Media Coalition: State Uses Levers to Discredit Netgazeti, Batumelebi Outlets

Coalition for Media Advocacy, uniting local media watchdogs released a statement on July 6, saying the state bodies are using levers against Netgazeti and Batumelebi – two related online media outlets based in Tbilisi and Batumi, respectively – to discredit quality media.

The Coalition reiterated calls on the government to respect the work of media and ensure environment in which journalists and their respective outlets are not subjects to “political attacks and discreditation.”

The Coalition’s statement comes a day after a web platform Media Critic founded by the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) published an article slamming Netgazeti and other media outlets as sources of “disinformation and fake news.”

On its part, a critical piece by Media Critic responded to Netgazeti’s July 3 article in which online media outlet discussed the reasons why GNCC had publicly slammed some of the signatories of an open letter sent to Facebook by 47 Georgian civil society and media organizations.

GNCC spoke of “double standards,” maintaining that some of the media and civil society organizations calling for Facebook ad transparency are themselves against transparency of broadcasters by fiercely opposing implementation of 2013 Law of Georgia on Broadcasting.

In its today’s statement, the Media Coalition stressed that while GNCC uses its Media Critic platform for “attacking” independent media outlets, that puts under the question the editorial independence of Media Critic platform itself.

The Coalition wrote that Batumelebi newspaper, associated with Netgazeti, has also become the subject of attacks by Lado Mgaloblishvili, ruling Georgian Dream MP of Adjara Supreme Council. Mgaloblishvili  accused the outlet in “deliberately creating a noisy headline” for his interview.

Earlier in June, he went as far to call one of Batumelebi journalists, Jaba Ananidze, “a disgraceful person” and “a fake news maker.”

The Coalition considers that the content of both attacks are similar, and that – GNCC and the local ruling party lawmaker – aim to discredit “objective and impartial platforms” as the sources of disinformation and fake news.

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