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Georgia Gets ‘Last Wake-Up Call’ from European Parliament

The European Parliament heard arguments for a resolution titled “Violations of media freedom and safety of journalists in Georgia” during the plenary session in Strasbourg on June 8. The Parliament is set to vote to on the resolution on June 9.

The cross-party resolution was authored by MEPs Miriam Lexmann, Sven Mikser, Petras Auštrevičius, Markéta Gregorová, Anna Fotyga, and Miguel Urbán Crespo. MEPs Andrius Kubilius (EPP, LT), Marina Kaljurand (S&D, EE), Karin Karlsbro (Renew, SE), Viola von Cramon-Taubadel (Greens, DE), Joachim Kuhs (ID, DE), Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR, PL), Peter Pollak (EPP, SK), and Andrea Cozzolino (S&D, IT) also addressed the session during arguments for the resolution.

MEP Miriam Lexmann (EPP, SK) opened the discussion by stressing that as a nation with aspirations for EU candidacy, “Georgia must adhere to the basic conditions including respect for human rights.”

“Unfortunately, over the past years we are witnessing serious undermining of the media freedom which is part of the broader trend of democratic backsliding in the country.”

Recognizing the Georgian people’s desire for “a free democratic and sovereign Georgia, MEP Lexmann called on the Georgian authorities to utilize the legal framework to ensure “the freedom of expression and the freedom of media to press on with reforms to ensure the independence of the judiciary, to stop political polarization, and reverse the democratic backsliding.”

The MEP emphasized that an important step to supporting Georgia’s European path would be to “impose targeted sanctions on the oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili [ex-PM and Georgian Dream party founder] for his destructive role in the Georgian politics and economy.”

“We will not stand idly by while media freedom continues to deteriorate and there is democratic backsliding which goes against the Georgian people’s European aspirations,” she concluded.

MEP Sven Mikser (S&D, EE) pointed to events, including the July 5, 2021 homophobic pogroms that left over 50 journalists injured and highlighted that the country has “nosedived” in the global media index by the Reporters Without Border over the last two years.

He said despite an existing solid legal framework, “the physical safety of journalists and media representatives has significantly deteriorated,” adding the recent sentencing of opposition TV chief Nika Gvaramia “on rather dubious charges” is a point of concern.

“The recent conduct of the Georgian Government has quite frankly been frustrating and disappointing on many fronts,” he underlined.

MEP Mikser said that a “more resolute, and more demanding line of communication” needs to be adopted with Georgia’s authorities so they “understand that it is they who have to deliver to the Georgian people when it comes to Georgia’s European aspirations.”

The Estonian MEP concluded by urging his colleagues to “carefully analyze the potential consequences and plan for our next steps so our no doubt well-intention steps do not inadvertently undermine the urgent aspirations of the Georgian people or our own strategic interests in the region.”

Marina Kaljurand, (S&D, Estonia): “Some months ago, in this House, we adopted with a very large majority a resolution that called for candidate status to Ukraine. Some weeks ago, we had a good discussion with President of Moldova and recognized the achievements of Moldova’s EU integration. And today we are discussing violation of media freedom and safety of journalists in Georgia. I was not among the initiators of the resolution, I do not consider it being in urgency, but I agree with my colleagues, that there are problems in Georgia that I have also mentioned as the co-chair of EU-Georgia PAC [Parliamentary Association Committee]. The country that some years ago was a frontrunner among our Eastern Partners has recently unfortunately lost its speed and steadfast commitment to the democratic reforms.

I urge Georgian politicians from the governing party as well as from opposition: take today’s discussion as a last wake up call. Put aside party interests, stop blaming each other, and start working together on democratic reforms so needed in Georgia. Window of opportunity is still open. That is what Georgian people are expecting from you.”

MEP Petras Auštrevičius (Renew, LT): lambasted Georgia for “such unacceptable actions as silencing of critical journalists, restricting their access to information, openly threatening and prosecuting them” which goes against the country’s EU candidacy ambitions.

The EU would continue protecting media freedoms in Georgia “even if it means openly criticizing the policies of those in power,” the lawmaker stressed. “These is no room for political meddling in the media.”

The MEP openly stated that where the European Parliament once hoped for the “goodwill and understanding” of Georgian authorities, they now demanded a change in the “state’s policy and attitude.”

“It is time for Tbilisi to understand what is at stake for the future of the country,” he warned.

More to follow.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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