Mariam Gogishvili from Georgia, 22, has a BA in journalism and is currently working for the public relations department of a Georgian company.

The independence of the media has always been a sensitive issue in Georgia. Georgia has been a member of Soviet Union, and by saying this, I mean that hiding information, using deliberate propaganda and pressure on people was the kind of lifestyle here. 

Since then, the situation is changing under every new government’s leadership. In 2007 the riot police raided in one of the leading TV station “Imedi” by the order of the President of Georgia. Firstly, this fact was a clear evidence that the media in Georgia was under control of political forces. Secondly, this was a very strong and dangerous message for the other media representatives. 
By this act, the government of Saakashvili made it perfectly clear that the police would devour each media station or journalist standing against them. During all of these years, all the ministries in Georgia gradually stopped connecting with journalists. All the important questions were simply ignored or rejected both, by ministries and by officials. They also stopped taking part in political debates, and several political TV programs were banned. 
The most popular and influential TV stations supported the government. TV stations were the sharpest weapon in the hands of the government. Compared to TV, printed and digital media in Georgia has always been weak. So, by taking it under control, the government knew that their propaganda was working effectively. In those parts of Georgia where local media was weak or didn’t even exist, the only information aired by TV stations was controlled by the government. In a word, people received only information which was approved by the government.
Journalists who acted against the government often complained that they were victims of oppression, humiliation and intimidation. This was the situation in 2011, when I started working as a journalist. From the very beginning it was clear to me, that getting information from officials or ministry PR-s would be either hard or impossible. 
During my work I can recall many cases, when I couldn’t get the necessary information for my journalistic work. I’ve never been a victim of threat, or physical abuse, but I think that hiding information is nothing but a pressure on journalists. 
When I got a phone call from a woman, who said that her son was tortured in prison, I couldn’t get any information about his condition. Then I officially demanded a meeting with an authorized person from the Ministry of Penitentiary and Probation of Georgia, yet without any reaction. When I tried to find out why my request was ignored I was told that there were hundreds of other demands and my one was still far away from even being read. And this happened almost all the time.
What’s most important you had to give up in the end. There was nothing and there was no one who would protect journalist in this situation. Once I was even told from the owner of the media station I was working for, to give up searching, because the person I needed information from, could cause further problems for her. That was quite devastating, but that was reality. 
There were many meetings with officials, ministries or even president where we journalists wanted to ask hundred questions of great importance. It was ridiculous how time was limited during these meetings and how every question asked by journalist was firstly agreed with the recipient. Asking questions was a privilege of the TV station journalists who were controlled by government. So, these meetings were just a part of the political propaganda they played. When I first went to this kind of meeting I was told to discuss my question with a woman who organized the meeting. First, I refused, but then I have been told that this was the only chance to ask question I had to agree. (…) If officials had a press conference with an international guests or representatives of European countries, the difference between the questions of Georgian and other journalists were always striking. 
The situation changed dramatically when the government of Georgia changed. When our former prime minister declared that he had a political come back, he restored the TV station “TV9” which he used as a main source of propaganda. For the first time in last years, there was strong opposition form of media, which I think played main role in the change of government. 
This was probably the hardest part of journalism in Georgia. Journalists, officials and people on the whole were divided in two parts. Both sides used TV stations and digital media as their main source of propaganda. Many journalists were physically abused and even more were arrested during these days. 
A month earlier before the election soon to be a new government made a most important step: they published the video documentary of how prisoners in Georgia were beaten and ravaged by police. These videos were shown to people by above mentioned TV station they restored. After they won the elections, TV9 was sold. They no longer needed it. It did his job effectively, it was a good source of propaganda, but as elections were over, they didn’t need it anymore.
The situation got much better after the elections. Surprisingly, the new government didn’t close any TV station. They did not hinder their journalistic work but they often scold journalists, naming them as a “journalists of Saakashvili”. From one point of view, some TV stations and some journalists still continue to support former officials, because they spend as much time on propaganda as they used to in the past. Still, it doesn’t approve the behaviour of current officials. Their reaction on the critical questions is always very emotional and if it is asked by above mentioned journalists, they let themselves scold the journalists in front of the all the other journalists. This should also be mentioned as a pressure on journalists.
However, many things have changed for the better. On meetings now we can ask any question we have without first agreeing about them. For the first time in last years, critical and actual questions are asked to the prime minister. There are no taboo issues anymore. Getting relevant information is still difficult but at some point it has at least become possible. Officials do not longer avoid taking part in political debates. No journalists were arrested in the last years, which is also a good achievement. It seems that everything has a good chance to change for better, if the media has a will to stand strong.
What bothers me most of all, is the fact that we were the ones who let former government’s propaganda work efficiently. (…) When I think about my work, at some point I realize I was one of the journalists who couldn’t stand against political pressure.

 Mariam Gogishvili