Since clashes between opposition protesters and large numbers of troops and police resulted in a state of emergency in Georgia, community radios established with IREX Europe support have interrupted their broadcasts. All rallies in the country are banned and only the Public Broadcaster can broadcast news.
Broadcasting of the community radios established under the Making Waves project has been temporarily stopped. Lia Chakhunashvili, the Making Waves project leader based in Tbilisi has asked the two community radios, one in Marneuli and one in Ninotsminda to stop broadcasting through loudspeakers.
Chakunashvili says: “Even though legally they are not even radios – they do not have licenses and it is not clear if the Presidential decree covers them or not – but as a safety measure, I asked them to restrain from broadcasting news and other informational programs until things become clearer.”
The two community radios do not have an official license to broadcast and as a result have been broadcasting on loudspeakers in their local communities whilst waiting for their long-standing broadcasting licenses to be issued. Because people need to gather on the streets around the loudspeakers to listen to them there is concern that as the right to gather is restricted under the state of emergency, this too might cause problems for the radios and for the public.
Both the Marneuli and Ninotsminda teams will continue training volunteers, but without conducting fieldwork or assignments on the streets.
Broadcasting on the loudspeakers will resume as soon as the state of emergency is lifted, which is currently scheduled for the 16th of November.
The piloting of community radio in Georgia is being undertaken through Making Waves: A Community Radio Project for Georgia supported by the European Union with co-funding from the UK Global Conflict Prevention Pool through the British Embassy in Tbilisi, Open Society Georgia Foundation and the Eurasia Foundation. IREX Europe joins in implementing the project through a consortium led by the BBC World Service Trust and including Studio Re, a Georgian nonprofit organization producing TV programming. The project works as well in southern Georgia’s mainly Azeri-speaking enclave of Marneuli.