and former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili with the attack. Okruashvili said that the attack on Gelashvili was retaliation for the latter’s statements about Saakashvili’s family.
TI findings: increased budget expenses
All televisions subject to monitoring except Imedi, Maestro and GDS dedicated their airtime to the findings released by Transparency International Georgia about increased budget expenses in municipalities. After monitoring the processes in 27 municipalities, Transparency International Georgia released a report, according to which the amount of salaries granted to the employees of local executive bodies, mayor’s offices and Sakrebulos significantly exceeded the established norm.
Sulkhan Molashvili’s death
On June 29, Tabula and Rustavi 2 did not cover the story about the death of Sulkhan Molashvili, ex-chairman of the Chamber of Control. Molashvili, who was charged with misappropriation of state funds, accused previous authorities of torture and inhuman treatment.
Ombudsman’s conclusion on dismissal of the chairman of Tbilisi City Court
In June, only Rustavi 2, Tabula and Kavkasia covered in their news programs the conclusion released by the Georgian Public Defender on dismissal of Mamuka Akhvlediani, chairman of the Tbilisi City Court. According to this conclusion, Akhvlediani’s dismissal was illegal and the High Council of Justice failed to provide any document proving that Akhvlediani had committed any wrongdoing.
Misspending of Funds at Transport Service
Only Obiektivi and GDS did not cover the story about misspending of funds at the Transport Service of Tbilisi Mayor’s Office. According to audit reports, large amount of public funds were misspent at the Tbilisi Transport Service.
Monitoring Editorial Policy of TV Primetime News Programs
May 1-31, 2016
The subjects of monitoring: Rustavi 2, Imedi, Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), Maestro, Tabula, GDS and Kavkasia (main news programs).
Monitoring methodology: see http://mdfgeorgia.ge/eng/view_news/415/
Monitoring of the main news programs for May 1-31 has revealed the following tendencies:
Sale of a portion of the National Botanical Garden and protest rallies related to it, ongoing changes in political parties and establishment of new political groups, initiative to introduce a German model in the election system, court hearing on Rustavi 2 TV ownership dispute and former MoD and general staff officials guilty verdict in so called “cable case” were among the priority topics covered by the televisions subject to monitoring in May. These topics were covered by all primetime news programs; however, there were some omitted topics as well.
Corruption at the Ministry of Culture
The topics omitted in May involved the research published by Transparency International Georgia on Risks of Conflict of Interests and Corruption at the Ministry of Culture. According to the research, companies associated with senior officials from the Ministry of Culture have received a total of GEL 2,421,743 from various public agencies through simplified public procurement contracts or direct funding. According to the document, the Ministry spends a considerable amount on Jazz Festivals. In May only GDS did not cover this topic in its primetime news programs.
Bonuses and salary supplements for CEC employees
In May, Imedi and Tabula did not cover in their primetime news programs the report released by ISFED, which focused on high salaries, bonuses and salary supplements of the employees of the Central Election Commission (CEC). The report covered the period 2011-2015 and it mostly highlighted the tendency of wage increase for CEC employees during the pre-election period as well as their inadequately high remuneration.
Survey on elite corruption
In May, only Rustavi 2, Georgian Public Broadcaster and Kavkasia dedicated their airtime to the survey on elite corruption conducted by Transparency International Georgia. According to the survey, number of those citizens, who believe that officials abuse their powers for private interests, has increased. Compared to 2015, such public attitude has increased by 15%. The survey also involved lower echelons of public agencies, where no such tendency was revealed. 99% of respondents noted that nobody asked them to pay a bribe in exchange for receiving any public service. This topic was neglected by Imedi, Maestro, GDS and Tabula.
Republicans’ Legislative Initiative on Femicide
Rustavi 2, Imedi, Tabula and Kavkasia news programs did not cover the initiative of the Republican Party to toughen punishment for gender-based crimes. The legislative initiative related to gender-based crimes envisaged a separate article in the criminal code. The proposed amendment defined femicide as a violence against a woman by a spouse, former spouse, partner, former partner or other member of a family.
Dismissal of kindergarten directors
Imedi, Maestro and GDS did not cover the issue of dismissal of four directors of kindergartens by the Kindergarten Management Agency. A part of parents and teachers cite political motives behind the decision to dismiss directors of kindergartens No 36, 144, 213 and 3. The Kindergarten Management Agency, however, claims that the directors were dismissed after allegedly misspending public funds.
Arrest of senior official from Gldani Gamgeoba
All televisions subject to monitoring except Maestro and GDS covered the arrest of a senior official from Gldani-Nadzaladevi local executive body (Gamgeoba). Vasil Bekauri was arrested by security officers for taking a bribe. He took GEL 1800 from the owner of the private company in exchange for implementation of house rehabilitation project; later, he demanded additional GEL 2000 from the same person.
Struggle against Russian propaganda
Only Tabula, Kavkasia and Rustavi 2 covered the forum held in Tbilisi to counter Russian propaganda. The key goal of the forum, which was held with the participation of local and international non-governmental organizations, was to develop methods to counter Russian propaganda.
Financial Supervisory Agency returns to the National Bank
Imedi and GDS did not cover the Economy Minister’s decision to return the Financial Supervisory Agency to the National Bank’s subordination. The bill envisaging removal of banking supervisory functions from the Georgian National Bank was enforced several months ago despite criticism and protests of the President, opposition and experts.
Infographics 1See infographics at the following link: http://bit.ly/29ks8Ya
Monitoring Editorial Policy of TV News Programs
April 1-30, 2016
The subjects of monitoring: Rustavi 2, Imedi, Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), Maestro, Tabula, Kavkasia and GDS (main news programs).
Monitoring methodology: see http://mdfgeorgia.ge/eng/view_news/415/
Monitoring of the main news programs for April 1-30 has revealed the following tendencies:
Tendency of reporting on priority topics
The activities of Georgian Dream ruling coalition member parties, the intention of Republican Party and National Forum to run separately in the upcoming elections, consultations on the date of the 2016 parliamentary elections, student protests at Tbilisi State University and Georgian Technical University, EU visa liberalisation process, as well as NDI and IRI-commissioned pre-election polls were among the priority topics covered by the televisions subject to monitoring in April. These topics were covered by all televisions subject to monitoring. Moreover, official visits paid by the Georgian President, the Prime Minister and other officials to various foreign countries in April were also covered comprehensively.
Infographics No 1
Available at http://bit.ly/1WGlr8I
Referendum question on definition of the concept of family
All TV channels but GDS covered the story about the constitutional amendment initiated by the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority group to define marriage as union of a man and a woman. Sponsors of the initiative demand holding of a referendum on the proposed initiative simultaneously with the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Vazha Leluashvili’s possible links with Georgian Dream
Only GDS news program did not cover the story about possible links of Vazha Leluashvili, who was arrested on charges related to secretly recorded sex videos, with Georgian Dream.
Other televisions reported on Vazha Leluashvili’s arrest in their stories aired on April 8, involving his participation in Georgian Dream’s election campaign and various forms of cooperation with this party.
Abolition of utility vouchers
On April 18-22, Imedi and Maestro primetime news programs did not cover the story, where the opposition accused the Tbilisi City Hall of possible abolition of social utility vouchers. The story involved the allegations made by the opposition United National Movement party, according to which the Tbilisi City Hall was going to abolish utility vouchers following the October parliamentary elections.
Agreement with Gazprom
On April 7, all televisions except Maestro covered the story related to signing an agreement with Russian energy giant Gazprom following several months of negotiations. According to the agreement, Georgia will still receive Russian gas under the long-standing terms involving paying Tbilisi 10% of Russian gas transported to Armenia via Georgia.
Bitcoin mining company
On April 6-12, only Rustavi 2, Georgian Public Broadcaster and Tabula dedicated their airtime to the story about bitcoin mining company. The story was about the company located in Gldani district of Tbilisi, which is producing virtual currency. The area occupied by the company is known as Free Industrial Zone that provides preferential tax treatment to the company. The United National Movement held a briefing to raise the issue of possible links between the company BitFury and Bidzina Ivanishvili. Later the industrial zone operator denied any links with ex-Prime Minister Ivanishvili.
Justice Minister’s meeting with inter-party group
On April 19, all televisions except Rustavi 2 covered in their primetime news programs the meeting between Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani and the inter-party group of non-parliamentary opposition. The inter-party group met with Tsulukiani to discuss the issue of electoral reform, which, along with other changes, envisages replacing majoritarian component with regional-proportional system.
GHN Releases Georgian Dream’s Internal Public Opinion Survey
Imedi and GDS news programs did not air the story about Georgian Dream’s internal public opinion survey released by GHN news agency. GHN said that the survey was an inner-party document; however, Georgian Dream coalition members denied any links with the survey. It should be noted that the authenticity as well as the source of the released survey has not been specified. Therefore, neglecting this version of the public opinion survey by televisions is justified in terms of professional standards.
Arrest of Bagdati Gamgebeli
On April 25, only GDS news program did not cover the story about the arrest of Irakli Gegeshidze, head of Bagdati municipality (Gamgebeli) by the Anti-Corruption Agency of the State Security Service. Gegeshidze was charged with abuse of power and misappropriation of a large amount of state funds.
According to the investigation, Gegeshidze violated the terms of the agreement on rehabilitation of a part of the Bagdati-Zegani-Sakraula road.
Bidzina Ivanishvili and Davit Kezerashvili in Panama Papers
In April, all news programs aired the story about the list of people named in the Panama Papers as shareholders, directors and beneficiaries of offshore companies. However, GDS news program neglected the fact that the list also contained the name of Bidzina Ivanishvili. It should be noted that on April 12 the same TV channel dedicated its airtime to the story about finding the name of ex-Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili in the Panama Papers and filing a lawsuit by Kezerashvili’s defense lawyer in connection with incorrect translation of the Panama Documents.
On April 9, GPB and Maestro news programs reported on Davit Kezerashvili’s links with Panama Papers. Rustavi 2 TV dedicated its airtime to the story on the next day, April 10 and Imedi and Tabula covered the story on April 11. Only Kavkasia TV did not cover the story related to Davit Kezerashvili in April.
