Demands censorship accusation retracted

by | Dec 14, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch – A Georgian weekly magazine wants Transparency International to retract parts of a report which criticizes it for being too cozy with the government.

TI said Tuesday that the media in Georgia are subject to indirect censorship through control over the advertisement sector. Control is exerted by a network of friends headed by the former defense minister Davit Kezerashvili, who was in charge of Georgia’s military forces during the war with Russia in 2008.

This network effectively controls most of the ads in radio, TV and print media, favoring those that are least independent.

Illustrating how he and the government extend their influence, TI pointed out that the magazine Tabula is able to sell far more advertisements than another similar magazine called Liberali, the difference being that Tabula is on friendly terms with authorities, while Liberali has a more independent editorial line.

Owner and editor in-chief of Tabula is Tamara Chergoleishvili, wife of one of president Mikheil Saakashvili’s closest allies, Giga Bokeria, who current serves as secretary of the country’s National Security Council.

Today, Tabula sent out a statement demanding that Transparency International take back the accusations. The magazine says TI’s survey is unfair and doesn’t show the full picture.

“The author of the survey blames Tabula of abusing its editorial powers, but didn’t even talk with at least one employee at the magazine. He wasn’t interested in by what strategy we have entered the market, while he had an interview with Liberali’s editor and even quotes her in the report,” the statement says.

Mathias Huter, who presented the survey to a large audience on Tuesday at Tbilisi Marriot Hotel, says in response that they didn’t contact Tabula employees because it wasn’t the aim of the project to accuse anybody of anything. But he says that they were named just as an example of what is ‘publicly known.’

“We don’t accuse Tabula of wrongdoing. I was little bit surprised about their strong reaction. We don’t criticize Tabula for anything wrong.” Mathias told DFWatch. “We want to illustrate that there are close relations between politics and media, and it’s not illegal, but it’s important that the public has a clearer picture of it.”

The survey doesn’t say anything about advertisment prices, Tabula’s statement continues, which may be important for companies that want to buy ads. Listing the prices of ads in Tabula and Liberali, it concludes that it is twice as expensive to advertise in Liberali as in Tabula.

Huter says that it’s not only about the official prize list. There are many other factors.

“Tabula is a professional magazine. But we wanted to show that the other professional media units as Batumelebi, Liberali or others, that  publish critical reports and investigations, have a serious problem  attracting the advertising companies,” Huter says.

Tabula’s statement also gives a link to a survey conducted by ACT Research, a market research company in Georgia. It showed that Tabula has more market attention than other magazines, which also is an important factor for advertisers.

At yesterday’s meeting Ia Antadze, a journalist with Radio Liberty Georgia, said that the amount of attention cannot be the only reason for why there is such a difference in the amount of ads between the two magazines. She pointed out that the independent TV station Maestro hardly gets any advertising at all, but is very popular.

“We don’t lower the dignity of Liberali. We want to show that those two publications have chosen two different marketing strategies and discussing them in the same context without showing these differences is vague,” Tabula’s statement says.

(Image shows Tamara Chergoleishvili, editor of Tabula.)


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