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05.12.2011 13:34

In the Role of Cinderella

David Mchedlidze
Media Discusions

What the Tbilisi Municipality is doing against printed media is very much like a cynical revenge of the evil stepmother to Cinderella.  It’s cynical because theTbilisiMunicipalityis going to remove newspaper booths in framework of the Small and Medium Business Promotion Project.  The publicity is already making dissatisfied expressions thatTbilisiheads do not see the difference between selling of sausages and newspaper distribution promotion.  NGOs, media representatives are making special addresses to theTbilisimunicipality, international organizations, diplomatic corps and request dismissal of the given decision, which will finally result in destruction of printed media. 

Tbilisi is planning another protest rally, or meetings and the Municipality circulates a statement saying it will not give up the decision as “any kind of exception, or concession based on which certain persons may receive a permit to put a booth without an auction will result in the violation of the rights of those who participate and win in the auction.  Due to the very same reason the Municipality cannot allow an exception and leave unpermitted booths in the city as in this case also the businessmen who win the auction and pay rent will be facing losses.”  Just like this; it seems the authors of the given statement really do not understand the difference between selling sausages and newspapers. 

Availability of information is one of the fundamental human rights and the government must protect it.  It must protect it just like it should protect the right for healthcare and education.  Let’s just imagine for a second that the government announces a tender for all schools’ and hospital buildings and allows the new owners to decide to again open schools and hospitals in the buildings, or some other, commercially more profitable institutions.  We can say right now that such a decision would leaveGeorgiawithout educational and healthcare institutions.  The reason is very simple:  neither of them is commercially profitable, furthermore in our poor country. 

The list of fundamental rights, formed by unity of the most important human factors is protected both by international legislation and state constitutions.  Georgian Constitutions is not an exception and it recognizes the universal declaration of human rights and other international documents on basic human rights.  Being a fundamental right for something does not mean the segment cannot develop into a profitable business, although in our country, full of political and economic contrasts, media failed to develop in that direction.  Printed media is in the worst condition. 

Why the printed media fails to become a profitable business inGeorgiais a separate topic and we will speak more about it in the next article; right now we can say that printed media faces problems in the whole world.  According to the research by the newspapers and news publishers’ world association (WAN-IFRA) the circulation of printed media has decreased throughout the world; mainly in the west, as the circulation has increased in Asian countries.  According to the research conducted in 69 countries of the world the audience of digital media increases proportionally to the decrease of printed media readers.  InGeorgiathe situation is even more specific. 

Many public opinion polls have shown that by means of circulation and financial viewpoint the largest TV-broadacsters have lost the trust of the society.  Still, some of them, according to the researches, remain the main source of information.  This has some good reasons:  only three broadcasters – First Channel, Imedi andRustavi2 broadcast at the majority of Georgian territory and in many places there is no other source of information – there is no Internet, newspapers are not printed and circulated. 

The distrust to those three broadcasters was a result of the difference seen between what is shown on the screen and the reality. Georgiais a small country and not much time is necessary to even verbally double-check the information coming from the TV.  Due to the fact that the printed media – as having relatively less possibility of influence – did not fall into the interests of persons directly, or indirectly related to the government, and as result avoided the censorship, appeared to be more open and unbiased.  Accordingly the part of society that wanted to get answers to many questions turned back to newspapers and magazines, where the reality was more real. 

This was supported to promote the development of the printed media as of a business (main rule of the market is that demand creates supply) but not inGeorgia.  Not everybody can afford newspapers, or magazines here.  In our flourishing country, which, if we believe our government, is far better off, than many other countries, the poor people always make a choice in favor of bread than newspapers.  Still, a solution has been found that even today inGeorgiayou can read a newspaper for 10-15 tetri at where it is sold.  This means information still gets to people. 

If we follow the logics of facts and events the cycle round the “Georgian Cinderella” – Georgian printed media closes naturally.  Let’s presume that the government failed to “catch” the printed media, as did not count it as important as the TV, which was managed to be controlled.  Despite the fact that receiving of information from newspapers is related to direct expenses of population, the citizens still found an alternative, cheaper way of getting news from printed media.  Finally, if there was anything that the government refrained from publicizing by using controlled media outlets, thanks to the printed media free from censorship, was still publicized. 

It is very logical from this scheme that theTbilisiMunicipalityis doing in the format of “giving new life” to booths allocated in the capital.  It is clear that they are in fact taking away a home from an unfavorable “opponent,” and they are doing it carefully, as an open fight with media would not coincide with an image of a democratic state. Tbilisiusually is a pioneer and its example always goes to other cities ofGeorgia, so, the given initiative will soon be realized in the rest of the country, which must be an alarm signal for regional media. 

Still the government and maybe some others are forgetting two things:  first – it does not matter what you call your action, the result is what matters; and second – news cannot be hidden; whatever happened, happens, or will happen, will find its way to the public, as it is the law of life.  

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