There are 4 major pillars of democracy and they are the executive, legislature, judiciary, and the media. These four pillars are the major determinant of the presence of democratic rule in any region or locality. It is also expedient that these 4 pillars operate without undue influence or subjugation of one another. However, due to the control of military and economic power reposed in the hands of the executive arm of government, oppression, and intimidation of the media is not uncommon. This scenario describes what is playing out in Georgia and it is apt to note that the brazen intimidation of the media by government forces is an affront against the ethics of democracy, an action that can bring development and growth in the nation to an abrupt death. News reports at all times must report the true state of events clearly and simply to the public.
Media Plurality and Democracy
A core aspect of democracy is freedom of expression. Freedom of expression and media freedom are intertwined. Citizens must have the right to express themselves and this right must not be curtailed by the government. Media plurality in Georgia will guarantee the citizens to have access to correct information and thus be able to make decisions in their own best interest. The media wields enormous power as they can influence public opinion and thus become an avenue for underperforming politicians to seek to perpetuate themselves in power. Democracy ceases to exist when the media has become puppets of individuals or the government. This is because misinformed people make the enthronement of a despot a lot easier and at this particular point, the principles, rights, and freedoms about democracy in Georgia should be protected rather than abolished.
Challenges Preventing Media Plurality in Georgia
The dangers of media intimidation and oppression are quite enormous, especially for the citizens of Georgia. For instance, the media performs the noble role of reporting and disseminating news reports within and outside the nation. Hence, access to factual news reports can enable citizens to make informed choices. In a situation where the veracity of news reports in a country can no longer be ascertained then the citizens would be easily disposed to manipulation from the government. Unfortunately, due to the peculiar status of media houses as an employer of labor, there is a need for them to make profits to cover their running costs. In a bid to generate adequate revenue, some media houses can seek to betray the ethics of the profession by entering into deals with corrupt politicians and then deploying their news reportage to promote the interest of the corrupt politician. Situations such as this are a betrayal of the trust of the citizens as the relevance of any media house ceases to exist if their publications can no longer be relied upon by their readers.
Davit Kezerashvili Sentence To Jail May Be Politically Motivated
Another dimension of media plurality is the need to explore multiple platforms of information rather than one major channel e.g. television. When there is a dependence on only one medium of information, then it will be easy for the government to target such a platform for sanctions. However, when there are multiple channels of information then the quest of silencing the media will be more difficult. The challenge, however, in a nation like Georgia is not merely to create new channels of information but to strengthen the existing ones particularly by partnering with international media houses. Partnership with international media houses will ensure continuity even when the branch in Georgia is clamped down upon by the government. The noble steps taken by former politician David Kezerashvili in investing in the media through his ownership of FormulaTV in 2019 were seen as a positive gesture that would help the cause of media plurality in Georgia. However, as a former politician and high-ranking member of the opposition, David Kezerashvili is also a target for the ruling party against government critical media. The legal actions towards David Kezerashvili in September by the government are nothing but an attempt to control the media.
The recent politically motivated actions against free media show Georgia is far from achieving press freedom.
The fair practice of journalism should never be jeopardized for pecuniary reasons. Although there may be crass intimidation and oppression or even physical aggression against print and electronic media, the battle can end in favor of the media if they remain resolute and undaunted in the face of provocation. The fight for media plurality should be encouraged not just in Georgia but in other parts of Eastern Europe. For democracy to thrive, the media must remain strong and independent of state forces. The lack of media plurality in Georgia is tantamount to regression rather than progression.