TBILISI, DFWatch – A democracy campaign in Georgia is gathering signatures in support of their law proposal about diversity in media, after the government said it is against it.
The campaign called This Affects You Too has developed a law proposal which would introduce the principles ‘must-carry’ and ‘must-offer’.
After the government said it is opposed to the proposal, the organizations started gathering signatures to show that their effort is backed by ordinary people.
The principles will mean that cable operators will be obliged to carry all broadcasters that they are offered, while national channels will not be allowed to pull their signal off a network.
As it is today, all cable companies but one, and all three national news channels, are effectively preventing other channels from getting through to viewers.
The three national channels are all strongly pro-government and passively offer their news slots to President Saakashvili’s often extravagantly produced political speeches, while the opposition is treated with suspicion and sometimes subjected to slander by reporters.
The must-carry and must-offer principle originate in the U.S., and is meant to provide the population with pluralism in terms of what kind of information they have access to. Apart from the U.S., a number of EU countries also have the principles, and the EU has recommended member countries to practice such rules.
The This Affects You Too campaign earlier asked the Saakashvili government to follow suit, but the government refused, even though U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a recent visit said media diversity is an important issue.
The government argues that it does not want to interfere in private business.
Campaigners Wednesday sent an appealed to the president the, Chamber of Control, the courts, the prosecutor’s office and the Inter-Agency Commission.
But yesterday the government once again said it was categorical against introducing must-carry and must-offer in Georgia.
Pavle Kublashvili, head of parliament’s judiciary committee, speaks about the importance of the independence of cable networks. He claims that the principles proposed by campaigners is not what exists in the U.S. and in EU countries.
Campaigners say the government has not presented any arguments for why all broadcasters should not be accessible in all regions.
This Affects You Too has set a goal of gathering 30 000 signatures for their proposal.
But Saakashvili’s party has majority in parliament and such a law will not come about without its support.