Digitalization creates opportunities to strengthen media freedom and pluralism, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović said today at the opening of the 12th OSCE South Caucasus Media Conference in Tbilisi, Georgia.
“The new ways of communication provide more opportunities to access information and express ourselves more freely,” Mijatović said. “Digitalization, along with growing role of Internet, also fosters the free flow of information, diversity and a pluralistic media environment.”
The conference brought together media policy and broadcasting experts, civil society and government representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, along with experts from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Germany and Slovenia, to exchange experiences concerning the digital transformation in the region and its effect on free media and free expression.
The discussions focused on the role of regulatory authorities in a digital environment and the impact of the digital switchover on media pluralism.
“The digital switchover of broadcasting systems is an important aspect of the transformation,” Mijatović said. “It can expand and foster media pluralism and diversity, given that governments fulfill their international obligations and introduce necessary media policy changes covering the switchover.”
The participants also shared and discussed views on the latest media freedom developments in the region. As a result of the discussions, a list of recommendations will soon be published.
During her visit, Mijatović also met with the Chair of Parliament David Usupashvili, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Khatuna Totladze, and civil society representatives to discuss media freedom issues in Georgia.
The Representative reiterated her call to elect the remaining two members of the Public Service Broadcaster’s Supervisory Board to make it fully operational and complete investigations into illegal activities that impede media freedom, such as the surveillance incident with Rustavi 2 channel in 2014. She also noted the challenges faced by some private broadcasters stemming from ownership disputes and allegations on external pressure over the trend of editorial policies used to dismiss political programs.
Further, Mijatović noted the positive developments in drafting of the Freedom of Information Law with active participation of NGOs and encouraged the authorities to facilitate its adoption.
“Georgia is among the few OSCE participating States in transition that has achieved substantial and internationally recognized progress on free expression and free media, Mijatović said. “However, this progress should be preserved and enhanced to maintain a diverse, vibrant and pluralistic media landscape. The role of media as a key vehicle for democratic development should be respected at all times.”