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Human Rights House Hosted Round Table on Freedom of Speech and Expression in Georgia


Nino Tsagareishviil

On April 1st, Tbilisi Human Rights House hosted the round table on Freedom of Speech and Expression in Georgia. Following NGOs participated in the round table: Human Rights Center, Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) and Article 42 of Constitution. The journalist Ia Antadze moderated the discussion.

Beka Jikia from Human Rights Center talked about the issues of freedom of speech and expression during the assemblies and manifestations. He noted that the Human Rights Center has been monitoring the assemblies and demonstrations since January 1st and possesses data on the problems of freedom of assembly.

Special attention was drawn to the article 11' of the Law on Assembly and Manifestations according to which the blocking of pedestrian walkways and vehicular carriageways is unwarranted if the number of those participating in such meetings or manifestations is not sufficient. Beka Jikia referred to the inference of Venice Commission which calls on Georgian government to examine this provision. He recalled the incident of March 25th in front of the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia when the policemen acted on behalf of this article and tried to move the protestors to the side-walk of the road.

“We witnessed the violence of the policemen which is warranted by the Georgian legislation. But the existing legislation contradicts with the international standards. It should be noted that the police violated the Georgian legislation as well. Specifically, the tribune from where the protest rally organizers addressed the participants got broken. Also, the person who photo documented the protest rally was attacked,” – states Beka Jikia.

Beka Jikia recalled the fact of unlawful restriction of right of assembly as well, namely the raid of veterans’ action on January 3rd. According to him, the protest rally participants were unlawfully detained as they had not blocked the vehicular carriageway of the road, neither had they violated other provisions of legislation. According to his evaluation, the fact that police did not allow the protestors to hold the protest rally on the second day represents the unlawful restriction of freedom of assembly.

Representative of GYLA Giorgi Gotsiridze discussed different examples of hate speech and violence propaganda. According to him, “The absence of legal procedures against the global social networks does not imply that Georgian government lacks opportunity to use the appropriate measures towards the individuals under its jurisdiction for the comments made on the global networks.”

Giorgi Gotsiridze perceives the amendment on the monitoring of internet communications made to the Law on Operative-Investigative Activities to be the most dangerous provisions for ensuring the freedom of speech and expression. The amendment envisages the observation and participation both in the open and closed internet communications. Also, the amendment envisages receiving the computer data without the court permission for the aims of ascertaining the offender.

“It is clear that when there is an open discussion in the social networks, it is completely lawful for the department of constitutional security or other official of operative service to monitor and take part in this kind of discussion. However, when the official of operative-investigative body breaks in the closed group of social network without the permission of the administrator or the group members, monitors the closed conversations and participates in them without the court permission, this conduct represents the intervention into the right of private life guaranteed by the article 20 of the Constitution. GYLA is going to appeal against this provision to the Constitutional Court,” – states Giorgi Gotsiridze.

The practical examples of restriction of freedom of speech and expression were also discussed on the round table. The representative of Article 42 of Constitution Tamar Gabisonia presented the case of dismissal of the teacher Lali Kiknadze from her job on the basis of the statement of the school principal (see the link: http://www.article42.ge/index.php?action=news_item&news_id=37&lang=eng)

Nino Tsagareishvili, representative of Human Rights Center talked about the employment termination of Nicole Bedford, the participant of Teach and Learn with Georgia (TLG) for the comments made on facebook. (See the link: http://humanrights.ge/index.php?a=main&pid=13146&lang=eng)

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