Tspress.ge is a Poti based Internet outlet. The office consists of four rooms in a building in the center of the seaport. Nino Tuntia and Iza Salakaia are the two journalists working for the website. They also employ correspondents in Zugdidi, Mestia andBatumi. They want to cover neighboring villages also and not to be limited just with reporting on the events underway in Poti.
It has been a year since Tspress.ge appeared at the media market. Before that it was a newspaper – Tavisupali Sitkva (Free Speech.) Initially the newspaper was launched by theHumanRightsSocial JusticeProtectionResearchCenterback in 2000.
“New media is growing more and more rapidly, so we decided to step up with it,” founder and Chief Editor Eliso Janashia says and stresses that they even conducted preliminary research in Samegrelo region. At that period 12% of population had availability of the Internet. Janashia presumes that now the given figure may be 15%, although, majority of the website visitors are living inTbilisi. “That is probably because Internet is better available in the capital,” Chief Editor believes. The website has an average of 1000-1200 unique visitors daily.
Attention is mainly paid to public-political events. One of their projects also considers monitoring of the budget of local self-government; due to that they often have to communicate with the local government and as they say not exactly the friendly relationships have been achieved.
Tspress.ge has many times published materials in which representatives of local self-government expressed pretensions to articles published at the web-portal. Poti Mayor Vakhtang Lemonjava even refused to communicate in any way with Tspress.ge.
Tspress.ge journalist Nino Tuntia says that Mayor was irritated by the article published this January. The article was on the dismissal of employees fromPotiPortand the title said that Poti Mayor agreed to the dismissal of those persons.
“Any time since then when we ask the Mayor a question he says he will not give us any comments until we change that title,” Nino Tuntia says.
Iza Salakaia says that problems with Vakhtang Lemonjava started a lot earlier. According to the journalist, the Mayor prohibited telephone interviews and advised her to go to press-conference for asking questions.
“He would hold press-conferences once a month and we went there with a lot of questions, although he would just speak about successful projects and would allow us to ask any questions,” Salakaia recalls.
According to the journalists obtaining public information still remains the main problem. They claim that they receive all kinds of public information from local self-government after “great battles.” As a confirmation of this they speak about thelast Courttrial when the journalists of Tspress.ge won the case against Zugdidi Sakrebulo (Council.)
Tspress.ge requested information about spending of approximately GEL 20 million transferred to a construction firm from State funds for the construction of Anaklia-Ganmukhuri resort zone. Local self-government did not give out the given information, but the journalists lodged a lawsuit and won the trial. Journalists are concerned that despite the won Court trial, they still have not received full information on the given issue.
“This is all followed with personally bad attitude when Tspress.ge journalists are approached as marginal,” Nino Tuntisa claims.
Poti Sakrebulo Deputy Chairman Magda Menabdze says that Tspress.ge journalists are creating problems themselves and create tension intentionally.
“When they call they never say they are recording the conversation. Additionally, they have changed the address and requested public information does not get to them. We are the ones asking them to come and take documents,” Menabde said at Poti field meetig of the Council of the Charter of Journalistic Ethics of Georgia.
Iza Salakaia describes accusations by Sakrebulo representative as absurd and says that they did change the address, although the new address was posted at the website two days later. Even before that they have never received requested information from Sakrebulo in written form and to their address. “As for the cases when we call them on the phone we say that we want a comment, which means that their replies will be published,” Iza Salakaia says.
Salakaia has also had problems with President’s bodyguards. She was not allowed to attend a meeting and Head of President’s Press-Service Natia Bandzeladze said Salakaia did not have the Press Card and that they always announce planned visits to Poti. Iza Salakaia says Bandzeladze is lying.
“Right now I do not have the ID card and press-card as I lost them when covering IDP issues. When President was here I had both in my purse,” Salakaia says. Nino Tuntia shows me her journalist’s ID and says that all the journalist of Tspress.ge have the same type of press-cards. According to her, despite many appeals to Ministries and President’s Administration, they never receive announcements about planned visits, or meetings.
According to Chief Editor Eliso Janashia, the most popular are investigative and research materials on local self-government, although the highest interest by visitors was paid to photos of Zurab Delianiidze, who deceased in prison.
Tspress.ge plans to launch debates in June. The Project is funded by Open Society Georgia Foundation. By support from the US Embassy they are monitoring the local self-government budget and prepare investigative materials.
Tspress.ge also plans to activate civil journalist component. There already is the coinciding rubric at the website. According to Eliso Janashia, they are not printing booklets in order to provide information to population. “Citizens often call us and give information, so we decided to open a separate rubric for their stories,” Eliso Janashia says. According to her, the website is not fully constructed yet and when it is finished the number of visitors/customers will increase.