Democracy and the Media
Every Monday, a talk show called "Media Monitor" airs on Georgian public television. The show shares information collected during media monitoring, and invites civil society and media experts to analyse the findings.
- "I feel responsible for my vote and want to have a clear picture before I make a decision," says an 18-year old first-time voter
- As the election date comes close, experts note an increase of polarized and unbalanced reporting
- Monitoring of the media by citizens is a crucial part of the electoral campaign
Current analysis comes amidst the backdrop of upcoming parliamentary elections in October and presidential polls in 2013.
As the election date comes close, experts note an increase of polarized and unbalanced reporting. Television stations demonstrate political bias. Anchors of political talk shows often use hate speech and openly voice support for a particular political party.
Radio and online media are relatively moderate in taking sides. Their information comes from news agencies and is based on facts. Radio reporting is mostly neutral while online media is inclined to negative coverage.
Elections take up to 70 percent of the space in the printed press. Negative coverage of the president and the ruling party prevails – from 60 to 90 percent in different newspapers and magazines. Newspaper journalists are more likely to use unjustified information.
Rasto Kuzel of the Slovak media monitoring agency Memo’98 – the organization which trained Georgian civil society organizations in media monitoring techniques – sees monitoring as a tool to strengthen the links between the media and society.
"I believe that no democracy can function without a truly independent media," says Mr. Kuzel.
"Media monitoring is an effective tool to hold those who are supposed to be the controllers and watchdogs to account. This function is vital even in those countries where a long-term tradition of freedom of speech, press, and information provides self-controls and codes of conduct that reduce the possibility of bias.“
"In Georgia, where such mechanisms are less developed, it becomes even more important to gauge the media's behaviour in accordance with internationally accepted standards. This is why monitoring of the media by citizens, to observe and question its compliance with those standards, is a crucial part of the ongoing electoral campaign."
Alex Shatberashvili, 18, is a first-time voter. He follows the pre-election media monitoring on Facebook:
"I feel responsible for my vote and want to have a clear picture before I make a decision," Alex says. "The monitoring reports help me to understand how the election campaign works."
Four Georgian civil society organizations are currently monitoring: seven major national televisions, 12 radio stations, 10 national and local newspapers and magazines and 12 online media outlets.
They look at the tone of coverage, whether reporting is balanced, and whether air time is distributed fairly during elections.
"Monitoring the press has the potential to encourage media outlets to provide balanced information to the public, and to develop watchdog functions of civil society organizations," says Head of the Georgian Association of Regional Broadcasters, Natia Kuprashvili.
Since 2010, UNDP and the European Union have been supporting civil society organizations to monitor media performance, with the overall objectives of raising professional standards of the media and supporting independent and impartial reporting. Support also includes training reporters on standards during election coverage.