Georgia’s press freedom score has declined in 2018 over the previous year, according to the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, a study by the Paris-based watchdog group Reporters Without Borders.
Georgia, according to the survey, is ranked 60th in the table of 180 countries with 28.98 points. Last year, Georgia had 27.34 points and was placed 61st.
The index rankings are based on a scale of 1 to 100, with 0 representing the highest and 100 the lowest level of press freedom.
None of the countries in the former Soviet Union (except Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are ranked ahead of Georgia. Armenia and Georgia are tied with 28.98 points, but the former is ranked 61st.
“Georgia’s media landscape is pluralist but still very polarized. The reforms of recent years have brought improvements in media ownership transparency and satellite TV pluralism, but owners often still call the shots on editorial content,” the organization said in its index-related assessment on Georgia.
The Reporters Without Borders then noted that the “outcome of the continuing dispute” over ownership of Rustavi 2, “the main national opposition TV channel,” would “therefore have a big impact.”
“Violence against journalists is less frequent although threats are often reported,” the organization added.
It also touched upon the case of Afgan Mukhtarli, saying the Azerbaijani journalist’s “mysterious abduction” in Tbilisi in 2017 and his reappearance in police custody in Azerbaijan, “was shocking for Georgians, who have traditionally offered a refuge to dissidents from neighboring countries.”
The investigation “has yet to produce any convincing results,” according to the assessment.
The degree of freedom is determined by pooling the responses of experts to a questionnaire devised by the Reporters Without Borders. This qualitative analysis is then combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated.