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The Tehran-Tbilisi Connection

Iran isn’t exactly known for its free media. Exactly the opposite, in fact: Freedom House rates it as one of the ten worst places for freedom of speech in the world. So it’s somewhat bizarre that Mikheil Saakashvili’s government here in Georgia – with its pretensions to European-style liberal democracy – has just signed a deal on “co-operation in the media sphere” with the Iranian regime. It’s not clear what that actually means, but it’s hard to see what the positive outcome might be for Georgia.

The opposition regularly accuses the Saakashvili administration of manipulating the news output of the country’s national TV channels, but even Georgia’s leading pro-opposition website was amazed by this new Tehran-Tbilisi hook-up, commenting that “not since Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize has real life outdone satire so effortlessly”. Saakashvili recently said that the allegations that the Georgian media isn't free were "total bullshit" cooked up to con "naive foreigners". Freedom House might well take issue with that - its latest report rated Georgia as 'partly free' - but despite all its faults, the Georgian media environment is paradise compared to the situation in Iran.