Saying that media pluralism is still evolving in Georgia, the United States of America is advocating and supporting for freedom of expression in a country known for its low rank on press freedom indices.
In her remarks on Media Freedom at Tbilisi in Georgia, Under Secretary Tara Sonenshin for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs says Gergia’s press is often criticized for being unprofessional.
She says Georgian citizens accuse media outlets of being too closely connected to the UNM or Georgian Dream.
“And more independent, regional media outlets continue to struggle.” – Ms. Sonenshine
She cites there are pending elections and there is a need to provide fair and balanced media coverage, so voters can make the right choices, is crucial.
And in that regard, Georgians face some critical issues, she said.
Access to a variety of news channels in the pre-election is necessary and beneficial, she highlighted.
With the given the limited variety of media outlets currently available in Georgia, and the clear appetite of the Georgian people for a wide variety of programming and opinion, it is important that they have that programming.
US supports media freedom in Georgia
The US government is supporting the USAID-funded Georgian Media Enhance Democracy, Informed Citizenry, and Accountability better known as G-MEDIA.
The goal of the $12.9 million program is to improve the Georgian public’s access to a range of sources of news and information by developing a more politically balanced, editorially independent, professional, and viable media sector that reaches audiences across Georgia through diverse delivery channels.
US promotes media freedom through a robust array of programs through its Public Affairs Office and the USAID.
In Georgia, that includes sending Georgian news teams to the U.S. to cover major events like our November presidential elections; or building partnerships between U.S. and Georgian media outlets; or establishing a journalism partnership program between The Georgia Institute for Public Affairs Media School and the University of South Carolina.
US aims to work with the Government of Georgia on media freedom
Ms. Sonenshine underlines that US government is looking forward to working with the Government of Georgia, civil society, and media organizations to promote the idea that even the smallest voice from the tiniest village must be heard.
She stresses that young Georgian citizens must demand and support a free and vigorous media that doesn’t let emotions get in the way of truth.
“On those foundations, democracies are built. The future depends on all of you.” – Ms. Sonenshine
Why is media freedom so important?
According to Ms. Sonenshine, information is the oxygen that a free and civilized society needs to breathe.
“Without it societies suffocate.” – Ms. Sonenshine
She notes that sometimes there’s no information at all because governments repress it, or journalists are too intimidated or unmotivated or irresponsible to report the truth.
Sometimes the information consists primarily of gossip, rumor, hearsay, and conspiracy theories.
She emphasizes that it’s important that states have a diverse and independent press, so the people can trust what they read, hear, and see in the media.
When there is a free, fair, and vigorous media environment in a democratic society, citizens are informed about the truth.
“And that allows us to make the best decisions we can, based on the most reliable information we can find.” – Ms. Sonenshine
In addition, there are the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association that are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On the other, state needs to have freedom of the media so they can hold accountable anyone or any institution that abuses those freedoms.
“That balance is crucial to a robust democracy.” – Ms. Sonenshine
US and Georgia collaborate in advancing democracy
The relationship between Georgia and the United States stands on a foundation of shared values and common interests. The Charter that countries signed in January 2009 has given them a framework for further developing our cooperation.
The United States remains committed to Georgia’s aspirations for membership in NATO, as reflected in the Alliance’s decisions in Bucharest and Strasbourg-Kehl.
US strongly supports Georgia’s efforts related to its Annual National Program, which promotes defense reform and guides cooperation with NATO.
US commends Georgia’s contributions to NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan.
Seven hundred and fifty Georgian soldiers in ISAF are serving shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Marines in Helmand Province, with another 200 serving with French troops. They are helping Afghans build a more secure, stable, and prosperous future, and working to safeguard the common security against the threat of terrorism.
Georgia has taken great strides on media freedom
Reports say Georgia has the freest and most diverse media landscape in the region. Most of private print outlets operate in the country but have very limited circulation. Magazine readership is on the rise as well. Radio stations are generally free and independent and majority of TV stations support either the government or the opposition both editorially.
According to study, approximately 37 percent of Georgian citizens have accessed to the internet in 2011. The internet is not currently subject to government regulation. In addition, several TV stations and media outletsare active on the internet.