TBILISI, DFWatch – Tbilisi City Hall denies that the tender process to install new kiosks around the Georgian capital is not conducted objectively.

In recent days City Hall has been showered in accusations. The ‘booths’ issue was been raised by the opposition Christian-Democrats at a session of the City Council, called as a response to the press writings the last week, alerting the public that City Hall was already removing newspaper booths and newsstands in the capital.

Subscriptions are not in general use by papers, so most readers get their paper from the local newsstand. Media representatives see the new ‘1000 booths’ plan by City Hall as an attempt to quell free media.

The press in Georgia is considered a free, whereas the three national TV networks are seen as government-controlled. There exist a few small TV channels, but they are not able to reach the whole country.

Eliso Chapidze, representative of the press association, attended the meeting. She accused City Hall of locating booths selectively.

Eliso Chapirdze asked why the auction didn’t apply to the Wide Distribution booths; why is not the press in a separate scheme within the tender process; why did they remove the booth of the sole proprietor Nunu Labadze in the center of Tbilisi – Bukia yard? She has had her vending space a whole lifetime, and the tender to locate new booths is not yet completed.

Bacho Dolidze, City Hall press spokesman, responded that the tender if the tender process had not been objective they would have made some kind of exceptions for separate groups.

According to him, City Hall’s goal was to create equal conditions for all participants.

“The idea that we prevent newspapers to be distributed is absurd and groundless. 1000 new booth will be added to the capital and it’s possible for papers to be sold in all of them. The main goal is that every person has an equal chance and then it’s their choice what to sell there,” Dolidze said.

Answering about the Labadze case, Tamar Matiashvili, representative of the City Property Management agency, claims that Nunu Labadze should present documentation to City Hall and her issue will be reviewed.

She also remarked that the tender will apply to owners having booths within specific terms after their term is expired. Tamar Matiashvili also said that the tender doesn’t apply only to the kiosks selling newspapers.