Public Broadcaster assesses problems of students living near occupied line as false information
In December 2021, the Democracy Research Institute (DRI) was applied by several students living near the occupation line, who, for unknown reasons, were denied funding for higher education from the state budget. The letter mentions the local municipality, together with the Ministry of Education and Reconciliation, as the agency responsible for funding.
State assistance, according to the criteria, shall be received by students who had been studying for the last 3 academic years and have received full general education in rural schools adjacent to the dividing line.
It is unclear to students what criteria the Georgian government uses in selecting the villages to be financed when it covers 116 villages in the occupied territories. It is also unclear how three of the ten villages along the dividing line of Zugdidi municipality were selected, or what criteria the local municipalities follow when sending a list of students to be funded by the central government. With this vague and non-transparent system, only a certain group of students gets funding, which raises a number of questions.
According to DRI, all of the above likely represents unequal and unfair treatment of young people. Following the media coverage of this issue, the Georgian Public Broadcaster assessed the non-funding of students as false information without verifying the facts, which represents a violation of the first standard of journalistic ethics. It is unfortunate that the Public Broadcaster, which is funded by the state budget to cover issues that are problematic for the public, did not even get interested in the problems raised by students and covered the issue without verifying information with the local population or students, presenting the problem "students are not funded" as a false narrative.
The Democracy Research Institute appeals to the Georgian Public Broadcaster to deny the information it has incorrectly covered.
The Democracy Research Institute continues to research the issue and will respond to it legally. It is necessary to study this issue in depth, to select the right target groups and settlements. The people living along the already difficult line, where they face security risks, systematic violations of rights, arrests, murders, restrictions on movement, borderization and socio-economic problems, have the right to get information about the above-mentioned procedures and to hope for equal treatment by the state. The problem needs the right and timely solution and not vague, non-transparent, unpredictable procedures, which seriously harm the education of the next generation in an environment already aggravated by the pandemic.