DRI: The 7th recommendation of the European Commission on an independent media environment has not been implemented

According to the assessment of the Democracy Research Institute, the Georgian Dream plan regarding the implementation of the 7th recommendation of the European Commission, which obliges the State to guarantee an independent media environment, did not comply with the requirements of the European Commission. Georgian Dream undertook to publish information only on the "relevant cases".

Recommendation 7 of the European Commission: "Undertake stronger efforts to guarantee a free, professional, pluralistic and independent media environment, notably by ensuring that criminal procedures brought against media owners fulfil the highest legal standards, and by launching impartial, effective and timely investigations in cases of threats against the safety of journalists."

The part of the Georgian Dream plan related to media freedom was particularly vague. The Government did not specify deadlines for the implementation of the plan, nor any specific actions, except for the obligation to publish information on the "relevant cases".

Georgian Dream did nor make efforts to change the situation in the direction of media independence. On the contrary, the toughening of sentence for Nika Gvaramia by the Tbilisi Court of Appeal on November 2, 2022 raised additional questions. Nika Gvaramia's case is also mentioned in the resolution of the European Parliament, which strongly criticizes the inaction of the Georgian authorities regarding the violence of July 5, 2021, as a result of which journalists were injured.

The aforementioned resolution of the European Parliament was preceded by the June 9, 2022 resolution on media freedom and safety of journalists in Georgia, where the situation of media freedom in Georgia is assessed as the most severe.

The resolution: endorses the call for a review of Nika Gvaramia's conviction; calls on the Georgian authorities to resolutely uphold the highest standards of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms; calls on Georgia to restrict the use of strategic lawsuits against public participation that target human rights defenders and media representatives, which serve to inhibit their critical and independent work; reiterates its call on the Georgian authorities to refrain from interfering in media freedom or pursuing politically motivated judicial cases against media owners or representatives; strongly denounces the persistent lack of diligent investigations or prosecutions of those responsible for the violence against journalists on 5 July 2021, as a result of which one journalist died; calls on the Council of Europe and democratic partners to consider imposing personal sanctions on oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili for the level of control he exerts over the Government and its decisions, including those on the politically motivated persecution of journalists and political opponents.

In order to assess the implementation of the 7th recommendation of the European Commission, the European Commission will carefully observe whether the criminal cases against media owners and managers have met the standards required by the European Union. Unfortunately, Georgia has not made progress in this regard.