IFJ Calls for Guarantees on Press Freedom ahead of Elections in Georgia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the authorities in Georgia to guarantee independence of media ahead of the general elections due to take place on 1 October.

"Past elections in Georgia have been marred by attempts to control media and obstruct independent reporting, "said IFJ President, Jim Boumelha. "There is now an opportunity for the government to demonstrate its commitment to open governance and democratic rule by allowing journalists to operate freely and safely during the pre-election period."  

According to the Independent Association of Georgian Journalists (IAGJ), an IFJ affiliate, there have been nearly fifty cases of harassment, threats or attacks against journalists since the middle of last year 2011. Many private media outlets were simply prevented from operating. The IFJ is concerned by reports of the government's measures to limit the freedom of journalists during the elections by imposing restricted areas for reporters.

In recent months, the Government attempted also to obstruct activities of independent media outlets with the modification of the tender process for press distribution booths in the capital city and the dismantling of satellite antennas of private companies, reports say.

The situation of press freedom further deteriorated with the violent police crackdown of the opposition protest rally in May 2011 as well as the arrest in the last July 2012 of photo reporters for alleged "espionage". Journalists were beaten and their professional equipment was intentionally destroyed.

The IFJ says that these incidents undermine freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

"Media clampdown is always misguided and counterproductive," added Boumelha. ‘ Democracy will not take hold in Georgia unless the authorities wise up to the reality that journalism is a public good and create an environment which is conducive to independent reporting."

The IAGJ has also condemned media repression in Georgia, describing it as a violation of the Georgian public's right to information.

"We want journalists to work freely before the elections, but also after the elections, whatever the outcome will be," said IAGJ. "We cannot accept that journalists, and therefore the Georgian citizens, are victims of political pressure either from the government, from the opposition or from intrusive owners."

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries