Photo by Zurab Tsertsvadze | picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS

MFRR partners call for lifting ban on journalists’ access to Georgian parliament

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) condemn the barring of journalists from reporting within the Parliament of Georgia. We urge the Parliament to reinstate the accreditation of all journalists including online media.

 

 

Since the start of the debate on the foreign agent bill titled “Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence in Georgia,” journalists from online outlets have been barred from the Parliament. On May 27, Speaker of the Parliament Shalva Papuashvili signed a decree on “enhancing security levels,” indefinitely barring online media journalists and visitors from attending parliamentary sessions.

 

Since June 3, four journalists of government-critical television channels have also been barred. Nini Balanchivadze of Mtavari Arkhi was banned for one month at the request of ruling Georgian Dream MP Nino Tsilosani after Balanchivadze asked Tsilosani to comment on potential U.S. sanctions against Georgia’s authorities. Tsilosani refused to answer, stating she does not give interviews to Mtavari Arkhi journalists. When Balanchivadze repeated her question, Tsilosani threatened to issue a sanction against her.

 

On June 4, Sopho Gozalishvili of  Formula TV was banned from Parliament for six months also after approaching Tsilosani for an interview. In the video released by Formula TV, Tsilosani accuses Formula TV of being a fascist television.

 

Nata Kajaia and Maka Chikhladze, working for TV Pirveli, had their accreditation suspended at the request of Sozar Subari and Guram Matcharashvili, MPs of People’s Power party, which is closely aligned with the Georgian Dream party.

 

All of the suspensions were based on a breach of the parliamentary code of conduct for journalists established by the Speaker, Papuashvili, in March 2023, which requires journalists to immediately terminate an interview if objected to by an MP, staff member, or guest.

 

Barring journalists from the Parliament represents yet another step by Georgia’s authorities in  its crackdown on independent media. The barring of journalists from Parliament deprives the public of information on the activities of the legislative branch. 

 

We urge the authorities to stop misusing the Speaker’s decree to silence journalists and to immediately lift the arbitrary ban on online media’s presence in Parliament. 

 

Furthermore, we reiterate our call to authorities to guarantee the safety of journalists and to ensure that the country’s media can operate freely, without being subjected to derogatory or insulting comments from the authorities.

 

We also appeal to the Public Defender (Ombudsman) of Georgia Levan Ioseliani to investigate the issue and help end the practice of barring journalists from Parliament. The Public Defender must play a crucial role in safeguarding press freedom in Georgia and protecting its embattled independent media.

 

 

 

 

Signed:

 

International Press Institute (IPI)

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

This statement was coordinated as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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