How does press freedom in Georgia compare to Eastern Europe?
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.
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.
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