After almost a yearlong battle, a Tbilisi-based cable TV station, Maestro, has been denied the right to broadcast programs on political issues.
On September 30, Tbilisi City Court rejected Maestro's appeal against a decision of the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) to deny the station a license for political programming.
Maestro, which goes out on cable in Tbilisi, Gori, Rustavi, and Telavi, is a popular channel and is licensed to carry entertainment and music programs. Several months ago, however, the station launched three programs focusing on political issues. Shortly thereafter, the station received a warning letter from the GNCC, reminding Maestro that it did not have permission to air political programs.
The station requested that their existing license be modified. The commission denied the request.
Maestro's staff has staged a number of protest rallies over the last several months. After yesterday's decision by Tbilisi City Court, the head of Maestro, Mamuka Ghlonti, told RFE/RL's Georgian Service that the station is the victim of deteriorating media freedom in Georgia.
Ghlonti said the judge who issued the ruling has promised to provide Maestro with specific reasons for the ruling within two weeks.
Georgia's human rights ombudsman, Sozar Subari, called the court's ruling "symptomatic of the pressure on freedom of speech and expression in the country," where, according to him, "the authorities are intolerant of media outlets not controlled by them."
Subari called for legislative changes, saying that television stations that broadcast on cable rather than over the air should not be subjected to GNCC regulation in the first place.
(by Salome Asatiani of RFE/RL's Georgian Service)