Irakli Berulava is a busy man. Media expert, he is also a well known blogger, a journalist, film director and a producer. Berulava is a production manager in Internews Georgia and representing Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in Caucasus.
By Hrant Mikaelian
“Gloomy”: that is exactly the word Irakly Berulava uses to describe the situation of medias in the South Caucasus countries. As an illustration, he cites the situation of TV stations, that is bad in all three countries. “In Georgia, the three major TV-stations – Imedi, Rustavi-2 and the Public Television-, are under the full control of the authorities. Still, in Georgia,two opposition TV-stations exist, even with limited coverage.” Georgian authorities also create a state-funded TV-stations like PIK (First Caucasian) and regional TV channel. In Armenia and Azerbaijan, TV is even more controlled by the authorities.
“The biggest problem of Post-Soviet journalism is the self-censorship made by editors”, Berulava says. “Most of editors are trying to remain in good relations with authorities and they don’t let journalists to write anything they consider interesting. And journalists mainly don’t have any choice, except continuing working in this self-censorship style, because of unemployment. Low wages are also problem for regional media and any media that is not foreign or state funded, so this reduces quality of its content”, – tells Berulava.
Conservatism And Lobbyism
“Another great problem is closed minded mentalities and conservatism of Caucasian societies”, – continues expert. “Journalists prefer to write about religion but not about violence against non-conformist citizen and their voice remains silent. Major media ignored the case of the arrested photographers, and did not show any solidarity with journalists. Only one TV-station, “Maestro”, showed live from breaking down an opposition rally on May 25-26 in Tbilisi. At this occasion, journalists were beaten, but most of the journalists prefered to keep the silence about it”, – adds Berulava.
“The third biggest problem in the South Caucasus journalism is lobbyism and lack of transparency of media. Media turn to closed corporate entities, where the same faces work for decades. Generation is not changing and new stuff is mostly recruited from friends and relatives of chief editor of newspapers or TV director. In such a situation, the most vulnerable sections of society as cultural minorities, have no chance to be heard”, – Berulava says.
A Change Of Generations
Georgia has lost the chance that was given by the Rose Revolution in 2003 – thinks Berulava. “After the Rose Revolution, the opposition TVs became pro-government and many of others have been closed. Now the situation can change only if there appear new faces in the government. If they will be more open-minded, the young talented journalists will have more chances to show themselves, in all of three countries.”
However, during the last 5 years Berulava saw only “regressions” in this field. For the government, it’s more easy to control journalists, which will not write about anything which might be tricky. And journalists themselves play this game, mostly because of unemployment.
About the future of journalism on South Caucasus, Berulava intends to stay optimistic and calls for a generation change. “There always has been a small minority of open-minded and well-educated creative students, whom also called ‘liberals’ – in all three countries of South Caucasus. Today they also exist; some of them even study in Western universities. If generation changes, they will be chance to change the system”, asserts Berulava. It depends on who will come to rule, after the old faces are leaving journalism – people from the same system or new faces, 25-28 years old journalists. System shouldn’t reproduce itself”.
The Conference With Irakli Berulava In GIPA (and In Russian)