(TBILISI, Georgia -- April 1, 2008)
At a private meeting today in Tbilisi, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Jeffrey Gedmin discussed Georgia's bid for NATO membership as well as the country's commitment to press freedom.
During the meeting, Gedmin expressed concern about the November 2007 state of emergency and news blackout, during which RFE/RL programs could not be aired by any of its local media affiliates. RFE/RL's emergency broadcasting on short wave and cross-border AM radio frequencies was the only non-government news source for Georgians.
Afterwards, Gedmin said: "President Saakashvili acknowledges the central role a free media plays in society. He remains a man of principle and intense conviction who is committed to democratic principles and the Western integration of his country."
During a two-day visit to Georgia, Gedmin met with parliamentary and government officials, opposition leaders, and civil society activists. Gedmin also met with broadcasters and journalists at RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau.
"Our democracy is fragile. We need RFE/RL now more than ever," said leading opposition figure and former Georgian Foreign Minister, Salome Zurabichvili, during her meeting with Gedmin. Gedmin gave interviews to several local media outlets, appeared on a major television talk show, and spoke at the Georgia Foundation for Strategic and International Studies.
RFE/RL has been broadcasting news and information in Georgia for nearly 60 years. It is currently on the air for three hours a day on all major radio frequencies and available via the Internet at tavisupleba.org
. In November 2007, RFE/RL inaugurated a one-hour weekly show on Georgian Public Television (GPB) called "Red Zone" which introduces the young generation to forgotten or undiscovered cultural figures and political themes of Georgia's Soviet communist past. This is the second RFE/RL program on local television, following "Tea and Liberty," a Sunday talk show launched in April 2006 on privately owned Imedi Television, Georgia's most popular television network.
English-language news about events in the Republic of Georgia can be found on the RFE/RL website.