Court in London rejects Kezerashvili’s extradition
On April 6, only GDS news program did not report on the ruling of London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court against extradition of Georgia’s ex-Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili.
Monitoring Editorial Policy of TV News Programs
March 1-31, 2016
The subjects of monitoring: Rustavi 2, Imedi, Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), Maestro, Tabula and GDS (main news programs).
Monitoring methodology: see http://mdfgeorgia.ge/eng/view_news/415/
Monitoring of the main news programs for March 1-31 has revealed the following tendencies:
Tendency of reporting on priority topics
Secret recordings of private life posted by one of the anonymous sources on the Internet were one of the priority topics in March. This topic, due to its content, was covered by all subjects of monitoring without violation of ethical norms. The issue remained topical throughout the month. Still, the TV channels subject to monitoring did not identify the person featured in the video recordings; neither did the TV channels air secret recordings of private lives. When reporting on the issue on March 11, Rustavi 2, Tabula and Maestro news programs noted without identifying the person featured in the video recording that the video showed a private life of one of the politicians.
Besides secret recordings of private life, the priority topics of the monitored TV channels involved recent developments in the Georgian Dream coalition, particularly the confrontation between Republicans and Industrialists, as well as student protests at Tbilisi State University. These issues were covered with the above mentioned prioritization; however, there were some omitted topics too.
Infographics No 1
Available at http://bit.ly/1TdNbKO
Confrontation between Republicans and Industrialists
All news programs covered the Georgian Dream infighting between Republicans and Industrialists. However, only Rustavi 2, Maestro, GPB and Tabula dedicated their airtime to apparent reasons of this confrontation. Along with the GD infighting, these TV channels also covered the issue of losing the Defense Ministry’s tender by the company Kazbegi. For the first time in three years, the company owned by MP Gogi Topadze from Industrialists party failed to win the Defense Ministry’s tender. GDS mentioned the fact during a studio interview. When asked by a journalist whether the lost tender became the reason of confrontation, Parliament’s Vice Speaker, Manana Kobakhidze responded that describing this fact as the reason of confrontation between Republicans and Industrialists would be equal to insulting Gogi Topadze.
Undeclared property of mayors
On March 2, only Rustavi 2 and Georgian Public Broadcaster dedicated their airtime to the documents released by the Kakheti Information Center. The documents revealed that mayors of Gori, Akhaltsikhe, Zugdidi, Poti and Ozurgeti owned undeclared properties and shares in various companies.
Eka Mishveladze’s lawsuit
Only Tabula and Rustavi 2 reported on March 7 on the lawsuit filed by journalist Eka Mishveladze against the Georgian Public Broadcaster for firing her in February.
Venice Commission’s report
Along with other countries, Georgia also appeared in the report on interference in the Constitutional Court’s activity released by the Venice Commission. The issue was not covered by Maestro TV’s news program on March 17. The Venice Commission’s criticism was triggered by the remarks made by Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani about the Chairman of the Constitutional Court. The Venice Commission said in its conclusion that the minister’s calls contained a threat of weakening the judiciary.
Vagif Akperov Accuses State Security Service of Blackmail
On March 29, Imedi, Maestro and GDS news programs did not cover the story, where Vagif Akperov, former Sheikh of the Georgian Muslims’ Directorate, accuses the State Security Service of blackmail and threats. Vagif Akperov claimed that he did not quit his position of his own accord in 2013. The Muslim cleric said that he decided to quit after being threatened by security service officers.
Tree relocation from Tsikhisdziri
On March 25, Imedi and GDS news programs did not cover the story related to complicated transportation of a 100-year-old tree lifted from the Tsikhisdziri Botanical Garden to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s dendrological park.
Monitoring Editorial Policy of TV News Programs
February 1-29, 2016
The subjects of monitoring: Rustavi 2, Imedi, Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), Maestro, Tabula and GDS (main news programs).
Monitoring methodology: see http://mdfgeorgia.ge/geo/view_news/415.
Monitoring of the main news programs for February 1-29 has revealed the following tendencies:
Tendency of political news coverage
- In February, like in January, similar tendencies of political news coverage by TV channels subject to monitoring were revealed in news programs aired by Imedi TV, Georgian Public Broadcaster and GDS. The news programs aired by the mentioned televisions mostly covered the government’s activities. The stories involved the government’s new initiatives and official visits. Rustavi 2 TV and Tabula provided less intensive coverage of the government’s activities.
- Compared to other TV channels, GDS and Imedi dedicated more airtime to the stories critical of opposition. Some topics involved criticism of former government officials. Only Imedi and GDS aired the story covering the visit of a representative of the Ukrainian opposition party Ukrop. GDS dedicated its airtime to this issue on February 8. In the story, Ukrainian MP expressed desire to familiarize himself with the criminal cases against ex-President Saakashvili and other former Georgian officials now working in Ukraine and accused them of corruption. Imedi covered the topic in its news program on February 11.
- The stories covering opposition’s activities were intensively covered by Rustavi 2 and Tabula. GDS, Maestro and Georgian Public Broadcaster dedicated less airtime to similar stories in their news programs. See chart
Important topics of public interest omitted by televisions’ primetime news programs in February are provided in infographics No 1. Below is a detailed description of these topics:
Infographics No 1
Available at http://bit.ly/1RjzlW5
Bidzina Ivanishvili/Protests against tree relocation
Relocation of 100-year-old trees from the Tsikhisdziri Botanical Garden to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s dendrological park in February triggered a wave of protests from local population, environmental organizations and opposition. The facts of arresting protesters were covered by all news programs except GDS. The latter dedicated its airtime to the Tsikhisdziri issue in the February 18 news program and covered the topic in the context of the previous government’s responsibility. The story covered investigation on alienation of a disputable territory in Tsikhisdziri by Mikheil Saakashvili. Rustavi 2, Imedi and GPB integrated the issue into the stories related to protests against tree relocation. GDS covered the topic as a separate story and focused on the details of investigation, while picketing against tree relocation and the facts of arresting protesters were not covered by GDS news programs.
Nepotism in Georgian Dream/Dismissal of CEC Employees
Dismissal of employees from the Central Election Commission (CEC) and opposition’s nepotism allegations against the ruling coalition’s top officials during February 8-15 were not covered only by the main news programs of Imedi and GDS. Basing on property declarations, some representatives of the parliamentary minority group accused GD’s top officials (Kutsnashvili, Khmaladze, Kordzaia, Zhorzholiani, Mgebrishvili, Khaduri, Kumsishvili) of appointing their relatives and family members in various government agencies.
Leakage of Judge Certification Tests from High Council of Justice
On February 12, Maestro and GDS news programs did not air the story covering criticism expressed by the President and NGO sector over the process of appointment of judges in the High Council of Justice after some wrongdoings were revealed in the process of judge certification exams. Despite the civil society’s protest, on February 12 the High Council of Justice approved 22 judges; 8 seats still remain vacant.
On February 25, Rustavi 2, Maestro and Tabula aired the story about launching investigation by the prosecutor’s office on the fact of alleged rigging of exam results. This topic was not covered by Imedi TV, GPB and GDS.
Court Hearing on Lawsuit Filed by Rustavi 2 and Sakartvelo TV
Rustavi 2, Imedi and Georgian Public Broadcaster aired the story about completion of the Constitutional Court’s hearing on February 18 concerning the lawsuit filed by Rustavi 2 and Sakartvelo TV. The four-judge panel studied the constitutional nature of those provisions based on which Judge Tamaz Urtmelidze ordered to appoint temporary managers of Rustavi 2 TV.
On February 24, only Rustavi 2, Maestro and Tabula covered the story in their news programs about Rustavi 2 TV’s lawsuit filed with the Constitutional Court demanding annulment of the clause on “immoral deal.”
Eka Mishveladze’s Dismissal from Georgian Public Broadcaster
Only GPB, Maestro and GDS covered in their evening news programs the issue of dismissal of Eka Mishveladze, the author and host of talk show Pirveli Studio, from the public television. After Eka Mishveladze demanded explanations from the broadcaster’s director, she received an official letter about her dismissal from GPB.
Tightening Police Control in Regions
On February 19, Imedi, Maestro and GDS aired the story about tightening police control in the regions, where police officers started to check not only driving licenses, but also vehicles.
- In terms of reporting on priority topics, in February similar tendencies were observed in Rustavi 2 and Tabula. Imedi, GPB and Maestro prioritized different issues. It should be noted that due to the recent developments in Maestro TV, during the month the TV channel dedicated its new programs to the issue of redistribution of shares and various developments related to this topic.
- Rustavi 2 and Tabula dedicated the first and second stories in their first block to the fact of arresting the representatives of Guerilla Gardening and the National Movement during the rally against relocation of 100-year-old trees from the Tsikhisdziri Botanical Garden. Maestro covered the issue as the eighth story in the first block, GPB – as the seventh story in the second block and Imedi - as the 11th story in the second block.
- Rustavi 2 and Tabula dedicated the first and second stories of the first block, respectively, to the fact of arresting two members of the Kobuleti local council by police during the protest rally in Tsikhisdziri on February 12. Imedi and GPB covered the issue in the 12th stories of their respective second and third blocks. Among the priority topics covered by Imedi TV on February 12 were the Munich Security Conference, migrant crisis and European security. On the same day, GPB prioritized the issue of missing persons in Samegrelo, while Maestro focused on redistribution of shares in the TV channel.
- The issue of supporting Eva Gotsiridze’s candidacy for the ECHR membership by the government and expressing criticism towards the same candidate by the civil society organizations and Public Defender was covered by GPB less intensively on February 29. While Rustavi 2, Imedi, Maestro, Tabula and GDS covered the topic in the first blocks of their respective news programs, GPB covered the issue as the tenth story in its third block.
- The TV channels subject to monitoring, except Georgian Public Broadcaster, covered the issue of nominating Giorgi Mikautadze by Levan Murusidze as the chairman of the Tbilisi City Court in the first blocks of their news programs. Rustavi 2 reported on the topic in its second story, Imedi and Tabula – third story, GDS – fourth story and Maestro – seventh story. GPB covered the topic as the ninth story in the third block.
