TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili promises to support and help Georgian print media.

Lasha Tugushi, editor in-chief of the daily Rezonansi, said this after a meeting with the businessman Friday.

Ivanishvili decided to meet with leaders of print media regarding Tbilisi City Hall’s decision, which will involve removing some newspaper kiosk from the capital.

City Hall announced the tender within the framework of a project called ‘1000 Booths’. The tender is mostly announced for the places where there have already been newspaper kiosks for years. Removal of booths has already begun.

Subscriptions are not a viable distribution system in Georgia. Therefore, the only realistic way to get the papers out to readers is street sale.

Therefore, representatives of print media see the City Hall’s plan as an attempt to destroy the free media.

In Georgia press is considered free, while the national TV networks are government-controlled. There are a few small cable channels, but they are unable to reach the whole country.

Georgian Press Association, different media units, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and political parties protest against City Hall’s decision, and have brought it up in the city council.

The meeting with Ivanishvili took place in his residence with Georgian Press Association representatives, print media publishers as well as distributors and lasted nearly an hour. Newspapers Rezonansi, Kviris Palitra, Akhali Versia, Asaval-Dasavali and others were representated at the meeting.

Lasha Tugishi said afterwards that Ivanishvili is concerned with the dangers which are created in the terms of press distribution, and he expressed a wish to support distribution of print media. What form this support will have will become known in the near future.

“This is related directly to support of press distribution – in some cases to the creation of the opportunity to distribute the print media; and in some cases to expand it. This is very good approach; but the details still needs discussion. We have seen a serious interest in and support for the press not to be left out of the distribution system; or that the distribution shouldn’t be restricted because of unclear and dubious reasons for removing newspaper kiosks,” – Tugushi remarked.