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On air on Rustavi 2’s talk show, Archevani,

the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, stated: “In terms of democratic standards, our country is much more advanced in the post-Soviet space, be it in media freedom or in steps toward democratic development.”

FactCheck

took interest in the accuracy of the statement.

FactCheck has already written

about Georgia’s media environment. This time, however, we took interest in whether or not the country occupies leading positions among the post-Soviet countries in terms of media freedom and democratic development.

According to the Freedom House’s (Nations in Transition) report,

which includes the summary data of 2015, Georgia was again classified as a transitional government or hybrid regime. In the ranking of 12 post-Soviet countries, Georgia is in the first place (4.61) in terms of its democracy score and is ahead of Azerbaijan (6.86), Armenia (5.36), Belarus (6.54), Kazakhstan (6.61), Kyrgyzstan (5.89), Moldova (4.89), Russia (6.50), Tajikistan (6.54), Turkmenistan (6.93), Ukraine (4.68) and Uzbekistan (6.93). Of these post-Soviet countries, only Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova were classified as hybrid regimes whilst other countries are categorised as consolidated authoritarian regimes. The only exceptions are Armenia and Kyrgyzstan which were ranked as partially consolidated authoritarian regimes. The Baltic countries are not part of the post-Soviet country list because of their membership in NATO and the EU. These countries are classified as countries of a consolidated democracy.

Of note is that Georgia, under both the previous and incumbent governments, was developing in a positive direction. The country was in leading positions according to 2008-2011 and 2013-2016 data and held the second place after Ukraine among other post-Soviet countries in the period of 2008-2011. In 2012, Ukraine and Georgia were awarded with the same amount of points with Georgia moving to the first position among the post-Soviet countries according to the 2013-2016 data.

Table 1: 

Georgia’s Democratic Governance Index in 2007-2016

The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7 with 1 representing the highest level and 7 the lowest level
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
4.68 4.79 4.93 4.93 4.86 4.82 4.75 4.68 4.64 4.61
Source: Freedom House

Together with positive assessments about Georgia, the aforementioned report also emphasises a stagnation and regress in certain fields. Close attention is paid to the extremely polarised media environment and problems in regard to media freedom in the country; namely, the Rustavi 2 case which is under intense scrutiny. The report also highlights other indicators of pressure on the media and includes facts of the closure of several popular TV talk shows which was perceived as pressure from the ruling power.

In terms of media independence, Georgia has leading positions among the post-Soviet countries and maintains the 4.00 score of 2014-2015 together with Ukraine. This means that Georgia’s position improved as compared to 2008-2012 and puts it ahead of Moldova (5.00), Russia (6.5), Azerbaijan (7.0), Armenia (5.75), Belarus (6.75), Kazakhstan (6.75), Kyrgyzstan (6.00), Tajikistan (6.25), Turkmenistan (7.00) and Uzbekistan (7.00).

Table 2:

 Media Independence Index in Georgia in 2007-2016

Years 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Media Independence 4.00 4.25 4.25 4.25 4.25 4.25 4.25 4.00 4.00 4.00
Source: Freedom House

According to the Reporters without Borders’ 2016 report,

Georgia has a leading position (64) among the post-Soviet countries although media polarisation and media independence are listed as problems. In the 2016 report, Georgia moved five positions ahead as compared to the previous year owing to the worsening indicators of other countries. In regard to ranking points, this worsened slightly from 27.70 to 27.96.

Table 3: 

Reporters without Borders’ Media Freedom Index in Post-Soviet Countries, 2016 Report

Azerbaijan Armenia Belarus Moldova Turkmenistan Georgia Ukraine Uzbekistan Russia
163 74 157 76 178 64 107 166 148
Source: Reporters without Borders

According to the Economist’s Intelligence Unit’s summary report

of 2015, Georgia is in the second position with 5.88 points, after Moldova, among the post-Soviet countries in terms of democracy and is classified as a hybrid regime. Georgia is also ahead of the following post-Soviet countries – Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Russia and Turkmenistan.

Table 4:

 Democracy Index, 2015

Azerbaijan Armenia Belarus Moldova Turkmenistan Georgia Ukraine Uzbekistan Russia
149 116 127 70 162 82 88 158 132
Source: Economist’s Intelligence Unit

Table 5:

 Democracy Index in 2006-2015

Years 2006 2008 2010 2012 2013 2014 2015
Georgia 4.90 4.62 4.59 5.53 5.95 5.82 5.88
Source: Economist’s Intelligence Unit

Conclusion

According to Freedom House’s 2016 report, Georgia is in the first place in terms of democracy among the 12 post-Soviet countries. Georgia also has a leading position in term of media independence, together with Ukraine, among these countries.

According to the Reporters without Border’s 2016 report on media freedom, Georgia placed first among the post-Soviet countries.

In regard to the Economist

’s Intelligence Unit’s 2015 summary report, Georgia is in the second place (82) among the post-Soviet countries, just after Moldova (70), but the country is classified as a hybrid regime. This attests to the fact that despite being in leading positions among the post-Soviet countries, the level of democracy in Georgia is still unsatisfactory.

FactCheck concludes that the President’s statement is MOSTLY TRUE.

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