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Joint address by Georgian media condemns government seizure of property

By Ernest Petrosyan
Tuesday, July 24
Due to the recent events related to the contradictive and groundless seizure of satellite antennas by the government, Georgian media representatives released a joint address condemning the resulting restriction of media information on July 23.

According to the address, based on the court’s decision and the mediation of the prosecutor’s office, Tbilisi-based cable and satellite MaestroTV’s imported antennas and other technical appliances were seized.

“The appliances would have enabled us to inform more people and this is the natural aim of every media outlet. The equipment would enable the subscribers to receive other TV channels too, without discrimination,” reads the joint address of Georgian media outlets.

“We feel that this illegal seizure of equipment violated freedom of speech and expression on the one hand, and people’s right to receive a diverse viewpoint and fundamental access of information on the other,” the statement reads.

Media representatives claim that the move of the prosecutor’s office shared by the court contradicts the declared principles of democratic development and hinders Georgia’s citizens in making informed choices during the upcoming parliamentary elections.

“We accept this as a step made against the independent media. We also underscore that using state institutions like the prosecutor’s office and court against the media to achieve political goals is absolutely unacceptable,” they claim.

“We, the representatives of the media outlets, demand the immediate abolishment of the seizure on Maestro TV’s property and request that the equipment is returned to the legal owner,” the address continued. Most Georgian newspapers published the address yesterday.

“We demand, that the seized property be immediately returned to Maestro. It is our principle position. We will continue our actions to achieve the supremacy of law. We want to live in a legal country. We do not want to live in a country where laws are violated by those who must respect it first of all,” said the Editor-in-Chief of Rezonansi newspaper Lasha Tughushi.

“On behalf of the initiative group we submitted an address to the General Prosecutor’s office on Saturday, where we demanded that they lift the illegal seizure on our property,” said Ilia Kikabidze.

Media analyst Zviad Koridze opines that the prosecutor’s office should return the illegally seized property belonging to the independent media. However, he thinks that in the case that seizure is prolonged until the elections and the satellite antennas are returned after the elections, the prosecutor’s office only proves its political bias even more.

“Indeed, the antennas that Maestro TV was going to distribute to its subscribers for an affordable price should be returned to the company immediately. The Prosecutor’s office decision is politically motivated, and to somehow maintain its image, the prosecutor’s office should withdraw its seizure,” said Koridze, adding that civil society should be more active in this regard and have the support from international community.

The Messenger also supports the sentiment voiced by the collective Georgian media outlets, and assesses the actions of the prosecutor’s office and the court as being counterproductive to Georgia’s democratic development. The Messenger stands firm in its support of the principles of freedom of speech and expression, and calls on government structures to bring to an end its seizure of independent media property, giving the media an opportunity to widen its broadcasting area, thereby creating a more balanced pre-election environment for the upcoming parliamentary elections.