Pressure grows on Georgian government to create a level playing field in the Georgian media ahead of October’s elections.

Georgian NGOs that form part of the campaign “This concerns you!” have sent an open letter to the Georgian Parliament urging the legislative body to take the interests of the public and the voters into account and introduce “must-carry” and “must-offer” rules in the legislation regulating media activities.

“Do not allow any kind of restriction of access to any media outlet; Take into account opinions and recommendations provided by international organizations on the necessity of pluralistic media in the country,” reads the letter.The letter also discusses the restriction of access to Channel 9 and the decision to switch off radio signal in mini buses, moves seen as aimed at restricting citizen’s access to information. “Even if there is some legal basis for the decisions, the end result has become a matter of concern for numerous non-governmental and media organizations and citizens,” says the letter.

The Campaign members urge MPs to heed the calls made by the civil society and international community for setting up pluralistic media environment. The “This Concerns You!” campaign members believe the introduction of must-carry and must-offer rules will help improve election environment and provide public access to diverse information in the pre-election process.

Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

The call of Georgian NGOs was echoed in Brussels this week at a meeting of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, a European Union supported framework linking civil society across Europe and the Eastern Partnership countries.

In a resolution on Georgia the forum states that:

“The October 2012 Parliamentary Elections are of crucial importance for future of democracy in Georgia. The new parliament shall ensure the country’s transition to parliamentary system and form the new government in line with the amendments to the Constitution of Georgia (October 15, 2010).

While the upcoming elections promise to be competitive, there still remain a number of challenges to the prospects of conducting free and fair elections in a level playing field. In February 2012, significant part of the civil society organizations started a campaign under the name “This Affects You Too” aimed at improving election legislation and developing a better pre-election environment. Many of the campaign’s proposals have eventually been reflected in the amendments to this law in May 2012.

On May 7, 2012 Georgia’s non-governmental and media organizations submitted an additional package of the legislative proposals to the Parliament which, if adopted, will be instrumental for democratic elections in Georgia. The must-carry and must-offer principles introduced in the legislative package deserve a special attention as they ensure public access to the pluralistic media.”

The forum called on the European Union to support the efforts of Georgian civil society aimed at ensuring fair and competitive elections and media environment.