A couple of election cycles ago, former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s administration engendered widespread public anger over what were deemed anti-democratic actions to muzzle critics and preserve its authority. Now, with another round of parliamentary elections a year away, the incumbent Georgian Dream coalition is starting to face similar criticism amid an ownership struggle over an influential television broadcaster.
The struggle centers on an ownership dispute involving Rustavi2, Georgia’s most watched national TV station, with an estimated 28.14 percent of weekly television viewers, according to a survey conducted by TVMR, a Nielsen-affiliated polling agency.
Those numbers are significant, given that television plays a central role in any election in Georgia. Most Georgians are shown to obtain news and information via television, as opposed to radio and print media. Thus, television, especially television news, exerts considerable influence over the shaping of public opinion.
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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance journalist based in Tbilisi. He is a frequent contributor to EurasiaNet.org's Tamada Tales blog.