TBILISI, DFWatch – The ruling party in Georgia defends its policy of not interfering in the television sector to provide pluralism before the parliamentary election.

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Bass last week criticized the lack of plurality in Georgian television, and said introducing the must-carry and must-offer principles is one possible way to improve the situation.

As less than four months remain until an important parliamentary election, a ruling party lawmaker defended the current policy of not interfering in a media field which is heavily favorable towards the government.

Akaki Minashvili, Member of Parliament for the governing National Movement party, said the democracy campaign This Affects You Too and Ambassador John Bass are talking about different things when they use the term must-carry.

“It never happens that cable broadcasters had an obligation to carry other cable and satellite broadcasters. This is free, unrestricted business and state regulation will even more restrict the free media. Where is the limit? If you oblige cable companies to carry other channels, then why do you not oblige them to report certain politicians the whole day? This is an extra regulation unacceptable for free media itself,” Minashvili said.

He said John Bass has not yet specified the details of must-carry and only uses the term. He adds that the governing party is still in negotiations with democracy campaigners about this issue.

Lasha Tughushi, co-author of the law proposal, responded by calling for Minashvili to get more familiar with John Bass’ statement.

He said the ambassador’s statement directly said people don’t have access to different broadcasters and the bill’s goal is to solve this problem.

“Minashvili and this group’s representatives want to mislead society, but they cannot do this,” he said.

11 political parties have signed a statement supporting the introduction of must-offer and must-carry. The National Movement party is not on the list.

Georgian Dasi, European Democrats, Christian Democratic Movement, Republicans, Conservative Party, Industry will Save the Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili – Georgia’s way, People’s Party, National Forum, New Right Party and Our Georgia Free Democrats have signed the pledge of support.

Organizations that are part of the campaign now plan to gather 30 000 signatures from people, in order to initiate the bill in parliament. A citizen’s campaign has the right to introduce a bill if backed by this number of signatures.