Access to Information: Public Institutions and Media


In 2022, the media’s access to information in Georgia continued to decline.  Although the legal framework guarantees access to public information, journalists representing critical media outlets often face difficulties in accessing information that should be publicly available. Public agencies do not respond to journalists’ requests in a timely manner, the requested information is often not provided or provided insufficiently under the pretext of personal data protection and right to privacy. In addition to limiting access to public information, the work of journalists is hindered by selective and discriminatory treatment by  public institutions. There were cases, when Journalists of critical media outlets were not notified about or even denied access to events or regional meetings of government officials. The mechanism of Judicial oversight is ineffective due to extensive delays in reviewing cases related to public information in courts.

Thus, limited access to public information, discriminatory treatment of journalists and ineffective judiciary oversight hinder journalists’ ability to freely receive and verify the information, hold the government accountable and keep the public informed in a timely manner through fact-based information and analysis.



The right to access public information is one of the main mechanisms for exercising effective public control over the government.  Within its role as a watchdog, the ability of the media to freely access public information is a vital aspect of ensuring government accountability in a democratic state. There are several ways for journalists to obtain information from public institutions, including submitting freedom of information (FOI) applications, accessing proactively published information, interviewing heads of state institutions, and utilizing public statements made by government officials. In 2022, the media’s access to information in Georgia continued to deteriorate in all of these areas. 



Freedom of Information is guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia and the Law of Georgia On Broadcasting. Access to public information is also protected by the General Administrative Code of Georgia. In accordance with Georgia’s obligations under the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and Association agreement, experts in the field and non-governmental organizations in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice of Georgia prepared Freedom of Information Act in 2014, although the Government of Georgia has not yet initiated it.   

Although the legal framework guarantees access to public information, journalists often talk about the restrictions that hinder their professional activities. Public agencies do not respond to journalists’ requests in a timely manner, the requested information is often not provided or provided partially under the pretext of personal data protection.


Difficulties in accessing information

In its resolution on violations of media freedom and the safety of journalists in Georgia, published on June 9, 2022, the European Parliament noted that journalists, particularly those from media channels critical of the government, face difficulties in accessing information that should be publicly available.

This is, in part, due to public institutions’ clear violations of the requirements of law as well as indifferent attitude towards public information requests, which present a significant obstacle for journalists. These trends were further confirmed by the research of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), which outlined detailed statistical evidence of the practical and normative problems that hinder effective access to public information by journalists in its November 2022 report “Access to Public Information by the Media: Legislation v. Reality.”

Public institutions regularly violate legal time limits for providing public information, and failing to respond to public information requests is now a commonly shared practice among public bodies. In particular, some institutions, such as the Government of Georgia and the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs of Georgia, have garnered a reputation of failing  to respond to any requests submitted by journalists. A lack of uniform approach to administrative complaints has also become a problematic trend, with many government representatives justifying their refusal to provide information with arguments that have no legal basis (such as contractual non-disclosure clauses, denying FOI requests because of the information being “not processed in specific form” or not issuing information because “it will be presented in annual report”).

Journalists also face difficulties in accessing information due to restrictions based on legislation. This includes limited access to documents that contain personal data and broad interpretations of certain provisions of the Administrative Code used by government agencies to limit the release of public information. 

Proactive disclosure of public information also remains problematic. The Administration of the Government of Georgia, for instance, neither publishes decrees adopted by the government on its website nor does it disclose them in the form of public information when requested by interested parties. According to Article 22(3) of the Rules of Procedure of the Government of Georgia, decrees shall be uploaded on the Government’s website no later than 3 working days after their adoption. Despite this clear indication in the legislation, the government has not fulfilled this obligation since 2020, which has made it increasingly difficult for the media and the public to monitor the government’s decisions.

Discrimination against journalists

Beyond the accessibility of public information through FOI requests and proactive disclosure, selective and discriminatory treatment toward journalists by  public institutions is evident. On numerous occasions, journalists of media outlets that are critical of the ruling Georgian Dream party were not notified about events or regional meetings of government officials.

In some cases, journalists from critical media organizations have been barred from entering public institutions for interviews with government officials. For instance, after preparing a critical report on the systematic violations of the government to disclose its decrees proactively or through FOI requests, a journalist from Business Media Georgia was refused entry into a government building three consecutive times in September 2022 as she attempted to interview relevant officials. This ban was lifted only after she submitted a request to the Public Defender’s Office to investigate alleged discrimination. Notably, a similar case of discrimination occurred in March 2022 when a journalist from TV Pirveli was restricted from entering the parliament building.

In 2022, key government officials continued to boycott critical media outlets by refusing to engage with them at public events or take questions from them. In several cases, key representatives of the ruling party were recorded insulting journalists or acting verbally aggressive towards them. This ongoing boycott is not only contributing to an increasingly hostile and polarized media environment, but it also restricts the media from asking questions, holding the government accountable for its actions, and providing information to the public.

Lack of oversight mechanisms

Notably, there are no effective external oversight mechanisms in Georgia to deal with public information requests and their related violations. The Public Defender’s Office is equipped with the authority to address relevant government bodies with proposals and recommendations in the case it finds a violation of human rights based on individual applications and complaints. This also applies to the right to access public information. However, these proposals and recommendations are non-binding, and there is no FOI Commissioner or other equivalent body in Georgia that ensures unhindered and effective access to public information.

In the absence of effective external administrative oversight, the judiciary acts as the primary vehicle for ensuring legal requirements around public information are enforced. However, repeated violations of procedural time limits and extensive delays in reviewing cases related to public information in Georgia’s legal system have rendered judicial oversight ineffective. The average length of time to resolve a case related to public information, from submitting a complaint and initiating a lawsuit by the interested party to the final settlement of the dispute, is 2.5 years. Such delays in resolving public information cases virtually preclude the effectiveness of judicial control over administrative bodies and encourage their noncompliance.

Parliamentary control over public institutions also lacks effectiveness. On April 19, 2022 a thematic research group established by the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee of the Georgian Parliament issued 13 main recommendations on public information reports, which have thus far not been implemented.


Systematic violations of legislation in practice and a lack of effective control over public institutions has created a fertile ground for restricting the right to access information in Georgia. It has significantly reduced the ability of journalists to create evidence-based reports, inform the public properly, and hold the government accountable for its actions. Moreover, an increasing number of cases have been observed in the last year that indicate politicians in the executive branch are intentionally authorizing such malpractices. Without effective oversight or checks on the government, these practices of restricting information will continue to present a challenge to the media in Georgia and increasingly contribute to a hostile and polarized media environment.

Photo Credit: IDFI