On the report of Freedom House

19 Apr 2018 - 18:04

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By Archil Talakvadze

Parliamentary majority leader

Agenda.ge,19 Apr 2018 - 18:04, Tbilisi,Georgia

Freedom House’s latest report Nations in Transit 2018, which lowered Georgia’s democracy score from 4.61 to 4.68, caused a lot of controversy. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili criticised the survey and called it "extremely biased and based on unbalanced information”.

The Freedom House ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 7 the lowest.

The Member of Parliament from the ruling party Georgian Dream Archil Talakvadze names his arguments as the majority leader to explain why this report is biased in his opinion.

  • The protection of democratic values and human rights has been remarkably improved within our governance period – every citizen in our country, each person who lives in Georgia and observes Georgia’s developments objectively knows this well.
  • Despite the fact that the report is very biased and subjective, it could not decrease the common score of Georgia, which maintains leading position in the region.
  • It is regrettable, but fact that the report contains wrong and incorrect data on important issues and it relies on the propaganda information of the United National Movement (UNM), Mikheil Saakashvili and his affiliated sources. For example, assessing the judiciary by the same score, as it was assessed in 2009-2012 is a total distortion of reality. If we look at authoritative reports about the judiciary, statistics of the rulings made by the Court, today’s reality is essentially different from the situation we had before 2012, where the state and the plaintiff were always "right” and less than 1% of criminal court cases were ruled in favor of the defendant. This part of the report is fully in line with the concerns and attitudes of UNM; and the real reason behind this is that the court is independent and is no longer under their control.
  • Any person, or an organization, speaking about selective justice and political vendetta in Georgia, either has no idea about the processes taking place in the country, or is too biased and intentionally neglects the facts. In reality, part of our society reproaches the authorities that they should have tried and arrested much more members of the previous Government. The names and surnames of the former Government members are still quite often mentioned in this context by the society. Since 2012 our Government not only refused to use revenge as motive to prosecute anyone, but it is because of the new Government that the individuals blamed for violence and mass violations in the past, have been saved from the fury of thousands of wrathful persons, as the trials were conducted in full compliance with the law, absolutely objectively and transparently.
  • In the report a mere lie is written as if the Public Broadcaster’s Channel 2 does not broadcast the sessions of the Parliament anymore. The quality and objectivity of this report can be judged even by this easily checked fact.
  • As for the assumptions expressed in the report about the merger of TV companies "Imedi”, "Maestro” and "GDS” and as if there is a link with Bidzina Ivanishvili – regrettably, the report here also relies on narrative of the United National Movement and their affiliated "sources”. We hope that this sheer disinformation will be answered by the media outlets themselves. There is not a single factual evidence to support these accusations in the report.
  • Regarding granting the underground parking space with investment obligation, first of all, it would have been better if the local opponents and Freedom House tried to understand the issue: investor was granted this space with the obligation to build underground parking. Meanwhile, the upper space of the land maintains the same status of transportation zone. It means that the upper perimeter fully maintains the same status and the underground part will serve the same public as a parking space. It is worth mentioning that in many countries the underground parking spaces are granted to investors not only at symbolic price but also even with subsidy conditions. At the same time, you know the position of the City Hall - it is interested to attract as many private investors as possible for construction of parking lots and it offers all of them the spaces to do so.
  • Panorama Tbilisi is a significant project for the city that essentially increases the amount of tourism’s potential. It improves the economy of the capital, creates new jobs and there is huge investment in it.
  • In the report of Freedom House special attention is paid to Bidzina Ivanishvili. Despite the fact that he left political position by his own decision in 2013; despite the fact that this step was meant to strengthen the institutional governance; despite the fact that he is the founder of the Georgian Dream political party, and he has full right to be involved actively in the activity of the party – here also Freedom House uses the message box of UNM and Mikheil Saakashvili and makes biased and negative assessments. Every year in its reports, Freedom House intentionally does not take into consideration the fact that the institutional reforms, carried out during the previous government (in police, defense, public service modernization, infrastructure, etc.) were conducted with the support of Bidzina Ivanishvili and after the 2012 elections, with the leadership of Bidzina Ivanishvili Georgian Dream changed the grave situation existing in human rights and rule of law, the right to property and business and access to health care.
  • To sum it up briefly, despite the fact that Freedom House, in its report cannot fully deny the democratic improvements in Georgia since 2012 and the overall score was not decreased, the assessments of the report are very biased and there are factual mistakes and approaches. The report contains factual mistakes and makes assumptions based on the narrative of the National Movement and Saakashvili.
  • To us the open, democratic governance and assessments of international organizations in this process are invaluable, when they depict the real picture and objective criticism. The current report of Freedom House is not an example of this and regrettably, it creates nihilism towards such reports and it is not desirable at all.
  • Freedom House is an American organization. The US is our strategic partner and we cherish this relationship most of all. That is why we read the report with due attention and we considered ourselves obliged to respond to the assessments, given there. Such biased report by Freedom House can in no way damage the US-Georgian relations, however this organization needs to show more responsibility when discussing such issues.
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