- The government-initiated project, envisaging transfer of unregistered land lots to the state ownership, was covered by Rustavi 2, GPB, Tabula and GDS news programs. Rustavi 2 and Tabula covered the issue as the fourth stories in the first block; GDS covered the issue as the sixth story in the first block and GPB – as the ninth story in the third block.
In February, TV channels reported on the following independent topics in their evening news programs:
Grave condition of fire services; faulty equipment in Kakheti
Delayed compensations for the June 13 flood victims
Married schoolchildren, early marriage in Georgia
The condition of mosques in Samtskhe-Javakheti
Lifting the status of a mountain village from the village of Zemo Skhvilisi in Akhaltsikhe
Abkhazian language lessons in Samegrelo
Problems of boundary villages
The amount of debts increases in shops
A new hospital project in Rukhi
Gasification of 60 villages in a resort area
Only a half of the public defender’s recommendations were fulfilled last year
Donation of 102 vehicles to the State Security Service
Editorial policy monitoring of the news programs on TV channels
January 1-31, 2016
Monitored channels: Rustavi 2, Imedi, Public Broadcasting (GPB), Maestro, Tabula, and GDS (main evening news programs).
For methodology of monitoring see: http://mdfgeorgia.ge/geo/view_news/415.
Following trends were identified as a result of monitoring key news programs during the period of January 1-31.
Due to difficult meteorological conditions in the country in January, heavy snowfall and difficulties caused by the emergency situation were among the common priority issues for all news programs. Besides the heavy snow, GEL exchange rate, gas deficit, negotiations between the Ministry of Energy and Russian company, Gazprom, investigation of the assassination of the Prosecutor, Vakhtang Kiria and accusations of corruption against high rank government officials by Aleksandre Elisashvili, member of the Tbilisi local municipality were also on the list of priority issues on monitored TV channels in January.
It should be noted that from January 1st to 10th, news program was not aired on GDS, which is not reflected in the assessment of priority and neglected topics of the TV channel throughout this period.
In January the similarities were identified between news programs of Rustavi 2, Imedi and Tabula in respect with placing priority issues in the information network; different trends were noticed in the schedules of the GPB and GDS channels in this respect.
On January 8th Rustavi 2, Imedi and Tabula news programs covered the fact of bringing lawsuit against the member of Tbilisi municipality Aleko Elisashvili and journalist Eliso Kiladze initiated by Eka Beselia, the chair of the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee as the second and third spots in the first block, while GPB covered it only in the second block as the sixth plot.
Different trend was revealed on January 13th in the news program on Maestro in respect with placing priority issues in the information network. On January 13th the monitored television channels gave priority to the visit of ‘Socar’ representatives to Tbilisi and to the negotiations with the Russian company ‘Gazprom’ on the purchase of additional gas supply. In the programs of Rustavi 2, GPB and Imedi the topic was covered in the first spot of the first block, while Tabula showed it after the spot on the attack against their journalists, as a second spot of the first block. On January 13th Maestro’s news program reported on Barak Obama’s farewell speech at the congress and the end of his presidency as a priority issue, while the visit of ‘Socar’ representatives and negotiations with Russian “Gazprom” were covered under the sixth spot of the first block. See table #1.
On January 8th the signing of the election code by the president and the criticism related to the election law was covered in the first spot of the first block on ‘Tabula’ and ‘Imedi’ channels, while Rustavi 2 and GPB covered this topic only in the fifth spot of the first and second blocks. Unlike other television channels, Maestro’s news program dedicated its fourteenth spot of the second block to this topic. The first spot of the program ‘Contact’, Maestro on January 8th started with the news on smuggling Van Dake’s painting.
On January 11th the priority topic of monitored new programs was the staffing the election list of the ruling political party ‘Georgian Dream’. Imedi and GPB aired this topic as the first spot of the first block and Rustavi 2 - as the fourth spot. Maestro covered this topic in the seventh spot of the first block and GDS – in the ninth spot of the second block.
On January 15th Jokia Bodokia’s statement claiming that his 11-year sentence was linked to Bidzina Ivanishvili and the project Panorama Tbilisi and that for reducing his sentence he was offered to share the responsibility with the former Vice-mayor Aleksandre Margishvili was covered by all television channels except GDS as the first spot of the news programs. GDS presented this news in the ninth spot of the second block. On January 15th the GDS first spot of the first block covered the initiative of the Ministry of Health for monitoring beauty salons, and the second spot was related to the draft law on children living and working on the streets.
Official visit of
Attack at Tabula’s journalists
Trends of covering political topics
Following trends were identified in respect of coving political topics as a result of assessing monitored TV channels: GPB, Imedi and GDS had the highest rate of spots covering government’s activities.
On January 5th only Imedi had a spot covering the Education Ministry’s initiative for the prevention of physical violence at kindergartens.
GPB covered information that government adopted one-year plan on quality control of medicines;
Only Imedi and GPB covered the visit of Georgian parliamentary delegation to Latvia;
Only GDS covered the news about the project initiated by the Ministry of Health for monitoring of beauty salons.
Mentioned channels devoted less of their broadcasting time to TV spots with the government criticism.
In the month of January, Rustavi 2 and Tabula had the highest rate of spots that were critical to the government and covered activities of the opposition. The spots that were dedicated to the actions of the opposition included initiatives of “United National Movement’, as well as activities of the ‘New Political Center’ and ‘Free Democrats’.
In the month of January GDS had the highest intensity of spots that were critical to the activities of the opposition. The covered topics also included news related to activities of the previous government and criticism of the opposition National Movement activities. On January 14th the new program at 20:30 was allocated for studio interview with Goga Khaindrava. The interview was related to the film titled “9+1”, being directed by Goga Khaindrava that provided fiction screening of widely known and unknown actions that happened during the previous government.
The Gazprom Issue. One of the priority topics of January news programs was the diversification of gas suppliers and negotiations over the purchase of gas supply from the Russian company, Gazprom. The negotiations with the Russian side were taking place along with the protests of the opposition and non-governmental sector.
On January 11th, only Rustavi 2 devoted airtime to broadcast the comments of Official Baku on the diversification processes. The Azerbaijan side expressed its dissatisfaction about the negotiations with Gazprom and noted that such development of events would have a negative impact on Tbilisi-Baku relations.
On January 14, non-governmental organizations’ protest against entering into negotiations with Gazprom and the political aspects of purchasing gas from Russia as well as the opposition’s’ demand for the visit of Minister of Energy to the parliament were broadcast by all Georgian channels but Maestro. See table #2.
No to ‘’Gazprom’’ –Non-governmental sector’s protest
On January 13, only Rustavi 2, Imedi and GPB allocated their airtime for discussing the majority’s dissatisfaction with the incompatibility between the interpretations made by the Ministry of Energy regarding the negotiations with Gazprom and the Energy Minister’s statements.
On January 15th, only Rustavi 2 and Tabula included the demands of Free Democrats and United National Movement for the documents disclosure of the negotiations with Gazprom in their news broadcasting.
On January 22, Maestro was an only channel to have neglected the unsuccessful conclusion of the negotiations initiated by the Georgian side with Gazprom in Vienna and Georgian side’s refusal on the monetization of the gas supply allotted to Armenia. See table #3.
Negotiations with Gazprom in Vienna ended unsuccessfully
The case of Pardon Commission. In December, among the number of main neglected topics was the Former Chairman of the Pardon Commission, Aleko Elisashvili’s allegations of corruption against high rank government officials. Elisashvili accused the Chairwoman of the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament, Eka Beselia and the Vice-speaker of the parliament, Manana Kobakhidze of corruption and putting him under pressure in the means of freeing the convicts of so called ‘’Cocaine Case’’.
All channels covered the above-mentioned issue. However, it must be noted that only Rustavi 2 reported on Aleko Elisashvili’s distrust expressed to the Prosecutor’s Office on January 7th.
On January 14th, Rustavi 2 and GDS were the only two channels to have reported on Aleko Elisashvili’s demand to Prosecutorial Council for suspending Eka Beselia’s authority.
On January 15th, the Editor of ‘’Kronika +’’, Eliso Kiladze’s statement about the possibility of disseminating a video footage showing personal lives of Aleko Elisashvili and Zviad Koridze was the twelfth spot in Maestro’s first block and the fifth spot in Rustavi 2’s first block. On the same day, January 15th, only Rustavi 2 broadcast the human rights advocate, Nika Memanishvili’s testimony given to the Prosecutor’s Office. In the sixth spot in Rustavi 2’s first block, Nika Memanishvili announced the Prosecutor’s office and journalists about the existence of the documents confirming the accusations against Kobakhidze and Beselia.
In January, GDS and Maestro were the two channels to have neglected most of significant topics.
The inter-party opposition group. On January 4th, all channels excluding Maestro and Tabula broadcast the interparty opposition group calls on meeting with the prime minister. Nevertheless, Tabula included this event as the fourth spot of its first block in the January 5 news. The interparty opposition group was calling on the cancellation of the majoritarian system and the holding of 2016 parliamentary elections according to the proportional system.
Due to lively public interest in the topic, Rustavi 2 and Tabula once again included the interparty opposition group’s demands in their program schedules on January 11th. It is rather noteworthy that on January 12th, Maestro and GDS allocated their program time on the topic only after the prime minister expressed his willingness to meet the representatives of the interparty opposition group and parties started preparing for the meeting.
Zviad Kvachantiradze’s case.
On January 19th, Rustavi 2 and Tabula devoted the fourth and fifth spots of their first news block to parliamentary majority Leader, Zviad Kvachantiradze, who caused the damage worth $16 000 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. The story was based on the article published in ‘’Kartuli Gazeti’’, which emphasized the absence of documents about conceding the damage caused by Zviad Kvachantiradze’s car accident. State agencies expressed reluctance to comment on this issue and other channels failed to broadcast it. See table #4
Zviad Kvachantiradze’s state liabilities
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) evaluation regarding Gigi Ugulava. Maestro did not cover the PACE newly elected President, Pedro Agramunt’s announcement. In his welcome speech, the PACE president referred to Tbilisi’s former Mayor, Gigi Ugulava as a political prisoner, which was met with sharp criticism by the Georgian government representatives. Rustavi 2, GPB and GDS reported the event on January 25th and Imedi – on January 26h. See table #5.
