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Freedom House Says Georgian Gov’t Negative Reaction is not Surprising

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, April 20
Nate Schenkkan, the Freedom House project director, says that hearing negative assessments from the Georgian government over their latest report on the country was not surprising.

“We are used to such criticism,” he stated, responding to accusations from the Georgian Dream government that the American NGO’s latest report on Georgia, criticizing the situation in the media and court, was “very biased.”

“It is also important that the government of Georgia takes the criticism from the organization like Freedom House seriously. We evaluated the situation in Georgia as we would for any other nation. It is good that the government of Georgia reacted to the report. It would be more alarming for us if they, or any other government, ignored what we wrote,” Schenkkan said.

An influential, US-based and government-financed Non-Governmental Organization Freedom House declined Georgia’s democracy score from 4.61 to 4.68 in its latest Nations in Transition 2018 report released this month.

The ratings are based on a scale of one to seven, with one representing the highest level of democratic progress and seven- the lowest.

The regress was mainly caused due to the Independent Media rating decrease from 4.00 to 4.25 because of the “apparently politicized editorial policies at Georgian Public Broadcasting, continuing pressure on the critical television channel Rustavi 2, and ownership consolidation among pro-government private television stations.”

The second reason was the Judicial Framework and Independence rating decline from 4.75 to 5.00 due to the “illegal deportation of dissident Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli to Azerbaijan and a high-profile case in which a foreign company faced punitive fines after a deeply flawed judicial process.”

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze stated the report was “extremely biased.”

Kvirikashvili said that the Freedom House “should think twice” before it spreads such biased assessments on Georgia’s democratic development level.