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Tuesday | 02 June, 2015

How does press freedom in Georgia compare to Eastern Europe?

Georgia’s media was once again ranked the most free in Eurasia in Freedom House’s 2015 Freedom of the Press report, released on April 28, 2015. On Freedom House’s scale, in which countries receive a score from 0 (the most free) to 100 (the least free), Georgia’s rating of 48 places it firmly in the ‘partly free’ category. Amid an overall worsening picture for press freedom in Eurasia – and worldwide – Georgia showed one of the biggest improvements in the world, with press freedom advancing by 7 points over the previous five years. Reasons for the recent improvements include the 2013 passage of the so-called “must carry” legislation, reduced political influence over broadcast media and increased media competition.

Georgia is currently ranked 93rd in the world in the Freedom House report, on par with Lesotho, Senegal and Tunisia, and above EU member state Greece, which received a score of 51. Since the country’s independence, Georgians have aspired to closer ties with the European Union, so it is important to ask how press freedom in Georgia compares with recent EU member states such as Romania, Hungary and Poland. This blog post tries to answer this question based on the Freedom House data.

Despite the noted improvements, Georgia has always – and continues to – fare worse than most countries in Europe. For instance, Freedom House has classed Poland’s press as free (score 30 or below) every year since 1991, despite a gradual decline since 2003. In contrast, Romania’s media has been considered ‘partly free’ every year since 1994, with greater variation over the 20-year period compared to Poland. Hungary, which was roughly level with Poland between 2004 and 2010, has seen press freedom sharply decline over the past five years, with Freedom House noting it has “suffered from increased state regulation and other interference since 2010.” Still, Freedom House rates all three countries as having a freer press than Georgia.

Hungary provides a good example that even stable democracies can regress, so vigilance is even more necessary in hybrid regimes such as Georgia, which are neither wholly democratic nor wholly authoritarian. Georgia has consistently been considered as such by major democracy indexes, including Freedom House. Indeed, Georgia’s press freedom scores in 2014 and 2015 only bring it back to the level it first reached in 2000, after sharp improvements during the 1990s were followed by a decade of a more restrictive media environment.


Since 2002, Freedom House has looked at three categories when rating press freedom – the legal, political, and economic environments. The scores from each category are summed to produce the final rating. Looking at data from Georgia since this system was first used shows that the biggest factor contributing to the improvement of Georgia’s score has been the political environment in the country. This factor monitors the extent of political control over the content of news media, taking into consideration editorial independence, media diversity and vibrancy, access to information and sources, censorship, and harassment and intimidation of journalists.
 
The legal environment contributing to press freedom – such as constitutional guarantees on freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary – has slowly worsened since 2002, with slight improvements between 2008 and 2012.


To what extent do indexes such as Freedom House’s reflect how Georgians themselves perceive their media? Data from CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey between 2008 and 2013, which asked respondents to assess their level of trust toward the media, show that distrust in the media has remained relatively stable since 2008, ranging between 16% in 2008 and 12% in 2013, all changes being within the margin of error. However, there has been a dramatic decrease in the share of Georgians who state that they fully trust the media – down from 50% in 2008 to 24% in 2013. At the same time, the share of those answering “neither trust nor distrust” the media has almost doubled during the same period. This suggests that public trust in the media is driven in Georgia by other factors than those considered by Freedom House’s index.


Public opinion data suggests that substantial problems remain in the media environment in Georgia. While Georgia’s Freedom House rating is edging closer to other transition countries that are EU member states, such as Hungary and Romania, it is not solely because the situation in Georgia is improving, but because the situation in much of Europe is deteriorating. Notably, Freedom House’s changing press freedom scores do not match up with population’s reported trust in the media in Georgia, which suggests that it may be a good idea for organizations like Freedom House to adjust its scoring methodology.
 
What do you think could be at the root of this divergence? Join in the conversation on our Facebook page and take a look at this Caucasus Analytical Digest article on political country rankings in the South Caucasus.
05.10.2015 | Monday

Think Tanks in Armenia: Who Needs their Thinking?

[Editor's note: This is the third in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia.]

