The Media Advocacy Coalition is reacting to recent alarming cases that indicate worsening of the media environment Georgia, where journalists are already encounter difficult working conditions. Attacks by the Speaker of Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, against the leading media outlet "Mtis Ambebi" and his attempts to censor independent media outlet OC Media are dangerous. Also, the decision by the Special Investigation Service to close the case of the attack on Misha Mshvildadze is also alarming.
· The Parliament Speaker, Shalva Papuashvili, persists in his aggressive campaign against "Mtis Ambebi" outlet. The Speaker has personally targeted the editor of the outlet, Gela Mtivlishvili, branding him as a "self-styled journalist". Noting that his outlet will not engage in discussions with politicians, Gela Mtivlishvili asserted that "any statement of this kind by him (Shalva Papuashvili) and other leaders of the Georgian Dream party is detrimental to the working environment of the media andmakes it more dangerous".
· According to independent outlet OC Media, Speaker Shalva Papuashvili sent a letter to its donors expressing his discontent after being denied the opportunity to publish an opinion piece. Despite the fact that OC Media provided the representative of the Speaker's Office with objective reasons for refusing to publish his op-ed, the Speaker attempted to influence the outlet by sending a letter to its benefactors and censoring it.
· The Special Investigation Service has closed the case of attack against Misha Mshvildadze, co-founder of the Formula TV channel. According to Mshvildadze's lawyer, the Special Investigation Service failed to provide the victim with video footage relevant to the case. It also failed to take into account evidence discovered by Formula during its journalistic investigation.
Widespread public, civil society and media opposition prevented the Georgian Dream from passing the 'Russian Law', which aimed, among other things, to eliminate independent media in the country, but Shalva Papuashvili's actions and statements suggest that the government is still acting in the spirit of the 'Russian Law' and pressuring the media.
The assaults on media owners and exertions to pressure independent online media channels undermine the journalists' efforts to carry out their own professional duties. These actions not only curtail the information available to the public, but also erode the country's remaining democratic institutions.
The Media Advocacy Coalition urges the governing party to swiftly implement measures to safeguard media freedom. In view of the country's aspirations for European integration, it is crucial to maintain the upholding of freedom of speech and expression.