Issue #566

17.06.11 - 23.06.11

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Revenue Service unveils the results of audit inspection of Media Holding’s in a month

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Georgia’s revenue service, an arm of the Finance Ministry of Georgia responsible for tax collection and tax law enforcement has completed the stocktaking of six firms belonging to Palitra Holding, the largest local media group. “The stocktaking is an initial phase, which is followed by a tax audit by the authorities. The results of the inspection will become public in a month,” Maka Pankvelashvili, the Public Relation Manager of the revenue service told Georgia Today.

“It is finalized and it will not hinder the work of the organization,” she added.

Palitra Holdings made an announcement on June 7- the evening after several of its firms became targets of simultaneous audits from the revenue service. The group said the move was “causing suspicion” about possible pressure from the authorities.

Palitra Holdings incorporates five newspapers including the weekly Kviris Palitra, which boasts the largest circulation in Georgia. It also incorporates eleven magazines, the news agency InterPressNews, a book publishing business, the Tbilisi-based FM radio station Palitra, a press distribution agency, several printing houses, as well as a network of twenty- five book stores. The group also runs eleven various websites.

“We are a media business organization and have to be controlled by the Revenue Service but the unplanned inspection of Palitra Holdings makes us suspicious that the authorities plan to have a political influence on our business and editorial independence,” said Marika Darchia, Creative Director of Palitra Holding in a brief interview with Georgia Today.

The audit process immediately generated a wave of concern from other media organizations and many opposition parties.

A series of statements began coming from various opposition politicians and parties with some calling on the authorities to act in line with law and others condemning “an attempt to terrorize” an independent media organization. The news was also followed with series of statements made by various Georgian media organizations, expressing solidarity and support towards the Palitra Media Holdings company.

A large group of media representatives, civil society and human rights activists, as well as politicians from a broad range of opposition parties gathered outside the Palitra Holding headquarters in Tbilisi on June 8 to express solidarity and support towards the company.

The public defender called on the revenue service to explain the cause for such an unscheduled audit of Palitra. ‘We hear every day from the government that it is facilitating development of business, and that it made audit procedures transparent and painless. Hence, the unscheduled audit of Media Palitra was absolutely incomprehensible’, the statement by the public defender says.

The Board of Journalistic Ethics Charter expresses hope that the audit conducted at Media Palitra is not related to their impartial coverage of the events that transpired in May 26.

The Board of Journalistic Ethics Charter expresses solidarity to the journalists of Palitra. The Board called for a transparent audit.

The Board of Journalistic Ethics Charter calls on the diplomatic corps and the international organizations that defend journalists’ rights to not allow the restriction of free speech in Georgia.

‘We appeal to Georgian society to fight together against any open or secret attempt for establishing censorship. We call on society to care for the development of high ethical journalism’, the statement of the Board of Journalistic Ethics Charter said.

Moreover, Palitra made a special statement on June 8 that reads: “The revenue service’s actions provide reasons for society to believe that through the financial violations by media organizations, the authorities will try to exert pressure on the holding.”

By Tamar Khurtsia

16.06.2011

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