Georgia: Building a culture of informed voters

Georgia
A Georgian journalist discusses pre-election media monitoring with EU, UNDP and civil society organizations. (Photo: UNDP/David Khizanishvili)

As October’s (2012) parliamentary elections near in Georgia, 18-year old Alex Shatberashvili wants his first vote to be educated and informed.

"I feel responsible for my vote and want to have a clear picture before I make a decision,” said Alex.

However, news coverage and reporting is often unbalanced and polarized. Anchors of political talk shows use hate speech and openly voice their preferences for political parties.

Highlights

  • UNDP is implementing the project with US$987,538 in EU funding.
  • BBC’s co-producing a TV talk show with Georgian Public Broadcast to bring audiences closer to the political process.
  • Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Media Center Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina) trained journalists from 20 broadcasters outside of Tbilisi.
  • Memo’98, a Slovak organization, trained seven civil society organizations in media monitoring techniques.

Since 2010, UNDP and the European Union have been working with NGOs to monitor media performance, with the objectives of raising professional standards of Georgian media and supporting independent and impartial reporting.

Every Monday, a popular 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.

“The monitoring reports help me understand how the election campaign works," said Alex, who also follows Media Monitor on Facebook.

With UNDP’s and EU’s support, Georgian Public Broadcaster is airing this show to provide results of media monitoring, and to analyze and observe election coverage and campaigns. Four Georgian NGOs are currently monitoring 7 major television networks, 12 radio stations, 10 local newspapers and magazines, and 12 online media outlets. They look at the tone of coverage, whether reporting is balanced, and whether airtime is distributed fairly during elections.

Similar talk shows were aired before, during, and after local elections in 2010, when UNDP teamed up with the Caucasus Research Resource Centre to monitor, analyse and evaluate television news for objectivity, content trends, and balance of coverage.

“Monitoring the press has the potential to encourage media outlets to provide balanced information to the public and to develop watchdog functions,” said Natia Kuprashvili, head of the Georgian Association of Regional Broadcasters.