Conference of South Caucasus Countries on New Media was held in Tbilisi. The Conference was attended by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović. Media.ge met with Dunja Mijatovic and spoke with her about challenges media faces in the Caucasus, possible participation of OSCE in those issues, must carry principle and other important issues.
What is the objective of the given Conference and what are your expectations from it?
This is the ninth Conference of South Caucasus countries and it has already become a tradition; it is aimed at gathering media professional for discussing problematic issues, sharing experience and finding solutions to problems. At the given Conference we discuss online media and Internet; everything related to digital era and our aim is to discuss how to adapt to the new epoch. In conclusion of the Conference we will adopt a declaration which will be type of recommendation to government.
You adopt such Declarations every year; do governments consider your recommendations?
It is hard to say. Declaration is aimed at demonstrating that for the OSCE dedication to freedom of media is an important value. Membership in the OSCE means sharing the given value, although we must be realistic and know that dedication to freedom of media is not easy in the countries that are in transition period; countries having economic problems. I still hope that government still considers these recommendations. In general, along with the recommendations the OSCE also has specific means to go against adopting of such laws by State that would restrict freedom of media. I try to have positive cooperation with government and to find solutions to important issues in cooperation.
Why was the new media chosen as the topic of this Conference? Does it mean that the OSCE considers the new media in the Caucasus, or Georgia as the area where freedom of expression is protected the most?
New media is the topic of this year in general and it is important worldwide. It is not related to the specificts of one country, or region. Of course it is also related to what is happening in Georgia (media polarization T.P.). I do not work for evaluating media content – whether it is biased or not. For me it is important that in this country I see pluralism; population has possibilities to receive information in different ways and is able to have its own opinion.
One of the issues that my Office often brings up is Internet freedom. I believe it important for government to direct its funds to Internet education of population and not to blocking Internet. It is a lost battle and is not democratic. Government must realize that restrictions in receiving information is not profitable for a country and is not for good for any society. If we allow government to filter our minds and viewpoints we will go backwards and I want everyone to know that it is not the topic that the OSCE will ignore.
What is your view of the challenges that media faces in the Caucasus?
It is hard to speak about Caucasian media in one context. There are different problems for example in Azerbaijan and Georgia. The same challenge that the whole region has is to sustain Internet freedom and to turn it into kind of a forum. I want to be confident that Internet freedom will be sustained here and government will not approve any law to change the situation. In Georgia it is important to pay more attention to freedom of media – this concerns the Public Broadcaster and the National Communications Commission. Very important issue will be the switchover to digital broadcasting as it will benefit the society seriously. I have not met government representatives during this meeting as it is the transition period and it would have been inadequate. I am waiting for the moment to join in the negotiations and understand how my Office can contribute to solving these issues. I value it very much that the door is always open for OSCE representatives in Georgia; I will try to return to Tbilisi as soon as possible.
Did you know that people were signing a Petition in Georgia appealing to you to make statement on the extention of must carry principle after the elections?
I learnt about this from an e-mail only two days ago, but nobody has spoken to me about the given topic, nobody has called me, or has attempted to meet me on the given issue during my visit here. I cannot work based on a petition. I work with real people. It is not hard to contact me; I must know who is complaining; what is the problem; who has what kind of challenges and what solutions can be found. May they want to adopt a law and have a draft?! If it is so, we can see it immediately and send relevant recommendation in two days. OSCE is not a non-governmental organization to work based on petitions. Must carry is by all means important for circulating new opinions and channels but I must know more about the topic in order to apprehend the problem better. Meanwhile I only thing I have is an e-mail with a link to the signed petition. I receive such e-mails every day.