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Mass Media Protesting Against Auctions Announced by Tbilisi City Hall


Mariam Khurtsidze

On November 29th the representatives of mass media held a protest action in front of Tbilisi City Hall – “I read newspapers.” The ordinary citizens participated in the action along with the representatives of various media outlets and Georgian Press Association. The protestors symbolically held newspapers.

The representatives of Republican Party, Labor Party, People’s Party and NGOs also participated in the action. The action participants protested against the auctions announced by Tbilisi City Hall.

A while ago Tbilisi City Hall announced an auction for the right to set up trade boxes in Tbilisi which undermines the existence of press distribution boxes. The thing is that the City Hall announced the auction for the places where there press boxes have been standing for years now. Thus, after the end of the auction, the press distributors will have to take down these boxes.

According to the Republican member of Tbilisi City Assembly Tina Khidasheli, the auctions announced by City Hall is not directed at promotion of small businesses – but on the contrary – oppresses them: “For me, as for a member of City Assembly, it is very important that new regulations have equal effect to everybody. The auctions announced by City Hall are not just oriented at the press. It is directed at monopolization of small business.”

The founder of the TV Company Caucasia Davit Akubardia called on all media outlets to be united while talking with humanrights.ge: “The auctions announced by City hall hinder free press distribution. Restriction of information should not be allowed! The press should be disseminated freely. We should oppose the pressure against the press. I like this form of protest very much – a peaceful action.”

The deputy editor of newspaper Rezonansi (Resonance) Eliso Chapidze calls on Tbilisi City hall to stop the auction: “We would like to tell the government that public needs newspapers. These actions will receive permanent nature. We will protect all boxes of press distribution till the end so we can have access to our reader tomorrow. The similar action is planned for next week.”

Representative of Media Monitoring Center of Georgia publisher of Guria News Ia Mamaladze states with humanrights.ge that Tbilisi City hall has been intentionally trying to hinder the dissemination of free media in Tbilisi for a long time: “Let us recall the boxes of Prime Time when our government surprised us one morning all of a sudden. It provoked a big resonance. Then this process stopped for a while but by announcing auctions in the places of boxes of press dissemination, City hall again tries to attack the press. Press boxes stand in the most crowded places of the city where the free press is accessible for anybody. The argument of the City Hall that it is possible to buy newspaper anywhere lacks strength. Nobody enters market to buy newspaper.”

The head of the Journalist Ethics Council of Georgia Zviad Koridze noted with humanrights.ge: “These types of auctions do not promote business development. Press is a significant public good. Obviously businessman is interested in bigger profit. The newspaper prices are very low. The percentage of the profit the newspaper produces means nothing for the businessman. Thus, he can sell for instance shaurma in the same spot and see the bigger profit. Obviously the press and shaurma are in unequal conditions. City hall does not obligate new owners of the boxes but it creates conditions when the selling of newspapers is non-profitable for the businessmen who buy these boxes.”

During the protest action, the coalition of NGOs For Freedom of Choice which includes Human Rights Center as one of its members submitted official address to Tbilisi City Hall. Coalition requests: 1) to conduct meeting between interested individuals and Tbilisi mayor so he and the representatives of the relevant services of City Hall explain the correctness of these decisions; 2) to halt any action before this matter is clarified and renew them only when the firm guarantees are created from press distribution.

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