By Yevgenya Jenny Paturyan

Think tanks are considered to be an important part of civil society: providers and keepers of expertise on important social, economic, environmental, political and other issues. Organizations like Chatham House and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace come to mind. In addition to ‘pure’ think tanks, there is a plethora of organizations that combine research with advocacy and action, Transparency International being a prominent example.
29.09.2015 | Tuesday

The lay of the land: An interview with Hans Gutbrod on think tanks in the South Caucasus

[Editor's note: This is the second in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia.]

Interview by Dustin Gilbreath

Dustin Gilbreath: You recently recently pointed out that think tanks in the South Caucasus have come a long way in recent years, but that they still face challenges on some of the fundamentals – quality of research, policy relevance, funding, and operational acumen.  At the national rather than regional level, what are the relative strengths of and challenges before the think tank sector of each country?
28.09.2015 | Monday

Thinking about think tanks in the South Caucasus

[Editor's note: This is the first in a series of blog posts co-published with On Think Tanks. The views expressed within this blog series are the authors alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia]

By: Dustin Gilbreath

Starting from similarly troubled slates at the turn of independence, the South Caucasus countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia – have diverged over the last 25 years, and the region is an interesting case of divergence despite similarity. While in Azerbaijan the government is squeezing the last bit of free expression from the country, Georgia is having its problems but is by far the freest place in the region. Armenia still has space for engagement, but it is not as open as Georgia.
14.09.2015 | Monday

The Georgian public on journalists

Over the last month, a number of scandals have emerged on the Georgian media landscape. On August 7th, Rustavi 2, a national television station often associated with the previously governing United National Movement (UNM), had its assets frozen in response to Kibar Khalvashi’s claim that he was wrongfully denied his ownership rights of the station during the UNM’s governance. More recently, cancellation of two political talk shows was announced on Imedi TV, another national station, owned by Badri Patarkatsishvili’s family.
24.08.2015 | Monday

Internet and social media usage in Georgia

In April-May 2015, CRRC-Georgia carried out a representative survey of the adult population of Georgia for Transparency International Georgia. The survey contained a number of questions on Internet and social media usage, and the results show us who is online, what people are doing online, who is using social networks, and which networks people use most.
28.04.2014 | Monday

Trust in Institutions in the South Caucasus

Trust in institutions has often been thought of as negatively related to perceptions of corruption in political institutions. Every year, Transparency International publishes a Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) which ranks countries from highly corrupt to very clean.
20.10.2014 | Monday

Do Armenians Still View Integration with the EU as Part of a Positive-Sum Game?

On September 3rd 2013 Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan surprised many observers, including some in his own government, when he announced that Armenia would sign an agreement with Russia to join the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) and spurn a long-negotiated Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union. The move has been dubbed a “U-Turn” as well as a “sudden shift in policy,” although it was predated by landmark Armenian-Russian agreements in 1997 and 2006.
03.11.2014 | Monday

The recent history of the South Caucasus as seen by the world’s media – Part 1, Armenia and Azerbaijan

History has been a qualitative discipline and has often been considered part of the humanities, well, historically, but the emergence of big data is likely to extend the use of quantitative methods in historical research in the long run. Big data projects have aimed at everything from finding out where to pick fruit in your city to mapping the prevalence of AIDS in the United States, but a recent project, Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) has compiled a massive database of print media coverage in over 100 languages including Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian. Originally created by Kalev Leetaru and Philip Schrodt at Georgetown University, the GDELT database contains about a quarter of a billion uniquely coded units starting from 1979.
06.11.2014 | Thursday

The recent history of the South Caucasus as seen by the world’s media - Part 2, Georgia

In Monday's blog post, we looked at a snapshot of Armenia and Azerbaijan’s representation in the global media from 1979 to present. Today, we take a look at the third South Caucasus state, Georgia. What are the events that have popped up in Georgia and made international news over the last 35 years?
04.12.2014 | Thursday

SME Performance in Georgia and Armenia: Part 2

As discussed in the first blog post of this series, the results of the CRRC Caucasus Barometer (CB) survey show that Georgians demonstrate higher levels of interpersonal and institutional trust than Armenians. These types of trust are important indicators of social capital, which is often taken as a necessary condition for the presence of a robust, productive entrepreneurial class and small and medium enterprise (SME) sector.
22.12.2015 | Tuesday

No, Putin is not winning Georgia away from Europe. Here are the facts.