Report of Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. On January 13th GDS and Maestro failed to cover Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights report. The document discussed the problems of judicial system in Georgia and the current situation in the media, more specifically, the case of Rustavi 2. Council of Europe report reiterated the importance of supporting media diversity in the context of 2016 parliamentary elections.
Gardabani elections. Prior to Gardabani governor’s elections, Maestro and GDS reported about the confrontation between the opposition and the government over special polling stations on January 25th while Rustavi 2, Imedi, GPB and Tabula broadcast the event only on January 27th a day before the elections. The reason for the confrontation was the decision to hold Gardabani governor’s elections in the special polling stations. The opposition deemed such running of the elections to be a potential threat of fraud.
On January 29th, all channels except Maestro and GDS devoted their airtime to report on the flaws in Gardabani governor’s election and the vote counting procedures identified by the third sector.
Tbilisi City Hall firing TbilService Group employees. Only Rustavi 2 reported the fact of firing three TbilService Group employees from Tbilisi city Hall on January 8th. Tbilisi City Hall fired three and warned 60 TbilService Group employees 8 days after holding a protest for the request of salary increase.
In January, Rustavi 2 and Maestro were the leaders in terms of reporting on independent topics.
Rustavi 2 broadcast an independent topic such as the possible danger of leaving 55 beneficiaries without funding in the House of Social Therapy. The report noted that foreign non-governmental organizations, funders of the beneficiaries were going to cut the aid off while the state support of the house was only 11 GEL a day.
Among the broadcast independent topics, Rustavi 2 covered the issue of terminating the funding for the Veterans’ Hospital as the tenth spot in the second block on January 12th.
The independent topics covered by Maestro in January included the stories about the residents of Chokhatauri sports school, changing existing regulations in Akhalgori and NATO establishing a special division to combat Russian propaganda.
On January 11th, Maestro devoted the sixth part of its first block news to the vulnerable families living without energy and water supply in the former sports school of Chokhatauri. On January 26th, Maestro covered the story of simplifying the pass regulations in De facto South Ossetia. On January 28th, the program, ‘’Contact’’ devoted the fifth spot of its first block, with the name of ‘’NATO and USA against Russia’’, to NATO’s plan to establish a special division to prevent Russian propaganda.
On January 14th, Imedi as well reported on the issue of occupied territory from Dvani. The eighth spot of the second block was devoted to a citizen who dismantled his house because of so called borders and placed his house within the Georgian borders imposed by the occupation regime.
Monitoring of the editorial policy of TV news programs
1-31 December, 2015
Subjects of the monitoring:Rustavi 2, Imedi,Public Broadcaster, Maestro,Tabula, GDS.
The methodology of the monitoring is available at: http://mdfgeorgia.ge/eng/view_news/415/
The following tendencies have been noted as a result of the monitoring of the main news programs during the period of 1-31 December:
Similar priority issues
- Only 3% of priority issues of the news programs in December coincided with each other. In particular, the following main events of the month were reported on in the first part of the news program of all channels:special operation in Nasakirali, as a result of which individuals suspected of connection to "Islamic State” were arrested; the issue of Pardons Commission with Alexander Elisashvili [independent member of Tbilisi City Council] accusing high level officials of corruption; resignation of Prime Minister Garibashvili and changes in the government.
- The greatest similarity of priority topics was between Rustavi 2 and Imedi. Slightly less similar priority topics had Tabula, which has shorter news program compared to other TV channels, while during 25-31 December it did not air news programs at all and thus could not be part of this study.
- Public Broadcaster had somewhat different tendency regarding placement of topics in its news program.For instance, on 10 December Rustavi 2, Imedi and Maestro aired as their first story Alexander Elisashvili’s accusations against high-level officials regarding the Pardons Commission issue. EkaBeselia, Chair of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee responded to Elisashvili’s accusations regarding pressure on the Commission, saying that if these accusations were not backed by evidence, their author could have to face justice. Tabula aired the issue as its 4thstory, while GDS dedicated to it its 2nd story and an interview in the second part of the news program.Public Broadcaster, meanwhile, aired it only as 11th story in the third part of the program.
Also, on 10 December, other channels (Rustavi 2, Imedi, Maestro, GDS, Tabula) aired the story about assault on the National Movement office in Dedoplistskaro in the first parts of their news programs, while Public Broadcaster aired it as its 10th story in the second part of the program. See Table #1.
Table #1. 10 December
- Maestro also had differing priorities. Most of the news programs of 2 December (Rustavi2, Public Broadcaster, GDS, Tabula) aired as their first story Montenegro joining NATO and adoption of the communiqué about future relations with the aspirant states, including Georgia. Maestro aired this as its 8thstory and started their news program with another topic, specifically the parliamentary majority’s session, where the Georgian Dream discussed the changes to be made in the election code.The key topic for most of the 3 December news programs was the MIA project regarding the traffic norms, which envisions nine new regulations. Specifically, introduction of the points system since 2016, movements of police cars covertly without distinguishing signs, with the right to impose penalties when citizens break rules, as well as prohibition of the vehicles with wheels on their right side.Some NGOs protested the new regulations, while others believed they were in accordance with European standards. MaestroTV aired the issue as the 16thstory of the 2nd part of its news program. See Table#2
Table #2. 2-3 December.
Tendencies while covering political issues
It has been found as a result of the monitoring that TV companies dedicate most of their news programs to political issues. 4 main lines have been noted: Critique of the government, reporting on the government’s activities, critique of the opposition and reporting on the opposition’s activities. TV channels have shown different tendencies in this regard. In the Public Broadcaster news programs stories reporting the government’s activities dominated compared to the stories dedicated to its critique, while Maestro news program had more critique stories. In Rustavi2 news programs critique towards the government also dominated, while Tabula news programs contained more stories reporting government’s activities than critique stories. The monitoring found that the most unbalanced TV channel was GDS, in the news programs of which stories reporting the government’s activities had 16% lead compared to the critique stories, while stories containing critique of the opposition led in comparison to the stories reporting opposition’s activities by 5%. See Diagram #1
Critique of the government
- Most active in critical reporting about the government in December were Rustavi 2 and Maestro. For instance, 10 December news programs of both TV companies identically covered the same issue, when their journalists tried to find the trees planted within the a project of Tbilisi Town Hall.According to these TV stories, in most cases they could not find planted trees at the addressed where they were supposed to be. Imedi covered this issue in the 11thstory of the 2nd part of its news program.
- The least critical towards the government was GDS. For instance, GDS did not cover the rally where citizens were protesting the state of damaged roads in Dighomi village and demanding them to be repaired. According to the participants of the rally, they also protested against building roads to the house of the Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani only. GDS and Public Broadcaster also did not cover Council of Europe report about conditions in Georgian prisons, according to which instances of torture, inhumane treatment, so called "thieves-in-law” and other criminal leaders remained a problem. TabulaandMaestrocovered this as their 2ndstories, Rustavi 2 – 8th story, Imedi – 11th story of the 2nd part of its news program. See Table #3
Coverage of the government’s activities
GDS and Tabula led in the coverage of the government’s activities.This made most of the news programs of these TV channels, to equal extent.After them come other TV companies, in the following order: Imedi, Public Broadcaster,MaestroandRustavi2. Rustavi 2 dedicated the least portion of its news programs to the government’s activities, which does not indicate that the TVcompany is ignoring the topics. Since its news program Kurieri is relatively long, most of the issues of high public interest related to the government’s activities were covered in the main news program. Rustavi 2 did not cover however, several governmental visits, as well as the so called "Town of the Homeless” that the government had built in Lilo for the socially vulnerable people.
Critique of the opposition
- Just like in November, GDS was the leader in the critique of the opposition in December. Stories were still dedicated to the specific party – the UNM – in most cases covering events that had occurred during the UNM period in government. For instance, the 5thand 6th stories of the GDS news program of 25 November, concerning investigation of cases from the UNM period in government, are notable in this regard. The 5thstory, headlines "Saakashvili’s Court” was dedicated to the testimony of one of penitentiary officials, about the privileged conditions for the officials arrested in the Girgvliani case and frequent visits paid to them by the high-level officials, with numerous feasts being held in his own cabinet. In the end of the story it was said that former Presidet Saakashvili pardoned all four of the convicted.
The 6th story concerned launch of investigation by the Prosecutors Office on SergoTetradze case. Family of Tetradze and other persons accused of spying were demanding acquittal.
- The least critique of the opposition was in the news programs of Rustavi 2 and Tabula. In the 4 December news programs a secret audio recording spread by a Ukrainian website was covered. According to this website, the recorded conversation was between brothers Lado and GokaGabashvili [MP of opposition UNM party]. In the recording, names of the UNM members are mentioned and conflicts between them are discussed. Former leader of the UNM Mikheil Saakashvili is mentioned as "crazy for power” and alleged to be fighting against Gabashvili, Giga Bokeria and imprisoned Gigi Ugulava. Maestro, GDS and Imedi covered the recording as their 1st story, while Public Broadcaster aired it as the 7th story in the 2nd part of its news program. It needs to be noted that the headline of the GDS story – "Conflict in the National Movement”, without confirmation of the recording’s authenticity – could result in misleading the viewers. Rustavi 2 and Tabula did not cover this issue at all.See Table#4
Table #4. 4 December.
Coverage of the opposition’s activities
- The largest portion of the news programs was dedicated to the opposition’s activities by Tabula TV. Tabula mainly covered activity of the specific opposition party – the UNM, such as visits and meetings of the UNM members. For instance, on 8 December only Tabula’s news program covered the UNM visit to United States, while on 21 December only Tabula aired a story about the UNM members’ meeting with the car dealers, who protested the new regulations regarding right-sided wheel cars.
- The least coverage of the opposition’s activities was conducted by GDS TV, in the news programs of which there was 6 times more critique of the opposition than coverage of its activities.
- TV companies Maestro, Rustavi2 and GDS covered most independent issues in their news programs. Among them, independent issues covered by Rustavi 2 and Maestro mostly concerned critique of the government, while independent issues covered by GDS were connected to the critique of the former government.
- The 1st Maestro story in its 14 December news program covered everyday life and problems of the population of Pankisi gorge. In the story, headlined "Special Report from Pankisi Gorge”, the residents of Pankisi complained about neglect and ignoring of their needs by the government. The story also covered young people going to Syria. A story with similar content was aired in Maestro’s 16 December news program as well.
