June 11, 2024

11.06.2024 – Four Journalists Banned from Georgian Parliament

On 5 June 2024, the accreditation was suspended for Maka Chikhladze, a journalist from TV Pirveli (https://tvpirveli.ge), upon the request of one member of Parliament. This action was reported by Radio Tavisupleba ( https://www.radiotavisupleba.ge/), the Georgian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This incident is part of a broader pattern of accreditation suspensions targeting journalists from government-critical media outlets.

According to information from the ground, the accreditation was allegedly revoked for four journalists in less than a week, effectively barring critical media from covering parliamentary sessions. This includes two journalists from TV Pirveli, one from Formula (https://formula.ge/), and one from Mtavari Arkhi (https://mtavari.tv/). The suspensions were based on regulations introduced by one of the Parliamentary Speaker in March 2023.

TV Pirveli reported that Nata Kajaia and Maka Chikhladze had their accreditation revoked for a month. Chikhladze’s suspension followed one of the MP’s refusal to answer one question the journalists asked. Parliament claimed that the MP had not consented to an interview and banned Chikhladze for continuing to record him.

Nata Kajaia was stripped of her accreditation at the request of the other MP, who also claimed she recorded him without consent.

Similarly, Formula journalist Sopo Gozalishvili and Mtavari Arkhi’s Nino Balanchivadze were allegedly banned from covering sessions. Gozalishvili was barred for six months for pressing one of the MP’s for comments despite her refusal, while Balanchivadze was investigating potential United States (US) travel sanctions against a local official.

One of the MP’s recently made headlines for allegedly pressing charges against a citizen for shouting “traitor” at her. This incident highlights the growing tension between officials and the media.

The controversial regulations, effective since 1 March 2023, oblige journalists to terminate interviews if a member of parliament objects. Violation of this rule results in a one-month suspension, extendable to six months for repeated offenses. These rules have been appealed to the Constitutional Court, with plaintiffs arguing that they contradict the freedom of expression and press rights protected by the Georgian Constitution.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the Georgian Parliament’s recent actions against journalists from TV Pirveli, Formula, and Mtavari Arkhi. The suspension of their accreditations under the pretext of a restrictive regulations represents a blatant attempt to stifle media freedom and critical journalism. Such measures not only undermine the principles of free expression and the public’s right to information but also set a dangerous precedent for press intimidation. SEEMO calls on the Georgian authorities to reinstate the journalists’ accreditations and ensure that media professionals can operate without fear of retribution or censorship.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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