European Parliament disappointed with media freedom in Georgia
On July 6, the European Parliament adopted a resolution criticising media freedom in Georgia. “We are disappointed”, “Nika Gvaramia”, “Sanctions”, “Bidzina Ivanishvili”, “July 5”, “Georgia has retreated” – these words were mainly heard today in the European Parliament, where freedom of media and the safety of journalists in Georgia were discussed, reports JAM News.
Speaking at the European Parliament, MP Anna Fotyga said that “the most prominent people” such as the third president Mikheil Saakashvili and Nika Gvaramia, are currently in prison in Georgia, which was one of the subjects of the debate. According to the MP, “Georgians are turning to us, the best friends of Georgia”, despite the criticism of the current government, and demand that the status of a candidate be granted so that the Georgian people are not punished and abandoned: “Look what is happening in Ukraine. I myself fought against the communist regime, and I feel the same as every Georgian. Give status to Georgia, as well as to Ukraine and Moldova”, she added.
Czech representative Marketa Gregorova said she is disappointed with the involvement of the Georgian government in the persecution of the media. According to her, the media situation in Georgia is complicated, as journalists are victims of violent attacks, intimidation, and threats. As the deputy notes, there are many cases of persecution of journalists and initiation of criminal cases against media owners or media workers.
In this respect, MEP Miriam Lexmann from Slovakia demanded sanctions against Bidzina Ivanishvili to support Georgia’s European path. “An independent judiciary needs to carry out appropriate reforms to stop political polarisation and the rollback of democracy. It is important to impose sanctions against the oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili for his destructive role in Georgian politics and economy”, Lexmann said.
The resolution caused a wave of emotional reactions from Georgian politicians – both from the government and the opposition. Archil Talakvadze, the Vice Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, said the resolution on violations of media freedom and the safety of journalists in Georgia, adopted by the European Parliament on Thursday, “diverges from reality”, “lacks fairness”, and “contains distorted facts”.
Talakvadze claimed the fact that the resolution only gained the support of 200 MEPs and showed “how fair its content” was “to some extent”. We believe that the resolution completely diverges from reality; it lacks fairness and contains distorted facts. The Georgian public and many people in Europe know very well that Nika Gvaramia [the recently imprisoned Director-General of Mtavari Arkhi channel, mentioned in the resolution] is no free media, and Mikheil Saakashvili [the imprisoned former President of Georgia] is not a guarantor of democracy or a symbol of democracy in Georgia”, the Parliament official said as cited by Agenda.ge.
On the other hand, Nika Melia, the chairperson of the United National Movement, the largest opposition party, brought attention to the fact that “every political faction, including that of which Georgian Dream is a part [EPP]”, agreed on the resolution and the current situation in Georgia.
He said the message from the European Parliament was clear, “that people are politically persecuted in Georgia, that there is no freedom of speech in Georgia, that we have political prisoners, Mikheil Saakashvili, Nika Gvaramia, and that journalists and people unacceptable to the authorities are hunted in the streets through the instruction of the authorities.”“This did not happen in a day. By maintaining its power, labelling its opponents as the enemy with a desire to physically destroy them, Georgian Dream was pursuing this result for years,” he emphasised.
Giorgi Gakharia, For Georgia party chairperson and former Prime Minister, stated that the resolution’s main message is neither sanctioning Ivanishvili nor Saakashvili’s imprisonment, but that the biggest threat is that Georgia — the erstwhile leader in the Associated Trio — could get lesser status than Ukraine and Moldova when the EU decides on the three countries’ candidacies.
“There is a real danger that the European perspective of the country, for which our ancestors fought and of which our children dream, will be missed,” Gakharia stressed. “We, the Citizens of Georgia, must unite to save the country and keep our children free and maintain a European future at all costs.”
Referring to the arguments heard at the European Parliament, “Lelo for Georgia” Chairperson Mamuka Khazaradze said the debate “once again confirmed that the Georgian Dream has no friends in the European Union.”
Georgia applied on March 3, following the footsteps of Ukraine, which sent its application bid to Brussels a few days after Russia’s full-scale invasion. Moldova also signed the application the same day. Unlike in the case of Georgia, the European Parliament has expressed unequivocal support in calling the EU Member States to grant candidate status to Moldova and Ukraine.
Kalashnikov talks about possible discrimination against the Russian language in de facto Abkhazia and the abolishment of the checkpoint on the Psou river
Russian MP Leonid Kalashnikov, the chairperson of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots, has stirred controversy in Sokhumi on May 25 after voicing concern over Abkhaz legislation making the knowledge of the Abkhaz language compulsory for lawmakers. One day earlier, the same MP proposed to close the checkpoint between Russia and de facto Abkhazia.
Russian Interfax agency cited MP Kalashnikov as saying on May 25 that the legislation, “pro-forma aimed at supporting the Abkhaz language,” in fact leads to “discrimination of the Russian language” in the occupied region. “Such initiative could result in inter-ethnic tensions considering the status of the Russian language, which is the de facto means of inter-ethnic relations,” the lawmaker warned in an expanded Committee meeting with Abkhaz chief diplomat Inal Ardzinba in attendance.
Pointing at Ukraine, the Russian MP reportedly claimed that “such superficial approach in this sector” could aggravate the situation in the region. Besides, the Russian state-controlled TASS agency reported that MP Kalashnikov pushed Sokhumi to speed up the implementation of its “common socio-economic space” deal with Moscow through harmonising Abkhaz legislation with that of Russia, particularly by introducing the law on foreign agents — fiercely resisted by local civil society leaders.
Inal Ardzinba, Abkhazian de facto Minister of foreign affairs, responded to MP Kalashnikov’s claims on May 25 in a statement stressing that existing Abkhaz legislation “reliably protects the status of the Russian language, allows all citizens to use the Russian language as much as possible and without hindrance in all spheres of activity.” He pointed out that as per the de facto Abkhazias constitution, both Abkhaz and the Russian are considered “languages of state and other institutions.”
At the same time, Kalashnikov said that the checkpoint between Russia and de facto Abkhazia might be closed. “We talked about the Psou checkpoint on the Russian – Abkhaz border because of the problem that is getting worse from year to year. We agreed to create a working group, but in addition, we discussed more serious issues such as the complete abolishment of this checkpoint – as was the case with Belarus”, Kalashnikov said, as cited by the JAM News. State Duma Vice Speaker Anna Kuznetsova added that it is necessary to do everything for a comfortable and convenient border crossing.
A similar initiative was taken by Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Russian state-owned propaganda channel RT, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On March 30, she stated that she was dissatisfied with the existence of a customs post on the Psou River. According to Simonyan, this detracts from the dignity of millions of Russians.