- In Rustavi 2 news programs of note is the 9thstory on 3 December, headlined "Food Aid”, covering 50 lari food aid package for the mountain region’s population. The story contained critique towards the government expressed by the population. Accusation against the government, categorically denied in Akhmeta Municipality, were voiced by Kakheti Information Center as well.
17 December news program of Rustavi 2 contained a story about production of Bitcoins in Georgia. According to the story, from three centers of this virtual currency existing in the world, two are in Georgia – in Gldani and Gori. At this point it is not known who are the owners of these enterprises and how many are they, but it is known that BitFury Georgia company acquired from the state 18 hectars for servers for a symbolic price – 1 lari. According to some experts, such enterprises can become centers for money laundering, since they are not subject to control by the state and the National Bank. Despite denial of association with Bidzina Ivanishvili, former Prime Minister by the company’s representative, some experts in the story point out Ivanishvili’s personal interests. To illustrate the point they bring 10-million investment into Gori center by the investment fund established by Ivanishviliand support by the state to a company, the sphere of activity of which is not regulated by any state agency. The story also used footage of Prime Minister Garibashvili’s visit to the company.
- GDS story from 22 December about so called Enver operation, which, according to the journalist, has become relevant again due to the Pardons Commission scandal, is also notable. The story highlighted the naming of two prisoners within this case as "spies” by the anchor of Rustavi 2 program Different AccentsEkaKvesitadze, while the GDS journalist said that according to defending lawyers, there are no proofs of the former prisoners’ guilt in this case. In a telephone conversation Kvesitadze said that in her program she only reported the list of former prisoners and did not specify whether they were guilty or not.
This was not the only case of GDS taking interest in Rustavi 2 related issues in December. On 3 December 20/30 aired a story headlined "Half-million Aid”, which concerned a story by Rustavi 2. Later, Rustavi 2 journalist David Kikalishvili qualified this as an "attempt to discredit” his program. The issue was related to the Vardiashvili family, affected by the 13 June flood, which according to Rustavi 2 story, did not get the compensation. According to the GDS story, prior to airing of this story by Rustavi 2, the family received more than 500 000 lari as compensation.This was the 1st story aired by GDS news program on 3 December.
- 30 December news program of GDS did not have its traditional format. The program assessed activities of the former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, while the anchor did no tend to ask critical questions, including those regarding the issue of informal governance.
The left out important issues
- The NGOs’ and opposition’s demand from 14 December to investigate the issue of Sakdrisi was not covered by TV companies Imedi, Public Broadcaster and GDS.
- Two issues directly related to Rustavi 2 are of note. Specifically, the 1st story aired by Kurieri on 9 December concerned the driver of the TV company’s financial director KakhaDamenia, who said that representatives of the State Security Service attempted his recruitment and promised money in return for information about the TV company. No TV company reported on this issue at all, except Rustavi 2 and Tabula.
Also, only Rustavi 2 covered the issue of its journalists – NatiaTrapaidze and David Kashiashvili being summoned by the prosecutors. The journalists were summoned because of their story about the "cocaine case”. Since this issue concerned the prosecutors’ interests towards journalists doing their job, due to the high public interest of this issue, failure of other TV companies to cover it must be considered as ignoring it.
- As a result of the monitoring, GDS has been found to have the highest rate of ignoring issues of high public interest in December. GDS mostly ignored the topics concerning opposition’s activities, citizens accusing the government of pressure, and events in the territories occupied by Russia. For instance, GDS did not cover the case of the former director of Botanical Park Nino Gotsadze suing Tbilisi City Hall. Nino Gotsadze accused the Mayor David Narmania and the City Hall’s officials of pressure. According to her, she was fired by the government of Tbilisi without any explanation or the necessary documents. Gotsadze believed that the reason for her being fired were the plans related to the Park’s future development, to which Gotsadze was opposed. The plans concerned unification of Botanical Park, Dendrological Park and Vere valley.According to her, the City Hall planned to develop a tourist zone there, which endangered the scientific part of the Park. For this reason Gotsadze opposed this plan. Deputy Mayor of Tbilisi denied Gotsadze’s accusations and claimed that she had been fired because of the conditions in the Park. The issue was covered by Rustavi 2 in its 3rd, by Imedi in its 6th and by Maestro in its 8th stories.
On 10 December, all TV channels except GDS covered the violation of the Georgian air space by Russian aircraft.Public Broadcaster and Tabula covered this incident in their 1st, while Rustavi 2, Imedi and Maestro – in their 7thstories.
- As to ignoring issues of high public interest, there was high rate of this in Tabula news programs as well.However, short format of Focus (Tabula’s news program) must be considered, as well as the lack of Tabula’s news programs at all during the period of 25-31 December. As a result, Tabula was not subject to this study during these days, and important issues covered during the days by other TV channels are not considered as ignored by Tabula.
- Rustavi 2 had the lowest rate of ignoring issues of high public interest compared to other TV companies.
- Public Broadcaster had the highest thematic diversity compared to other TV channels. It has been found that Moambe devotes more time to the issues concerning minorities, religion and healthcare, compared to other channels’ news programs.
- At the same time, in terms of topics covered, the main news programs of various TV channels differed and, therefore, showed different tendencies.
Monitoring Editorial Policy of TV News Programs
November 1-30, 2015
With the support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Media Development Foundation is implementing the project, which aims at strengthening editorial independence of the media and improving professional standards of journalists. Within the framework of the project, one-year monitoring of media content will be conducted to outline editorial policies of TV news programs and create a factual database necessary for further analysis.
This second report highlights the key findings of a month-long monitoring conducted from 1 to 30 November, 2015.
The subjects of monitoring: Rustavi 2, Imedi, Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), Maestro, Tabula and GDS.
The TV channels that take leading positions in the Nielsen Television Audience Measurement’s (TVMR) ratings and broadcast daily news programs were selected as the subjects of monitoring. Studies on media ownership by Transparency International Georgia concerning political and financial affiliations of TV companies have also been taken into consideration during the selection process, as they allow identification of different editorial policies. It should also be noted that the selected TV companies do not have equal broadcast coverage areas or human and financial resources that affects the diversity in programming. The goal of this study, however, is to demonstrate tendencies based on the content, rather than on quantitative data.
Study of the TV news programs’ editorial policies is conducted through daily monitoring of their prime time news programs, except weekends. These programs are: Kurieri, Rustavi 2 (9pm); Qronika, Imedi (8pm); Moambe, GPB (8pm); Kontaqti Rvaze, Maestro (8pm), Fokusi, Tabula (7pm); 20/30, GDS (8:30pm).
The study is conducted employing both quantitative and qualitative methods.
The priority topics of the main news program, which are analyzed according to selection of main topics for the first and second blocks of news programs, as well as according to the format (story, footage, placement in the program) of topics of public interest are subject to monitoring. In case of GPB, where the news program (Moambe) is not separated by commercials and commercial breaks, the separation is made based on conditional minutes (the first 15-20 minute intervals). Editorial policy is also assessed through identifying the missing topics of high public interest. Similarities and differences are identified and media outlets with identical information policies are compared during qualitative analysis.
Comparison of TV channels’ news programs is made according to thematic programming. Weather, international news (if not related to Georgia’s foreign policy or domestic affairs), culture and sport (if not related to any political or public development in the sphere of culture or sport, and if only the sport and culture issues are covered) are omitted during the analysis.
Monitoring of the main news programs for November 1-30 has revealed the following tendencies:
Similar priority topics:
- In terms of reporting on priority topics, only 7% of priority topics covered by news programs coincided with each other. In particular, the priority topics of all news programs for November included the developments around Rustavi 2 TV, as well as the wiretapped recordings of former Georgian officials leaked on the Ukrainian website.
- In terms of news programming, the greatest similarity in priority topics was revealed between Rustavi 2 TV and Tabula. These two TV channels prioritized common or similar topics. Frequently, even the sequence of topics coincided with each other. For example, on November 13, only Rustavi 2 TV and Tabula aired as the third story the resolution initiated by the opposition politicians (UNM) against remanding Rustavi 2 TV supporters in custody.
- In terms of programming, a different tendency was revealed by Qronika news program aired by Imedi TV and Kontaqti aired by Maestro TV. In addition, Maestro TV was distinguished not only by priority topics, but, in some cases, by covering a number of different issues in its news program. For example, on November 11, when Rustavi 2 TV case was the priority topic for all news programs, Maestro TV started its news program with assessments about MP by-elections held in Sagarejo on October 31. This issue was not top news and therefore other televisions did not prioritize it. Moreover, it was only Maestro TV that covered the Sagarejo by-elections on that day. In addition, most topics covered by Maestro TV on November 11 were not similar to those covered by other news programs.
Table No 1. The November 11 news programs
Tendency of political news coverage
The results of monitoring have made clear that TV channels dedicated a great part of their news programs’ schedule to political issues. Four major tendencies were revealed in common topics: 1. Coverage of news stories containing criticism towards the current authorities, involving the government’s ineffective work; negative international assessments; facts of accusing the government of pressure by some citizens or coverage of indecent acts by some officials; 2. The activities carried out by the authorities, involving coverage of the government’s work, visits, meetings, positive international assessments, studies and reports; 3. Criticizing the opposition that was mostly limited by airing the stories slamming one particular political party – the United National Movement (UNM); 4. Opposition’s activities.
Stories involving criticism of the government
- The monitoring has revealed that two TV channels – Rustavi 2 and Maestro covered more stories containing criticism of the current government. In most cases, the stories were about the government’s ineffective work and protest expressed against it. For example, on November 30, Rustavi 2 aired as its first story and Maestro TV as its third story the issue of free canteens in connection with the remarks made by Rima Beradze, member of the Tbilisi City Assembly. Journalists tried to clarify whether the food worth 1.18 Tetri allocated to socially vulnerable people meets the requirement for average daily consumption of calories per person. Despite the remarks made by some representatives of the Tbilisi City Hall, according to which the menu of free canteens was made in full compliance with the requirements, in the stories the beneficiaries complained not only about a small amount of food, but also about its quality, while experts talked about the need of its changing and increasing its amount.
