The messenger logo

Freedom House: Influence of Oligarchs Still a Challenge in Georgia

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, June 7
An influential, US-based and government-financed Non-Governmental Organization Freedom House says that the influence of oligarchs and the rule of law remain as a challenge in Georgia.

Freedom House published the report Freedom and Media 2019, where Georgia's position is worsened by one point. Georgia has 2 points from 4 possible points. This is the average rate on the scale, where 0 is the worst, and 4 is the best.

The report which claims that freedom of the media has been deteriorating around the world over the past decade does not speak about Georgia expensively in the report. However, the Georgian edition of Voice of America (VOA) talked to Sarah Repucci, who leads Freedom House's flagship Freedom in the World and Freedom of the Press publications.

Repucci says Georgia has the best results among Caucasian countries. In fact, according to the ratings, it is best in the Eurasia region, but still has many challenges and shows the average results in the global scope.

"I think we see two major challenges in Georgia: one, it is the influence of oligarchs and the fact that the unelected people have control over the political process. Secondly, the rule of law and the interference of the legislative and executive in the judiciary, which does not allow the judicial system to operate as an independent institution," she stressed.

The influence of oligarchs over the political processes was also mentioned in the organization's other report Freedom in the World 2019, which reads that "oligarchic actors hold outsized influence over policy and political choices, and the rule of law continues to be stymied by political interests."

Usually, international or local non-governmental organizations, when referring the ruling on an oligarch in the country, imply the founder and chair of the ruling party Georgian Dream, Billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is often referred by the opposition parties as the "informal governor" or Georgia.

In general, Freedom House's latest report Freedom and the Media- A Downward Spiral - reads that in some of the most influential democracies in the world, populist leaders have overseen concerted attempts to throttle the independence of the media sector.

The NGO says while the threats to global media freedom are real and concerning in their own right, their impact on the state of democracy is what makes them truly dangerous.

"Experience has shown, however, that press freedom can rebound from even lengthy stints of repression when given the opportunity. The basic desire for democratic liberties, including access to honest and fact-based journalism, can never be extinguished," one of the key findings of the report reads.