On December 14 US Ambassador John Bass said his country would “assist Georgian population in several directions” in order to make sure that the future parliamentary and presidential elections are “open and transparent as much as possible”. US Ambassador made that statement during his visit in local TV channel Gurjaani (Gurjaani, east Georgia) where he took part in that TV station’s talk show, he answered the questions asked by the journalists who were also invited to take part in that show.
“We’ll be doing some work with government and also partners from various diplomatic community to work to ensure that we have open environment around these elections so that broadcasters, viewers, other interested citizens have access to information about the candidates, have access to information about the major issues that Georgia faces in this period and therefore can make informed decisions based on their interactions with candidates and parties directly or through the media about who they’d like to support in these elections” – the Ambassador said.
One of the journalists asked a question about what forms of support from the USA the regional media should expect when according to that journalist, regional media is experiencing lack of professional and material resources and it doesn’t have good experience of covering elections. The Ambassador answered that “part of those activities is the ongoing work with the Georgian Association of Regional Broadcasters in Tbilisi to try to help that organization as an entity become a stronger advocate for regional media and potentially a good platform for stations like yours to work together to try to create a bigger advertising pool that attracts more advertising interest”.
John Bass agreed to the comment made by one of the journalists about the failure to cover the opening of Democratic Involvement Center in Telavi by national broadcasters on the morning of December 14, which was attended by the Ambassador before coming to Gurjaani TV channel. According to the journalist, that happened because the national TV channels only cover the events in which representatives of the authorities participate.
“I noticed the same thing you noticed earlier today; there are some, what I consider to be some curious choices about what national broadcasters choose to broadcast and what they don’t and I think part of what that entails is the broader question of who really owns these companies and who’s setting the editorial policy and the editorial direction of the news elements of these companies, whereas it’s very difficult for any of us, whether it’s me, as a guest in this country, or you, or an average citizen to figure out who’s actually making the decisions about what major broadcasters decide are the news of that day. And I think that gets to the heart of the question longer term, the credibility of broadcast media in this country and the importance of creating firm objective standards that everyone has some confidence in with respect to who own these companies and what are their affiliations”. – the Ambassador said.