- TV channels Imedi, GPB and Tabula covered the stories containing criticism of the government with almost the same intensity. As far as GDS is concerned, it covered fewer stories with criticism towards the current government than others.
Coverage of the government’s activities
- In terms of coverage of the government’s activities, GPB took a leading position and it mostly covered the stories about governmental visits, meetings and government’s effective work. For example, in its November 3 news program, GPB aired the story about complete rehabilitation of the highway damaged by the June 13 flood. Other TV channels did not cover this issue at all.
- Rustavi 2 TV came next in terms of covering the government’s activities, which, like GPB, dedicated most of its stories to coverage of foreign visits and activities of various government agencies. Maestro TV was the third, followed by Tabula, Imedi and GDS.
- It should also be noted that in the part of international assessments, one and the same topic could simultaneously become the subject of the criticism-containing, as well as the neutral coverage . For example, the November 26 news programs covered the stories about debates on the issue of Georgia in the European Parliament. GBP and Rustavi 2 covered the same topic, though from different angles, as the third story and the sixth story, respectively. In particular, according to the story aired by Rustavi 2 TV, during the session in Strasbourg, MEPs focused on selective justice, media and political pluralism in Georgia; one of the speakers tore Stalin’s photo into pieces and noted that Georgia distances itself from the Soviet past. Another speaker spoke about Bidzina Ivanishvili’s private interests. GPB covered the European Parliament’s session only partially and its story did not contain criticism expressed towards the Georgian government that, for its part, can be considered as an example of biased coverage.
Stories involving criticism towards the opposition
- GDS was leading in terms of airing the stories involving criticism towards the opposition. It should be noted that these stories were critical of one particular opposition party – the United National Movement (UNM). A share of the stories involving criticism towards the opposition aired by the TV channel’s news program in total news programming schedule was six times more than the shares of stories on the same topic aired by other TV channels, which were represented by almost the same indicators.
- In some cases, GDS covered the stories containing criticismof the previous authorities and the investigations into those high-profile cases that took place under their rule. For example, GDS’ November programming contained a number of issues, involving the facts of prison torture, where former inmates were demanding punishment of all perpetrators; the demand of Igor Giorgadze’s (former minister of security, accused in organizing terroristic act against President Shevardnadze) supporters to aggravate punishment for Akhalaia and Merabishvili (former UNM ministers), where they condemned illegal actions carried out against them in 2005-2006; demand of former prisoners charged with the attempt of coup d’etat over the operation Enveridated back to 2010, where they requested legal lifting of the status of the accusedfrom them.
As far as the opposition’s activities are concerned, Tabula covered this issue most intensively. This TV channel was distinguished by comparatively intensive coverage of UNM’s activities. For example, only Tabula aired the story on UNM’s anti-crisis plan involving abolition of profit tax. Tabula was followed by Rustavi 2, GDS, GPB and Maestro. As it appeared, Imedi TV covered the opposition’s activities with less intensity.
Different information policy
The monitoring has revealed the most visible difference in Maestro’s information policy:
- The stories covered by Maestro TV were frequently different from those covered by other TV channels both thematically and in terms of prioritization.
- The clearest difference was observed on November 10, when the first story aired by the most news programs was about the messages of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, whereas Maestro aired this issue as its tenth story. The TV channel prioritized the issue of seizing a large amount of money robbed from the cash-in-transit vehicle belonging to the Bank of Georgia.
Table No 2. The November 10 news programs
- Maestro TV’s November 26 news program dedicated its first story to the meeting between the French and Russian Presidents in Moscow. The French President’s visit was covered through a journalist’s live broadcast and the news story also contained remarks made by Russian State Duma lawmakers. It should be noted that other TV channels, except Imedi, did not cover this issue as a separate topic. Imedi TV covered the issue as its 18th story in the third block in a form of overlapping. Among the main topics of other news programs for November 26 were parliamentary hearings on confirmation of new Chief Prosecutor, Irakli Shotadze, as well as the 6th Forum of Eastern Partnership, which was covered by Maestro as its ninth story in a form of overlapping.
Table No 3. The November 26 news programs
Discussion of separate cases
- The fact of lexical manipulation was observed in the November 2 news program of GDS . In particular, a journalist gave the following assessment to the issue of wiretapped recording between ex-President Saakashvili and Nika Gvaramia, the Head of Rustavi 2 : "The Bloodshed announced by Saakashvili”, although neither the authenticity of the recording, nor the issue of its legality had been clarified. In addition, the word "announcement” did not comply in its essence with covering the issue through the observance of ethical standards.
- Moreover, it should be noted that starting an investigation into the wiretapped recordings and questioning all persons involved in them was the priority topic of the November 4 news programs. When reporting on this topic, Rustavi 2raised the issue of authenticity of recordings and legality of opening the investigation and dedicated the second story of its news program to it. Tabula TV also showed interest towards the legality of launching the investigation. GPB aired the story related to wiretapped recordings with a title "Investigation under Article 315,” the first part of which involves the accusation of "conspiracy, attempt of coup d’etat or subversion”.
- Independent topics, which mostly aimed at reporting on investigative journalism, were aired by Rustavi 2, Maestro and GDS news programs. Moreover, Rustavi 2 and Maestro mostly aired the stories critical of the current authorities and GDS aired the stories critical of the previous authorities. In addition, Rustavi 2 TV aired the stories in its news program critical of one particular person, Bidzina Ivanishvili. For example, the fifth story of Rustavi 2 TV’s November 24 news program covered the case of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s former partner, Arcadi Gaydamak. The Russian-born billionaire, who previously led the Russian bank Rossiiskii Kredit and was hiding for six years, finally surrendered himself to France authorities. He was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison by a French court for masterminding the trafficking of Soviet-made weapons to Angola during its civil war in the 1990s. In the story, the opposition spoke about Ivanishvili’s links with the Angolagate case. Other TV channels did not cover this issue even during the following days. But judging by the information about ex-PM Ivanishvili, it is of high public interest and therefore the issue can be considered a topic omitted by other TV channels rather than an independent topic.
- Maestro TV covered in its news program, in frequent cases, comprehensively investigated independent topics, which were prepared through requesting public information. Some stories were critical of the current government and reported on high salaries, bonuses, additions or non-purposeful spending by some government officials. For example, the November 20 news program aired the story titled "Highest-paid employee of the Tbilisi City Hall”, which was about a high salary of one of the employees of the Public Relations Department at the Tbilisi City Hall. The name of this employee was not identified in the story, but it was emphasized that the salary of this person even exceeded Mayor Davit Narmania’s salary.
- The stories on independent topics prepared by GDS TV were mostly critical of the previous authorities and covered the assessments made by negatively disposed respondents. On November 9 the TV channel dedicated the fourth story of its news program under the title "Profession - Raider” to the appearance of UNM supporter, Badri Basishvili at the rally in the yard of Rustavi 2 TV headquarters in Tbilisi. According to the long story, under the previous authorities, Basishvili was organizing raids and violent actions against protesters.
Important topics omitted from news programs
- GDS had the highest indicators in terms of omitting the topics of relatively high public interest that may be related to insufficient time allocated for news program; it may also be related to its editorial policy, where certain peculiarities were revealed. In particular, the topics omitted by the TV channel mostly covered the stories critical of the current government, as well as criminal incidents and issues covering conflict regions. For example, GDS did not cover the statement made by State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Paata Zakareishvili, which triggered sharp assessments from both the ruling coalition and the opposition. The society slammed the minister for his opinions voiced in the statement, according to which Abkhazia has never been a part of independent Georgia.
- Tabula TV covered official visits to a lesser extent that may be related either to the lack of necessary resources, or to the information policy. However, it should be noted that the news program dedicated the greatest part of its programming to coverage of the government’s activities.
- Maestro TV also mostly omitted the stories critical of the government; however, this fact could not serve as an indicator of information policy, since Maestro had absolutely different, in-depth stories, which somehow covered the issues critical of the government or its separate representatives.
- The important topics omitted by GPB revealed the issues both critical of the government and covering its activities.
- Like GPB, Imedi TV also omitted the issues both critical of the government and covering its activities. It demonstrated a different tendency by omitting the topics on conflict regions.
- Rustavi 2 TV omitted the topics of public interest to a lesser extent. Among the omitted topics were conflict regions, criminal cases and, almost equally, the issues critical of the government and covering its activities.
- In terms of programming, TV channels showed more or less different tendencies. Among the priority topics of Rustavi 2 TV’s November news programs were politics, media and foreign relations. It appeared that the TV channel covered social topics and conflict regions to a lesser extent.
- Politics, foreign relations and criminality were among Imedi TV’s priority topics. It was revealed that Imedi TV covered judicial and social issues to a lesser extent.
- As far as GPB is concerned, it was distinguished from other TV channels by a diversity of covered topics. However, politics was a priority topic here too, followed by foreign relations and judiciary. Media, criminality, conflict regions and social issues were covered with equal frequency. It should also be noted that GPB and Maestro covered the topic of conflict regions more extensively than other TV channels.
- Like Rustavi 2 TV, Maestro TV also covered politics, media and foreign relations as its priority topics. It aired the stories covering judiciary and social issues less extensively than other televisions.
- Politics was a priority topic for GDS accounting for 52% of all stories covered in its news programs, followed by judiciary, criminality and culture. The TV channel covered conflict regions less extensively.
- The biggest share of Tabula’s thematic programming also comes to politics. The TV channel extensively covered judiciary and foreign relations.
- Thus, the monitoring has revealed that politics is a priority topic for all TV channels. Most news programs provided extensive coverage of foreign relations, media and law, while social, business and economic issues were covered less extensively.
 "g) Public interest – the interest within society (and not a simple curiosity of individuals) to the events related to the exercise of public self-government in a democratic state; The Law of Georgia on the Freedom of Speech and Expression
Monitoring Editorial Policies of the TV news programs
Report I, 1-16 October, 2015
With the support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Media Development Foundation is implementing the project, the goal of which is to strengthen editorial independence of the media and improve professional standards of journalists. The project envisions the one-year monitoring of media content, aimed at depicting editorial policies of TV channels’ news programs and creation of the database with the factual evidence necessary for further analysis.
