South Caucasus conference remains an important forum for discussing media freedom challenges in the region, says OSCE Representative
TBILISI, 7 July 2016 – Multi-faceted challenges to free media and the freedom of expression were the focus of a two-day discussion at the 13th OSCE South Caucasus Media Conference, organized by the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media that concluded today in Tbilisi, Georgia.
As in the past, the annual event brought together more than 80 media experts, civil society and government representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, along with experts from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom, to discuss issues affecting media freedom in the South Caucasus region.
In particular the participants exchanged views concerning the issues of safety and security of media workers online and offline; the influence of the Internet on the changing media landscape; and, content regulation in conflict-affected regions, including the legal implications and professional standards of journalists.
“Journalism continues to face numerous challenges today, including those related to safety and impunity, as well as the issues emanating from the regional conflicts,” said OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović. “At the same time, the new forms of media and reporting practices provide new opportunities for freedom of the media and free flow of information, and can be beneficial for building confidence among people.”
The participants also discussed the increased exploitation of the media for the spread of propaganda and underlined the need to develop effective tools to counter this phenomenon while preserving media pluralism and raising the professional and ethical standards of journalists.
At the end of the conference the participants adopted a set of recommendations addressed to the governments and the media community of the region, which will soon be available at www.osce.org/fom.
During her visit, Mijatović also met with the Chair of the Georgian Parliament David Usupashvili and Georgia’s Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze.
In her meetings the Representative again emphasized that Georgia has achieved substantial and widely recognized progress on free media and freedom of expression. She encouraged the authorities to preserve and enhance these exemplary achievements while noting the special importance of maintaining media pluralism and variety of voices in society ahead of parliamentary elections in October.
Mijatovic also positively noted the election of the remaining two members of the Public Service Broadcaster’s Supervisory Board in April 2016 which makes the broadcaster fully operational, a long-standing issue she has been raising with the authorities. However, the Representative stressed the need to continue supporting public broadcasting in the country, in order for citizens to fully benefit from a trusted source of objective and impartial information.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.