Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili touched upon the issue of media freedom in Georgia at a press conference held on 4 June 2014. He stated: “If somebody does not believe that the media is absolutely free today, it is a great injustice. Check the reports of the international organisations and see which place Georgia holds in terms of media freedom. We rank first place in the region.”
FactCheck took interest in the statement of the Prime Minister and verified its accuracy.
The international organisation Reporters Without Borders publishes the World Press Freedom Index annually. The index covers 180 countries and analyses the data from the previous year.
In the 2014 Index Georgia holds the 84th place among 180 countries. According to the same indicator, Georgia held the 100th place in 2013. Therefore, Georgia has improved its position in the World Press Freedom Index by 16 places. Georgia held the 105th place in the index in 2012.
In 2014, Finlands tops the Index, followed closely by the Netherlands and Norway, like last year.
The report by Reporters Without Borders states that Georgia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia all enjoy a significant degree of pluralism and relatively little state censorship. The report also emphasises that social polarisation is reflected in the media and the editorial independence of the media still remains a big challenge. Elections in Georgia and Armenia in 2013 were reported as having been calmer than previous ones. Violence against journalists was rare.
We also reviewed the last reports of the EAP Media Freedom Index. EAP East Media Freedom Watch is funded by the European Union. Media freedom is assessed by the following categories: political context (the level of media freedom and rights guaranteed by a country’s constitution), restrictions on media freedom (attacks, detentions, censorship), access to broadcasting and the internet.
According to the 2013 March-June EAP Media Freedom Index, Georgia ranked first place among Eastern Partnership countries in terms of media freedom. According to the 2013 July- September EAP Media Freedom Index, Georgia moved to the second place in the ranking while Moldova ranked first place. Georgia still held a leadership position in the 2013 October-December EAP Media Freedom Index, Moldova ranked second place, Armenia- third, Ukraine- fourth, Azerbaijan-fifth and Belarus ranked last place.
It should be noted here that Georgia ranks the 84th place in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2014 World Press Freedom Index among the Eastern Partnership countries while Moldova ranks the 28th place and Armenia fall six places behind Georgia. However, it is noteworthy that unlike Georgia, Moldova and Armenia have deteriorated in their rankings as compared to those of the previous year.
Georgia holds the 93rd place among 197 countries in the Freedom of the Press 2014 report by the Freedom House. Georgia ranked 96th place in the same ranking last year. Georgia ranks first place in the Eurasia region which comprises 12 countries. Despite improving its position, Georgia still belongs to the group of countries with a “partly free” media. It should also be noted that in the Eurasia region only Georgia and Moldova have a partly free media. Media in the rest of the countries from the region is not free.
FactCheck analysed the reports of international organisations such as Reporters Without Borders, EAP East Media Freedom Watch and Freedom Watch. Georgia has significantly improved its position in the World Press Freedom Index published in 2014. In addition, Georgia ranks first in the Eurasia region as well as among the countries of the Eastern Partnership. However, international reports do not confirm that the Georgian media is “absolutely free” and, therefore, the Prime Minister’s statement regarding this issue is exaggerated. Specifically, according to the report of Freedom House, Georgia still falls under the countries with a “partly free” media.
Accordingly, we conclude that the Prime Minister’s statement, “Media is absolutely free today. Check the reports of the international organisations and see which place Georgia holds in terms of media freedom. We rank first place in the region,” is HALF TRUE.