This pilot report presents main observations of a two-week monitoring, conducted from 1 to 16 October 2015.
Subjects of the monitoring: Rustavi 2, Imedi, Public Broadcaster, Maestro, Tabula, GDS.
As the subjects of the monitoring have been selected the TV companies with leading positions in the ratings of TV audience measuring company TVMR, and with daily news programs. Studies on media ownership by Transparency International – Georgia regarding political and financial affiliations of the TV companies have also been taken into account during selection process since findings of the studies allow to make assumptions about difference in editorial policies. It must be noted that selected companies do not have the same scale of area covered by their broadcasting, nor that of human and financial resources, which affects diversity of their programs. The goal of this study, however, is demonstrating tendencies based on the content, rather than on qualitative data.
Study of the TV channels’ news programs editorial policies is conducted through daily monitoring of their main prime time news programs, except of week-ends. These programs are: Kurieri, Rustavi 2 (21:00); Chronika, Imedi (20:00); Moambe, Public Broadcaster (20:00); Kontakti Rvaze, Maestro (20:00), Fokusi, Tabula (19:00); 20/30, GDS (20:30).
The study is conducted employing both quantitative and qualitative methods. The object of the monitoring are priority topics of the main news program, which are analyzed according to the choice of main issues for the first and second parts of the news programs, and the format (story, footage, placement in the program) of the topics of the public interests. In the case of the Public Broadcaster, where the news program (Moambe) is not divided into parts by commercials or otherwise, the division for the purposes of this study is made by timing (first 15-20 minutes). Assessment of editorial policy is also made by identifying the missing topics which are of high interest to the public1. Through analysis, similarities and differences are identified, and media outlets with identical information policy are compared.
Comparison of the TV channels’ news programs is conducted through their topic nets. Weather, international news (if not related to Georgia’s foreign policy or Georgian issues), culture and sport (if not related to any political event in culture and sport, and if only the sport and culture issues are reported) are left out during the analysis.
Main observations of the monitoring
Monitoring of evening news programs for 1-16 October revealed the following tendencies:
- In terms of reporting on priority topics, news programs of Rustavi 2 and Tabula were quite similar.
- Public Broadcaster, Maestro and GDS, as well as, partly, Imedi, left out similar topics from their news programs (see Table 2). For instance, investigation against the mother of the judge who presided over the Rustavi 2 case, launched two years after her alleged crime, which caused conflict of interest, was not reported by any TV channel except Rustavi 2 and Tabula. Conflict of interest in the case of the judge in 7 November case, which had caused controversy within the Judges Panel itself, was reported only by Imedi, Rustavi 2 and Tabula. Comments made by the President of Georgia about Rustavi 2 and media environment during his visit to U.S. were not reported by Public Broadcaster, Maestro, Tabula and GDS.
- On the day of arrest of Tabula editor-in-chief because of her pasting posters against Gazrpom, Maestro prioritized such issues as political plans of Paata Burchuladze and Levan Vasadze’s support for MP Soso Jachvliani against the anti-discrimination law.
- It has been found during the monitoring GDS 20/30 news program left out the issues representing high interest to the public, which on one hand could be related to the limited time allocated for the news format, but on the other hand expresses editorial policy. The least number of issues were left out in Rustavi 2 news programs. Issues left out by Tabula included some activities of the government.
- GDS stories are focused more on investigations of the cases from the National Movement’s period in government, than on the current events and daily news. 20/30 often airs such issues as a first top stories, at the expense of leaving out the current affairs representing public interest. For instance, on the day when Rustavi 2, Imedi and Tabula reported on the conflict of interest in the case of one of the judges on 7 November case, 20/30 aired investigation of the Magnat case as its first story. On 5 October, when there was a protest rally in front of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s house, they aired investigation of the so called "Kortebi" case and questioning of Irakli Pirtskhalava as their first story, while the protest rally did not get into 20/30 at all. On 8 October, unlike other channels, 20/30 did not air shooting in the center of Tbilisi and chose investigation of Imedi L company ownership issue as its first story.
- Similiarly to GDS, there was also instances when Public Broadcaster aired as its first story not current news, but older issues. For example, on 5 October, when there was a rally in front of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s house, Moambe started its evening news with two stories about father of Mariam Makhniashvili (who disappeared in Canada) returning to Georgia after having been freed from jail, and his future plans.
- While GDS editorial policy is focused on the cases connected to the previous government, Rustavi 2 and Tabula air more critical stories about the current government. Criticism of the government by the local NGOs were mainly aired in the prime time news of Rustavi 2, and, partly, Imedi. At the same time, Rustavi 2 also systematically reported various activities of the government, though prioritizing issues connected to criticism. Other channels either did not report, or lightly covered criticism by international experts and institutions regarding the domestic affairs in Georgia. Criticism by Rustavi 2 included such issues as the video depicting Bidzina Ivanishvili’s relative illegally using special permits issues by MIA; suspicious circumstances regarding investigation of the death of Rustavi 2’s former owner Erosi Kitsmarishvili; investigation against mother of judge Urtmelidze, launched two years after the alleged crime; the story about Akhmed Chataev, freed by Georgian court in 2012, being included into the U.S. terrorist list.
- Critical stories regarding specific individuals and institutions, about bonuses, corruption and property controversies were aired by Maestro and Imedi as well.
Seizure of the shares of TV Georgia, which owns 51% of Rustavi 2 and events concerning Rustavi 2 were covered by all channels in their evening news programs on 1 October, but were given different degrees of priority. Rustavi 2 itself dedicates the whole first part of its news program to this issue, while Maestro dedicates 3rd story of the first part; Tabula covered this in its 2nd story; Imedi – as 3rd, 4th, 5th stories, while Public Broadcaster dedicated its 6th and GDS – its 4th stories to this issue. Imedi’s Chronika prepared a separate story about numerous changes of ownership in Rustavi 2 in the past.
Public Broadcaster and Imedi aired address of the Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili on the UN General Assembly as their first story on 1 October. Other TV channels covered the Prime Minister’s address with the following priority: GDS – as its 2nd story, Maestro – 8th, Rustavi 2 – 2nd story of the 2nd part. This address occurred after 19:00, Tbilisi time, and thus could not get into Tabula news program for 1 October, with Tabula covering the address and assessments of it the next day, on 2 October.
Visit of the President of Georgia to the U.S. was left out of 1 October news only by GDS and Tabula.
The resolution adopted by PACE, which included criticism of the events in Georgia regarding media, was left out only by Maestro news. GDS covered PACE resolution as its 1st story.
Defend Liberty – campaign against the Russia propaganda, which is the common initiative by Tabula TV and NGOs, was covered by the evening news of Tabula and Rustavi 2 only.
The issue of the MIA permits, so called "Narushilovka" illegally used by unauthorized individuals, was a Rustavi 2 investigation, followed by reactions from various agencies. The permit issue was covered on 1 October by Imedi, Public Broadcaster and Maestro. Imedi and Public Broadcaster stories included comments by a prosecutor, who denied that permits had been used. Other TV channels’ news programs did not air these comments.
Table 1.1. Issues prioritized by 1 October news programs.
On 2 October the events surrounding Rustavi 2 (the court case, Parliament debates) were the main topic of every news program. Public Broadcaster, Imedi, Maestro and GDS highlighted the parliamentary debates on this issue, and the incident between Rustavi 2 supporters and parliamentary majority members that had occurred near the Parliament building.
Comments made by the President of Georgia regarding Rustavi 2 during his visit to the U.S. were covered on 2 October only by Rustavi 2 and Imedi, while all other channels, except Maestro, covered only the meetings that took place during the President’s visit.
20/30 program of GDS aired as its second story a separate issue regarding the tendency of decrease in the number of cases filed from Georgia to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg after the change of government in October 2012. The story was based on the respondents’ comments, instead of official statistics.
In the evening of 2 October Rustavi 2 aired the video depicting the use of MIA permits by a relative of Bidzina Ivanishvili. Kurieri also aired the story about the questions regarding investigation of the death of the former Rustavi 2 owner Erosi Kitsmarishvili.
Discussion in Gori Sakrebulo about placing Stalin monument was left out only in the Public Broadcaster and GDS evening news.
Table 1.2. Issues prioritized by 2 October news programs
A protest rally in front of the house of the former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, took place late on 5 October, which was organized by the National Movement and concerned arrest of Rustavi 2 supporters in Kutaisi. The rally started at 19:00 and was over by 21:00. Thus, it was not covered in the Tabula main news program (Focus is aired at 19:00). Other channels covered this issue with the following priority: Rustavi 2 – 1st, Imedi – 2nd, Public Broadcaster – 7th, Maestro – 10th. GDS news program 20/30 did not cover this topic at all.
That day, the main topic of the Public Broadcaster news program was not currents events, but Return to Georgia of the father of Mariam Makhniashvili, who had disappeared in Canada, his arrest in Canada and future plans. Moambe covered this topic with its 1st and 2nd stories. The protest rally near Bidzina Ivanishvili’s house was the 7th story, while the case of Rustavi 2 supporters in Kutaisi was the 6th.
GDS, which did not cover the rally near Bidzina Ivanishvili’s house at all, aired as its 1st story the court case of the suspects in the so called tennis courts case. Rustavi 2 covered this issue as its 11th story. Other channels did not cover the issue at all.
The topic prioritized that day by Kurieri, Chronika, Tabula and 20/30 was the highly publicized court in Kutaisi, where the process of Rustavi 2 supporters, who had attempted to enter the Parliament building, took place. The court put them into pre-trial detention. Rustavi 2 dedicated five stories to this issue and media environment. Imedi covered the court as its 1st story.
The soldier’s death was left out only by Imedi, GDS and Tabula evening news programs. The issue of disrupted infrastructure left out only by Public Broadcaster, Imedi and Tabula.
Table 1.3. Issues prioritized by 5 October news programs
The most important difference in the choice of prioritized issues was noted on 6 October. Comments made by the former U.S. ambassador to NATO and Director of McCain institute Kurt Walker in the Voice of America interview about Georgia’s NATO integration and internal democratic processes, including political motivations of investigation against former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, were aired only by Rustavi 2, as the 2nd story. The issue of conflict of interest in the case of one of the members of the Judges Panel presiding over the 7 November case and the conflict between the judges because of this issue, were aired by Rustavi 2 as its 1st story, Tabula – 4th, Imedi – 11th. Public Broadcaster, Maestro and GDS omitted this topic in their evening news.
