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Georgia Ranks 77th in RSF Press Freedom Ranking

Georgia’s press freedom ranking rose from 89th place in 2022 to 77th in a survey released on May 3 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based press freedom watchdog. RSF notes, however, that official interference undermines efforts to improve press freedom and that the environment is becoming increasingly hostile for independent and opposition media. It is stated that “the country’s saw and an unprecedented number of physical assaults on journalists in 2021”.

The country received a total score of 61.69 points, with the highest score of 76 points in the legislative indicator and the lowest score in the economic criteria with 47.17 points. It scored 75.00 points in the sociocultural context indicator and 48.40 and 61.90 points in the political and security context indicators.

2023 The World Press Freedom Index is a country-by-country survey of the degree of freedom for journalists and covers developments from 2022. It covers 180 countries/territories and is based on a score between 0 and 100, where 100 is the highest level of press freedom and 0 is the worst. The score is calculated on the basis of two components: a qualitative count of abuses against journalists and media outlets; and a quantitative analysis of the situation based on responses by press freedom specialists to an RSF questionnaire.

Starting in 2022, RSF’s press freedom index is compiled using a new methodology based on five contextual indicators: political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context, and safety. Therefore, the watchdog cautioned that comparing this year’s scores to those of previous indexes should be done with caution.

RSF Findings

According to RSF, in Georgia “the media landscape is diverse and, at the same time, highly politically polarized. Manipulation, hate speech and disinformation are widespread in the media, especially on television, the main source of information”. In addition they note, that regional and community radio stations are gaining influence, while readership of print media is declining and that of online news outlets is increasing.

About the Political Context, RSF stressed that media ownership rules are flouted as major networks often serve the interests of owners with political ties, while state-owned media face interference from authorities. Authorities also ignore criticism from media and may use censorship, raids, and smear campaigns.

According to the assessment, in 2022 Georgia’s Government expressed its intention to control independent radio stations and TV networks. This was evident in the proposed changes to the electronic communication law and a “foreign agents” bill, copied from Russia’s, which sparked protests and international opposition.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has emphasized that the advertising market for print and online media is underdeveloped, with funding mostly coming from Western donors. The watchdog also pointed out that certain issues, such as religion, LGBT rights, and Russian influence, generate significant social tensions that impact journalistic coverage. They note: “Influential social figures, such as members of the Orthodox clergy, are electronically monitored by security services, thereby violating journalists’ confidential source protection.”

The report highlights that journalists face verbal and physical attacks, particularly during elections, sometimes by senior government officials. The lack of transparency and progress in the investigation of attacks on journalists in 2021, along with the three-and-a-half-year sentence given to Nika Gvaramia, an opposition TV channel director, indicate the impunity enjoyed by those who attack journalists.

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