Am I a conspiracy theorist . . .

If I think that Saakashvili’s party is trying to control all of the news media in Georgia? The party already controls the TV channels that cover the entire country and over 80% of the population gets their news from television. Few people outside of Tbilisi and a couple of other cities have access to Internet. But . . . there is the press. Newspapers and magazines continue to publish news that is critical of Saakashvili’s party. So voices of dissent remain “for now.”

I put scary quotes on “for now” because Tbilisi City Hall is accepting bids for a company, or companies, to operate 1,000 news kiosks. The winner of the auction will be able to put a new chain of kiosks in exactly the same places as the existing news kiosks. In other words, one company with deep pockets may have all of the major locations for selling newspapers and magazines. If the company will be loyal to Saakashvili’s party (I said “if”), then freedom of the press would be threatened. Of course, the company that wins the bid could also decide to simply stop distributing newspapers and sell food instead. Then how will people read news critical of Saakashvili and his party?

Now I don’t think that our local micro newsstand will be affected by City Hall’s actions. Tamaz, on Besiki Street, might continue to greet customers as they walk up and down the hill to Rustaveli Avenue. He might continue to sell a few publications each day. The company with the winning bid may not end up being a monopoly, but it could become one.

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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