Only Rustavi 2 news covered the NGOs’ critical address to the government, regarding the court decision on Rustavi 2 supporters arrested in Kutaisi to selectively use heavy punishment.
Complaints of the President of Georgia regarding the Georgian ambassador in U.S., which concerned violation of protocol (the ambassador did not meet the President during the latter’s visit to U.S.) and regarding which Giorgi Margvelashvili himself spoke in a Rustavi 2 talk show, were aired by every channel except GDS. Imedi and Public Broadcaster covered this conflict in their 1st stories.
The first story aired by GDS was investigation of taking the property from Magnat, related to assessment of legality of the national Movement government actions and announcing the launch of investigation. Only 20/30 program of GDS aired the story about legality of spending the credit taken by the previous administration of the football federation.
The increased bonuses for deputy ministers issue was aired by Maestro only, the story about increased budget for Tbilisoba 2015 - by Rustavi 2 and Maestro, corruption accusations against Deputy Minister of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees - only by Imedi, while audit report on the violations in the Ministry of Corrections – by Public Broadcaster.
Table 1.4. Issues prioritized by 6 October news programs
Comments by the U.S. State Department representative expressing concerns about pluralistic media environment on the eve of the parliamentary election, in connection with the events surrounding Rustavi 2, was the main story in Rustavi 2 and Tabula news programs. These comments were not covered by Imedi, Maestro and GDS, while Public Broadcaster aired them as its 7th story.
The MEPs’ (ALDE group) criticism of the media and pre-election environment, as well as regarding court was not covered by Public Broadcaster, Maestro and GDS.
Imedi and Public Broadcaster covered the NATO ministerial, where Georgian Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs participated, as their 1st story. This topic was aired by Rustavi as its 6th and by Maestro as its 7th story.
The main GDS topic was related to Tbilisi City Hall, specifically to personnel changes, check of the City Hall by the national audit agency, and opposition’s demand for the mayor to resign .
MIA’s response to the accusations by Givi Targamadze, according to which organized crime leaders were pressuring police in Adjara was aired by Imedi as its 14th and by Tabula as its 5th story, while the National Movement statement about the threats against former police officer Zurab Soselia was covered only by Tabula news program as its 6th topic.
Visit of the Speaker of Parliament to London was covered by Imedi only.
Table 1.5. Issues prioritized by 7 October news programs
On 8 October, due to a football match, Public Broadcaster did not air its main news program, which, therefore, did not become part of our monitoring.
Criminal incident in the center of Tbilisi, which occurred this day, when there was shooting at 13:00 near Radisson hotel, was covered by every TV channel except GDS. All channels covered natural disaster in Adjara.
Questions from EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn regarding the court were covered on 8 October by Rustavi 2 and Imedi only. Legal aspects of confiscation of Imedi L company’s property, which occurred during the National Movement’s period in government, was covered only by GDS as its 1st story. The 2nd story of 20/30 was the Hague Court prosecutor’s statement, according to which there were instances of war crimes from both sides of the war of 2008.
Only maestro covered the story about a pupil accusing a school guard of sexual violence as its 2nd story, while only Imedi covered, as its 8th story, business interests of Bidzina Ivanishvili in Abkhazia.
The statement by NGOs about election and media environment, election reform and abandonment of majoritarian electoral system was covered only by Rustavi 2, Imedi and Tabula.
Table 1.6. Issues prioritized by 8 October news programs
On 9 October the main topic of Rustavi 2, Maestro, Tabula and GDS news programs was the issue of launch of negotiations with the Russian Gazprom. Minister of Energy made a comment about future import of Russian gas. Public Broadcaster covered this issue as its 4th, Imedi – as its 5th story.
Only Rustavi 2 covered the issue of inclusion of the leader of one of the ISIS groups Akhmed Chataev into U.S. global terrorist list. Chataev was arrested in Georgia during the Lapankuri special operation and later freed by court in 2012. Rustavi 2 linked this issue to the Ombudsman Ucha Nanuashvili, since during his work in the Human Rights Center NGO, it defended Chataev’s interests and was demanding his freedom. The story included position of the NGO’s current head. Later this story was followed by the accusations by the Ombudsman against Rustavi 2, claiming that the channel spread false information, and his special statement, which was not covered by either Rustavi 2 or other channels’ evening news programs.
Statement by the head of information service of Public Broadcaster, concerning the criticism of his foreign policy views and his connection to the Gorchakov Foundation, was not covered by Imedi and GDS in their evening news.
GDS again focused in the issue of property confiscations during the National Movement period in government. On 9 October their 3rd story was devoted to investigation of land confiscation. Only 20/30 did not cover reactions by international institutions on the processes in Georgia, including those related to media environment. While covering the issue of presidential pardon 20/30 focused only on the fact that President had not freed Giorgi Gvichiani and Nika Chemia. These individuals had been prosecuted for the murder of the financial manager of AES Telasi.
Transparency International – Georgia report about abuse of pre-trial detention in the cases of former high-level officials was covered as a separate story only by Tabula, while in Imedi and Maestro evening news this report was mentioned in the story about the assessments of international institutions regarding Georgian justice.
Table 1.7. Issues prioritized by 9 October news programs
On 12 October Kurieri aired exclusive story about the judge presiding over Rustavi2 ownership case.
The story speculated about pressure on Tamaz Urtmelidze by the government, based on the investigation launched against Urtmelidze’s mother 2 years after her alleged crime. Obviously, since this information was Rustavi 2’s exclusive, it was not covered by other channels on 12 October, but the next day, on 13 October, other channels except Rustavi 2 and Tabula still did not cover it.
On 12 October the main topic of Imedi, Public Broadcaster, Maestro and GDS news was related to acceptance of the case about separation of the Supervisory Service from the National Bank by the Constitutional Court and suspension of the law.
All channels covered launch of negotiations with Gazprom and the Prime Minister’s statements. This issue was covered as its 11th story only by Maestro, while other channels aired it in the first part of their news programs.
The issue of constitutionality of Sagarejo midterm election was covered by Public Broadcaster and GDS only, while the issue of bonuses for the head of the Service Agency of the Ministry of Finance – by Maestro exclusively.
Table 1.8. Issues prioritized by 12 October news programs
As noted in 12 October monitoring, the case of judge Urtmelidze’s mother and suspicious circumstances of investigation launched 2 years after the incident was covered, besides Rustavi 2, by Tabula and was not covered by any other channel. Maestro, Imedi, Public Broadcaster and GDS evening news also did not include statement of the Prosecutor General of Georgia on this issue, which explained details of investigation against the judge’s mother and considered Rustavi 2’s story baseless.
NATO Parliamentary Assembly resolution, which calls on the Government of Georgia to fulfill its international obligations, was covered only by Rustavi 2 and Public Broadcaster, while complaints of an Iranian businessman to the government about confiscation of property was covered as an independent story by Imedi only and was aired as the 1st story. Maestro aired as its 3rd story the issue of bonuses for the head of the Service Agency of the Ministry of Finance, which it had covered the previous day. This issue of bonuses was not covered by other channels.
The issue of the beating of a child under a priest’s instructions in a religious school was covered only by Rustavi 2, Imedi and Maestro.
Tabula 1.9. Issues prioritized by 13 October news programs
On 14 October priority topic on all channels except Tabula was the issue of the 2008 war investigation by the international court. Situation in the occupied territories was covered only by Public Broadcaster and Maestro.
Rejection by the government of the President’s proposal of a meeting on the Gazprom issue did not make it only into the Public Broadcaster and GDS news programs.
Another prioritized topic of the day was the Constitutional Court case about the National Bank. Imedi was an exception and did not cover this topic. Initiative by the chairman of the parliament’s Financial and Budget Committee Tamaz Metchiauri regarding temporary investigative commission for study of the National Bank activities was covered only by Rustavi 2 and Tabula. Imedi focused on 14 October on international issues and aired investigation of the Malaysian Boeing case and the terrorist threat to Moscow as its 4th and 5th stories, while GDS covered jihadist threats to Russia as its 3rd story.
Table 1.10. Issues prioritized by 14 October news programs
On 15 October Rustavi had the court case against the TV company as its main topic which was discussed in the format of the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition parties’ meeting, and concerned opposition’s initiative regarding adoption of a special resolution on Rustavi 2 by the Parliament. This issue was covered in the evening news only by Rustavi 2 and Tabula. The Silk Road forum was the main topic on all channels, but Public Broadcaster and Imedi dedicated most time to it. International investigation of the 2008 war, was among the main topics on all channels, and Maestro aired four stories about it. GDS dedicated its 1st and 2nd stories to the issue of legality of property confiscations during the National Movement government again and this time focused on Caucasus Online and Lisi Lake property issues. The 3rd GDS story was about the property sold to Russian companies during the National Movement rule.
U.S. State Department report about freedom of religion in Georgia was covered in the evening news programs only by Imedi and Public Broadcaster.
Table 1.11. Issues prioritized by 15 October news programs
Arrest of Tabula director Tamar Chergoleishvili and other Defend Liberty activists for pasting posters against Gazprom on a fence near the Opera building was the first story of Rustavi 2 and Tabula, 5th on Imedi, 7th on Maestro and 8th on Public Broadcaster. GDS news program 20/30 did not cover this incident at all.
Maestro prioritized the following topics this day: 1) Possible political partners of Paata Burchuladze and 2) Levan Vasadze’s support of Soso Jachvliani’s initiative against the anti-discrimination law.
All channels except Maestro and Tabula covered the parliamentary debates on Rustavi 2 legal case, while Imedi aired live from Munich with Rustavi 2 ownership claimant Kibar Khalvashi.
Questioning of Lado Bedukadze in court on Sergo Tetradze case was covered only by Rustavi 2, Imedi, Public Broadcaster and GDS.
Table 1.12. Issues prioritized by 16 October news programs
Table 2. Issues Dismissed
Only the current news of high public interest are indicated in the table of dismissed issues. Independent materials are left out