Georgia Slips in Press Freedom Ranking

Georgia’s press freedom ranking declined dramatically from the 60th place in 2021 to 89th in a new survey released today by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Paris-based press freedom watchdog.

This is the country’s worst performance in the world-wide survey since 2013, when the country was placed 100th in the ranking. The place falls into a problematic situation category.

The country’s total score amounted to 59.30 points, with the highest 80.79 points in legal framework indicator and the lowest in the safety criteria with 41.34. It garnered 75.50 points in sociocultural context indicator, and 52,42 and 46.43 points for political and economic contexts, respectively.

2022 World Press Freedom Index is a country-by-country survey on the level of freedom available to journalists and covers developments of 2021. Covering 180 countries/territories, the ranking is based on a score ranging from 0 to 100, where 100 is the highest level of press freedom, while 0 is the worst.

The score is calculated based on two components, with qualitative tally of abuses against journalists and against media outlets; and a quantitative analysis of the situation based on responses of press freedom specialists to an RSF questionnaire.

This year, RSF’s press freedom index was compiled according to a new methodology, based on five contextual indicators, including political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context, and safety. Thus, the watchdog said, the comparison of this year’s scores to those of previous indexes should be treated with caution.

RSF Assessments

In its assessments, Reporters Without Borders said the Georgian Government’s interference undermined efforts to improve press freedom. “In 2021, the country recorded an unprecedented level of physical violence against journalists.”

Speaking of the safety of media workers, the RSF asserted that verbal and physical attacks on journalists are common in Georgia, including by senior government officials, particularly during elections.

“The lynching of some 50 reporters during homophobic counter-demonstrations in July 2021, in front of impassive security forces, marked an unprecedented setback. The lack of transparency and progress in investigations is a testament to the impunity enjoyed by crimes against journalists in the country.”

The watchdog also took note that powerful public figures, including of the Orthodox Christian clergy, are wiretapped by the security services, violating the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.

RSF further asserted that while Georgia’s media landscape enjoys plurality, it is characterized by strong political polarization. “Owners often retain control over editorial content, such as the opposition channel Rustavi 2, which changed its editorial line after being sold to a former owner.”

It noted that public media are also subject to interference by the authorities.

RSF said that in contrast to previous reforms to enhance media pluralism and transparency, the Georgian Government demonstrated its willingness to control independent radio and television stations through a reform of the Law on Electronic Communications.

“The authorities sometimes target media that criticize them through censorship, searches, and intimidation,” it added.

RSF further stated that the Courts sometimes attempted to challenge the confidentiality of sources, which is guaranteed by the Law on the Freedom of Expression.

In comparison, Moldova takes 40th place Armenia ranks 51st, and Russian attacked Ukraine stands at 106th place. Neighboring Turkey occupies 149th place, while Belarus, Azerbaijan and Russia stand at 153th, 154th, and 155th places, respectively.

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