Speaker Papuashvili sends letter to OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media
Speaker Papuashvili sends letter to OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media

Georgian Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili sent a letter to Teresa Ribeiro, Representative on Freedom of the Media Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Below is the letter as delivered:

“Dear Madam Ribeiro,

I have read your statement in social media X regarding the suspension of several journalists from the Parliament of Georgia.

In this regard, let me inform you that a media accreditation rule has been in force in the Parliament of Georgia since March 2023 (the rule is attached to this letter). It is based on the best practices of the European Union member states and the European Parliament. The rule establishes ethical journalistic standards in the Parliament. On the one hand, instead of chaotic daily entrance permits issued before by PR department, journalists using annual accreditation cards now have an opportunity to enter the parliamentary premises any time like parliamentary staffers (unless there is a special security arrangement in the building) and without prior permission, and to interview any MP at any corner of the Parliament. Each national media is allowed to have 10 groups of media professionals (three persons per group) in the Parliament for their daily work.

On the other hand, as in any other media accreditation rule, journalists should respect certain rules to ensure a constructive working environment for MPs, parliamentary staffers, and visitors. In particular, while applying for media accreditation, journalists agree to observe three basic rules of ethical journalism: not to record a working room of an MP and staffer without preliminary warning and permission; not to record phones, documents and screens of other electronic devices without permission; and to stop interview of respondents if they refuse to continue the one and to stop chasing them (it should be noted that, unlike other parliaments, prior permission is not needed for starting an interview, but it must end if the interviewee refuses to continue it). In addition to the accreditation rule, the Parliament provides online streaming (via its own TV, Youtube, and social media channels) of all committee, bureau, and plenary sessions, which is not necessarily a common practice in OSCE and EU member states. Besides, as an established practice, members of the majority and the minority have press points every day. I myself meet all journalists for open questions on average 45 minutes, 1-2 times a week. Hardly ever in any other OSCE/EU parliament, we can witness such a frequent communication of the Speaker of Parliament with media. Overall, journalists have 2-3 hours of interviews with all MPs a day. As a result, hundreds of journalists and media agencies have every opportunity to provide uninterrupted coverage of parliamentary developments while at the same time maintaining a working environment in the Parliament.

At the moment, 339 journalists have an annual accreditation. Since the introduction of the rule, 22,839 entries were registered in the Palace of the Parliament, whereas media accreditation was invoked only in 14 cases (9 in 2023, 5 in 2024). In all cases, the violation was about chasing the respondents with recording cameras after their refusal for interview. It was an individual sanction, i.e. the media agencies whose journalists were temporarily suspended had an opportunity to keep other 9 groups in the Parliament.

The very fact that a temporary ban (1 or 6 months) was used in only 0,06% cases clearly demonstrates that journalists observe the accreditation rule in good faith. For this reason, it is particularly surprising that the violation of the rules, that are based on the best European practices and that journalists agree with before obtaining the accreditation, can cause critical reactions. Such concerns do not help the development of ethical journalism. I assure you that the Parliament of Georgia remains committed to promoting integrity and credibility of media providing the public with accurate and verified information so that democratic debate is encouraged.

Please, accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration and esteem.”