On September 29, 2023, the Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) organized a virtual public discussion about “Analysing Polarization in Georgia and V4 States: Domestic and External Factors.” The event was held under the project “Supporting Decrease of Media Polarization in Georgia and V4 States.” The action aims to mitigate deepening media polarization in support of voters’ informed decision-making in Georgia and V4 states. The project is co-financed by the Governments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from the International Visegrad Fund. And also by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea. The fund’s mission is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.
The panel discussion was held in three dimensions:
- Domestic and external stimulators of media polarization in Georgia and V4 states
- Influence of media polarization in Georgia and V4 states influence the political process
- The role of media in reducing societal and political polarization based on best international practices
GIP Project Coordinator – Salome Kandelaki made introductory remarks about project donors and partners. The actual discussion part of the online event was moderated by BBC News Correspondent – Rayhan Demytrie, who made an overview of media polarization and introduced speakers from Georgia and V4 states. The first speech about media polarization in Georgia was given by Radio Free Europe Senior Editor – Nino Gelashvili. In her speech, Nino Gelashvili stressed that polarization is initiated mostly by political forces in Georgia and that the major TV stations are monopolized by them.
Jan Cingel, Founder and President of the Strategic Analysis Think Tank talked about the Slovak case and mentioned that there are many similarities between Georgia and Slovakia. In addition to this, he explained that in Slovakia it is difficult for the politicians to work on concrete problems like poor educational and health systems and other challenges. However, he mentioned that in Slovakia there is a better situation in terms of having independent media than in Georgia.
Miloš Gregor Ph.D. Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at Masaryk University drew some parallels with Georgia and Slovakia but in terms of media independence, he mentioned that in Chzecia there is a slightly different situation because the Czech Republic has strong public media. However, he mentioned that polarization is mostly noticeable in social media platforms, especially strong is the anti-EU propaganda spread by the Russian-backed forces on which there is not an adequate reaction neither from politicians nor NGOs.
As for Hungary, lawyer and Vice-Chairperson of the Hungarian Europe Society – Erik Uszkiewicz noted that Hungary has a widely polarised media landscape. This is mainly caused by the adoption of the law on media under the Fidesz governance which led to the government’s ownership concentration on the media market.
Similar to the case of Hungary, in the Polish case changing the law on media ownership is also common said Katarzyna Chimiak – Analyst and Project Coordinator of the European and Migration Policy Program of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). As she stated, the government also influences the media market by deciding which magazines and newspapers can receive revenues for advertisements commissioned by state-controlled companies, which has a negative impact on information pluralism.
After the official speeches of the media experts from Georgia and V4 states, the attendees had an opportunity to ask questions and discuss some of the issues causing polarization and also the possible solutions to tackle the increase of media polarization in target states. The event attendees were the representatives of media, academia, and think tank organizations from Georgia and V4 states.
For more information about the event, please move to the following LINK in order to watch the full video recording of the virtual public discussion.