“Bureaucratic Scalpel” Against Critical Media
One year before the parliamentary elections, when the openness of the Parliament and increased access to information about the activities of individual parliamentarians are even more important, the Parliament has become an even more closed and opaque institution for representatives of the critical media. Systematic interference in journalistic activities was further intensified by the revised accreditation regulations adopted in 2023, which introduced punitive mechanisms against critical media representatives, worsened access to information and, consequently, the quality of informing the public.
We would like to remind you that the Committee to Protect Journalists reacted to the new accreditation rule and called on the Parliament of Georgia to reject the regulations. The civil society sector criticized the introduction of the revised procedures for accrediting journalists to the Parliament, which were adopted without prior discussion. From the very beginning, the revised regulations led to speculation that the ruling team would use the new rule to restrict critical media.
On April 12, 2023, Transparency International Georgia submitted a request to the Parliament for public information on the current situation of media representatives in the legislature after the adoption of the new accreditation regulations. The Parliament did not respond to our questions, namely: how many media representatives are accredited to the Parliament (the list of accredited journalists is not publicly available on the Parliament’s website), how many media outlets have been denied accreditation, how many media representatives (journalists, cameramen, etc.) have had their parliamentary accreditation suspended, etc.
Based on publicly available information, 11 critical media representatives have had their accreditation suspended since the accreditation rule was enacted, namely:
- In March, the Parliament suspended the accreditation of three Publika journalists and the editor of Tabula (after the fact was made public, the legislature restored the accreditation of two Publika journalists and the editor of Tabula).
- In April, the Parliament suspended the accreditation of the journalist and the cameraman of TV Pirveli, the journalist and the cameraman of Mtavari Arkhi TV, and the journalist of Formula TV.
- In May, the Parliament suspended the accreditation of the journalist and the cameraman of Formula TV.
In theory, media accreditation is a mechanism for promoting greater transparency and professional activities, but in authoritarian regimes it can be used to increase control and pressure on the media. To this end, accreditation procedures first become more bureaucratic and then turn into a punitive mechanism.
In democratic countries, the rule of accreditation of journalists helps the institution to become more transparent, and the media - to obtain information of public interest. The practice established in Georgia in recent months shows that the regulation is a punitive mechanism against critical journalists, it prevents transparency of parliamentary activities and citizens’ access to information.
As a result of the new media accreditation rule, we have an even less accountable legislature with fewer critical questions being heard. By harassing critical media and civil society organizations, the government is ignoring the core values and principles of the Open Government Platform, effectively stalling the national OGP process and important reforms.
In addition, the refusal to provide public information has reached a critical point in the country, while the representatives of the ruling party reject traditional forms of cooperation with critical media (recording interviews in a business format, visiting and participating in TV programs, participating in debates). Journalists note that the only forced choice for them to communicate with the government and obtain information (especially when working on exclusive and/or investigative materials) is the “practice of chasing them in the corridors.” This form can lead to the discrediting and downgrading of the media and, at the same time, create an additional pretext to limit the work of a journalist in the legislature under the new rule.
In a parliamentary republic, the transformation of the people’s representative body into a closed agency poses a particular threat to the democratic development of the country and prevents the implementation of good governance.
The established practice of the new accreditation rule in the Parliament of Georgia risks increasing self-censorship in the media and will have a chilling effect. Maintaining this trend will further deepen polarization, impede the free flow of critical information, and restrict freedom of speech and expression.
In view of the pending EU candidate status, it is crucial that the Parliament ensures greater openness (including cooperation with critical media in the format of professional standards, publishing information about accredited journalists on its website, providing public information in a timely manner and in accordance with the law, etc.), immediately changes the new accreditation rule for journalists and the established vicious practice of harassing critical media.