[Editor's Note: This post was originally published on the Washington Post's Monkey Cage on Monday, December 21, 2015. The original post is available here. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia or any of the sponsors of the survey which this article is based on. The data on which this article is based is available here.]

By Dustin Gilbreath

Last Friday, after years of diplomatic wrangling over the course of two administrations, the Republic of Georgia received a report from the EU green lighting visa free travel within the European Union in the near future. Yet, media accounts from earlier this year suggested that Georgia was undergoing a “Russian turn”.
03.03.2011 | Thursday

Armenia Civil Society Index | 2009 Findings

In 2009, Counterpart International Armenia was given the rights by CIVICUS to use their methodology to conduct a public opinion survey and measure the Civil Society Index (CSI) in the Republic of Armenia. On February 22nd, Counterpart International Armenia presented the respective report.
24.03.2011 | Thursday

Conference Summary | "Building Turkish Awareness of Armenian Genocide"

By Ben Bronstein

On March 15th 2011, the ‘Yerkir’ Union and the Caucasus Institute held an international conference on Building Awareness of Turkish Society Regarding the Armenian Genocide. Speakers included Armenian experts as well as Cengiz Aktar and Ali Bayramoğlu, two Turkish experts who initiated the ‘I Apologize’ campaign in Turkey. The ‘I Apologize’ campaign was launched in 2008 by a group of Turkish intellectuals, allowing Turks the opportunity to personally apologize for the Armenian Genocide by signing an online petition. At present, approximately 70,000 people have signed the petition.
13.04.2011 | Wednesday

Internet Penetration in Armenia

Scholar Katy Pearce recently published an article on Epress News (http://www.epress.am/) revealing some interesting points about internet penetration in Armenia. Using information from CRRC's 2010 Caucasus Barometer, Pearce writes that internet penetration tripled from 2009 to 2010 within Armenia. According to Pearce, the most likely reason for this is increased access to mobile internet.
27.07.2011 | Wednesday

Rule of Law in Georgia - Opinions and Attitudes of the Population

As a part of the Caucasus Barometer Report Writing Competition held by CRRC in the spring of 2011, we would like to present the second report (the first report was published recently) written by Salome Tsereteli-Stephen. The report deals with the rule of law in Georgia and here is a short summary of Salome’s findings and an analysis of the subject.
28.07.2011 | Thursday

Upswing of Transition in Georgia

This past summer, Freedom House launched the 14th edition of its Nations in Transit (NIT) report. The publication comprehensively monitors democratic developments in 29 countries from Central Europe to Eurasia, amongst them Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. CRRC is represented in the report with data from the 2010 Corruption Survey in Armenia.
29.09.2011 | Thursday

Is the South Caucasus a homogenous region?

In a recent datablog, the Guardian published a map visualizing how the former Soviet countries are doing 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. The map compares the 15 former Soviet countries in terms of economic development, demographics and democratic transition. It also divides the countries into five regions: Russia, the Baltic countries, the EU borderlands, Central Asia and the South Caucasus.
13.10.2011 | Thursday

Armenian attitudes towards opening the border with Turkey

During the 20th anniversary of Armenian independence from the Soviet Union on September 21, 2011, the Armenian news service Hetq reported that the organizers of celebratory events were delivering commemorative T-shirts made in Turkey – which has had closed borders with Armenia since 1993. Despite the fact that trade between Armenia and Turkey flourishes via Georgia, the border between the two countries remains closed. What does the population of Armenia actually think about opening the border with Turkey?
26.12.2011 | Monday

Boy or Girl? Child Gender Preference in the South Caucasus

Survey data shows that there is a strong preference for male children over female children throughout the South Caucasus. As mentioned in the March 4, 2010 edition of The Economist, after 1991 there has been an increase in the ratio of boys to girls in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The sex ratio rose from 103-106 boys to 100 girls in 1991 to 115-120 boys to 100 girls by 2000. The 2010 Caucasus Barometer (CB) indicates that gender preferences in the South Caucasus remain skewed in favor of males with 54% of Armenians, 27% of Azerbaijanis and 46% of Georgians prefer to have male children if given a choice.
19.03.2010 | Friday

Gender imbalances | The South Caucasus on the top of the list

Earlier this month The Economist published two articles (article onearticle two) on imbalances in gender. In all societies there is, at birth, a sex ratio slightly biased in favor of boys: 103-106 boys to 100 girls. The number evens out later on as male babies have a higher mortality rate than female babies. In some parts of the world, however, there currently is an abnormally high number of boys being born.
02.07.2010 | Friday

Post-Soviet States’ Democratic Decline: Results from Freedom House Report

Freedom House has just released its Nations in Transit report for the year 2010. The report attempts to quantify democratic development in Central European and Eurasian states by observing 8 separate factors – for instance, Electoral Process and National Democratic Governance - which affect the level of democracy in a given country. Each category is graded on a score of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress, and 7 representing the lowest. Much of the media attention has typically focused on Russia.
29.10.2010 | Friday

Small changes in corruption rates in the Caucasus

On October 26 Transparency International released the results of the 2010 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). The CPI is a measure of domestic, public sector corruption in 178 countries, rating them on a scale from 10 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt). Nearly three quarters of the countries in the index score below five and the South Caucasus countries are no exceptions.
05.11.2010 | Friday

Overcoming Negative Stereotypes in the South Caucasus

CRRC hosted a presentation on October 27 by Onnik Krikorian, a British journalist of part-Armenian descent and the Caucasus editor for Global Voices, entitled “Overcoming Negative Stereotypes in the Caucasus: New and Social Media in cross-border communication and conflict reporting.”
14.11.2010 | Sunday

The Media in Armenia and Azerbaijan: Effective or Affective?

Many academics argue that the influence of the media is especially strong in environments where citizens depend on a limited number of news sources. In contrast, when citizens have alternative sources of information they are less subject to the potential effects of media.
21.01.2008 | Monday

The Global Broadband Speed Test

According to CRRC's 2007 Data Initiative 2007 (visit www.crrccenters.org), around 3% of the population have Internet access at home in Georgia; nevertheless, we were curious to know how fast these people’s Internet speed is across the Caucasus.
22.02.2008 | Friday

Bertelsmann Transformation Index | Using a New Interactive Tool to Analyze the Caucasus

Many of our readers know of both our quibbles with indexes, but also our steadfastness when it comes to posting about them. The Bertelsmann Foundation released its trademark index, the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) (PDF), which according to its producers, is "the global ranking of the quality of democracy, the market economy and political leadership in 125 developing and transformation countries."
27.02.2008 | Wednesday

Inflation in Armenia? | Lecture by IMF Representative

Readers here may not be aware that actually our Armenian CRRC also runs its own blog, to announce and describe CRRC's events. One of the most recent events was a lecture by the IMF Resident Representative in Armenia, Dr. Nienke Oomes.
31.03.2008 | Monday

Brookings Index of Regime Weakness | State Rebuilding or State Collapse in the Caucasus | The Annals of Data

Yet another index was released recently -- Brookings Index of State Weakness in the Developing World. One professor of mine in graduate school, who was a veteran hot spot worker, related that all of the conflict professionals keep their eye on this map to see where they are going next. In this year's version of the index, however, it's where they already are: Somalia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq top the list.
11.04.2008 | Friday

Armenia and Azerbaijan’s Performance | Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Meta-Index

A previous blog entry on Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Meta-Index, as you may recall, presented Georgia’s performance. For those who do not know, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) uses data from the research of various organizations such as the IFC, the World Bank Institute, UNESCO, Freedom House and others. Millennium Challenge Corporation recently released an assessment through its annual scorecard, which has three main policy categories: Ruling Justly, Investing in People, and Economic Freedom.
22.07.2008 | Tuesday

Caucasus Data: Tolerance towards Others

The CRRC Data Initiative (DI) gives people an opportunity to do interesting cross-country comparisons of the South Caucasus (SC) people’s attitude toward their neighbors. This subject is quite sensitive and complex when thinking of the fact that the SC stands out for its sequence of ethnic conflicts.
19.11.2007 | Monday

Georgia's Performance? | Millenium Challenge Corporation's Meta-Index

With all the attention on Georgia, it may be interesting to revisit Georgia's most recent performance as seen by international organizations. As it happens, the Millennium Challenge Corporation offers a such an assessment through its annual scorecard, just released last week. This scorecard is a meta-index, drawing on data from the World Bank Institute, Freedom House, IFC, WHO, UNESCO and a few other organizations.