Georgia dropped almost sixty spots in the latest media freedom report by Reporters Without Borders – going down from the 66th to the 120th place in the rankings. This could be one the larger drops in one year that the index has seen.
The conflict with Russia is mentioned as a key reason for Georgia’s poor performance in the report. It certainly contributed to the fall with the dangers to journalists in conflicts, but restrictions placed on media in Georgia have not helped either and, perhaps, have been the driving force. For example, when anti-government demonstrations were sweeping the country last year, the president simply shut down the independent media.
Earlier this month, this NY Times article painted a bleak picture of media freedom in Georgia. An ombudsman for human rights, for example, notes a gap between laws on paper and what the government actually does in regards to media freedom:
We have some of the best freedom-of-expression laws in the world, but in practice, the government is so afraid of criticism that it has felt compelled to raid media offices and to intimidate journalists and bash their equipment.
Another interesting trend highlighted in the report is that bloggers are targeted as much as journalists in the traditional media.
You can view the index here.