Information Warfare

A new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists is highly critical of the media freedom situation in both Georgia and Russia, accusing the governments of Mikheil Saakashvili and Vladimir Putin of establishing control over television broadcast networks to ensure that their messages drown out alternative viewpoints. "As different as these leaders may be, both have demonstrated intolerance to criticism and a strong desire to control influential national television," the report alleges. "Using strikingly similar tactics, both leaders have helped fashion uncritical television media that are supportive of their governments. The results were on display during the South Ossetian conflict, when television in each country portrayed the fighting in one-sided, one-dimensional ways." While a lot of television reporting in Georgia is pro-government, it’s clear that there is much more open criticism of the authorities on national television than is ever allowed in Russia, or in most other former Soviet states. But the idea of a genuinely free and independent media has been slow to take root here. Georgia’s radical opposition, for example, seems to believe that free media simply means more airtime for their opinions (they recently demanded that an entire channel be handed over to them), rather than any kind of independent scrutiny of politicians on all sides. Meanwhile, investigative reporting has been marginalised. Two independent studios do produce documentaries examining official corruption and miscarriages of justice, but they are not shown on national TV.