The FINANCIAL -- As the clock ticks down to the parliamentary elections on 31 October, Georgian media are becoming more polarized and less balanced in their reporting, according to media monitoring reports released today by the European Union (EU) and UNDP.
Comparing election reporting since 1 September with coverage from earlier in the summer, the research registers growing polarization on television and predominantly negative coverage of all political actors in the press. Accuracy remains problematic in newspapers, which often rely on unverified sources. Polarization is spreading to social media, including Facebook pages associated with political parties, officials and politicians.
Digital media are meeting a higher journalistic standard, covering a wider range of electoral players and refraining from abusive language. However, some online outlets favour the ruling party and discredit others.
Radio remains the most balanced and neutral medium, though it has the least influence of all media segments. It provides a relatively impartial account of events but fails to create exclusive editorial content.
All media segments are providing more diverse coverage of the electoral landscape, and less use is being made of abusive, discriminatory and gender-insensitive language. But analytical reporting of electoral programmes and social and economic issues of potential public interest remains a rarity.
All TV stations are following the role of foreign actors in the Georgian elections, with a focus on the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Russian Federation and the United States. Western countries and alliances are largely portrayed in a positive light.
“Research on media coverage serves as a critical tool for both journalists and the public in fulfilling their civic duties during elections,” said UNDP Head Louisa Vinton. “While we hope to see more in-depth analysis in the future, we see progress in that these elections have featured a calmer tone and more diverse party options.”
“The second report of election media monitoring published today finds increasing polarisation and a remaining scarcity of in-depth reporting. However, it is reassuring that hate speech and misinformation attempts do not seem to be getting traction, particularly on social media. It is also encouraging that the dissemination of gender stereotypes in online publications decreased significantly,” noted Asunción Sánchez Ruiz, Deputy Head of Delegation, Head of Political, Press and Information Section at the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia.
The EU-funded monitoring of media coverage of parliamentary elections in Georgia is implemented by UNDP in partnership with three Georgian civil society organizations: the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, Internews Georgia and CRRC-Georgia. It covers 43 different media outlets, including 12 television stations, 10 radio stations, 8 print newspapers and 13 online editions. It also looks into the ways that Georgian media organizations connect with their readers on Facebook, analysing what kind of electoral news gets the most social media outreach, including through the Facebook pages associated with political parties, officials and politicians. A separate report prepared by CRRC-Georgia examines how Georgian TV stations see foreign influence on Georgian electoral processes.