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Analyze of Media Problems and Human Rights Violation Facts Related with Political Processes during Pre-Election Period

December 15, 2011

Coalition for Freedom of Choice

Less than one year is left before the next parliamentary elections in Georgia. On November 17, 2011 Coalition for Freedom of Choice was established by eight non-governmental organizations and two experts. The Coalition member organizations believe the monitoring of the election environment shall start now and not after the Election Day is fixed.

“Unfortunately, ongoing negotiations between the government of Georgia and opposition parties ended without any results; so necessary legislative basis for fair and competitive election environment was not created yet. The problems in media freedom and human rights fields also remain and right of voters to freedom of choice cannot be guaranteed without resolving those problems. In order to achieve the abovementioned goals, and for effective implementation of our duties, we should start joint coordinated activities,” ,” the statement of the Coalition founders.

 Human Rights Violations Concerning Pre-Election Political Processes

The Coalition for Freedom of Choice has already started to document the human rights violations which directly or indirectly link with the upcoming parliamentary elections of 2012. Appearance of a new political figure Bidzina Ivanishvili has somehow tensed the situation. After the famous tycoon and Maecenas decided to join Georgian politics, the government started persecution of Ivanishvili and his supporters. Below listed are intimidation facts of members and supporters of other political parties too. The Coalition will continue monitoring of similar facts during the entire election year and will finally prepare a report on them.

Chronology of the violation facts

In September of 2011, teacher of physical training of Public School in Brili village of Khashuri district Nodar Kiladze was arbitrarily sacked from school. He is board member of Khashuri district office of the Free Democrats. The resolution on his dismissal was issued a month later in order to prevent the teacher from suing the school administration.

On October 11, The Civil Registration Agency spread information that in accordance to the Organic Law of Georgia on Georgian Citizenship the CRA conducted procedures and concluded that in 2004 Bidzina Ivanishvili obtained French Citizenship after he had received the Georgian citizenship. “Consequently, in accordance to the Georgian Constitution and Law of Georgia on Georgian Citizenship, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship was suspended.”

The civil society evaluated the abovementioned decision of the CRA as politically motivated persecution against Bidzina Ivanishvili because the Law of Georgia on Political Unions of Citizens states that a person without Georgian citizenship can neither establish a political party nor fund it. More precisely, a political party is forbidden to accept physical and material contributions from: physical and juridical persons of other countries and persons having no citizenships; additionally only citizen of Georgia can become president or MP of Georgia. The Constitution of Georgia forbids person with double citizenship to become president, prime-minister or chairperson of the parliament of Georgia. The Constitution also states that a state is entitled to impose restriction on political activities of foreign citizens and people with no citizenships.

The CRA stripped off Georgian citizenship from Bidzina Ivanishvili’s wife Ekaterine Khvedelidze.  It is particularly important to note that Ekaterine Khvedelidze, the businessman’s wife, had been citizen of France and Russia before the President of Georgia granted Georgian citizenship to her. Thus, it was completely unclear and legally unjustified that Khvedelidze’s citizenship was stripped of now. Unlike her husband, her citizenship was revoked two days later and it means the government continues to punish-intimidate male politicians by punishing their wives, sisters and mothers. It is extremely astonishing and categorically incredible fact.

At 10:00 pm on October 11, Tskaltubo district police arrested resident of Meskheti village Irakli Shalamberidze. The police officers did not inform he detainee about the motive of his detention; Shalamberidze was tested on narcotics after what he was released. However, during the drug-test police officers intimidated and insulted him. They threatened with creating problems for him and his father Murman Shalamberidze (activist of the Free Democrats) unless the latter stops activities in favor of the political party and distribution of their newspapers. It is noteworthy that several months ago Murman Shalamberidze was interviewed about low harvest of the hybrid corns that astonished the local authority. On November 12, leaders of the Free Democrats met district chief police officer Malkhaz Mzhavia to find out the situation. According to the party members, the chief police officer did not deny the real motive of Shalamberidze’s detention. He confessed they did not aim to arrest him; they wanted to send a message to his father. At the end, Malkhaz Mzhavia told the Free Democrats representatives that “he had similar instructions and it was reality for him.”

On October 11, the former head of Kakheti Regional Police Department Tamaz Tamazashvili – father-in-law of Irakli Garibashvili, director of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Foundation- was detained in Tbilisi. Simultaneously, the Dedoplistskaro district police searched Tamazashvili’s house in Dzneladze Street in Dedoplistskaro.

Bidzina Ivanishvili’s lawyer Eka Beselia said the former head of the Kakheti regional police department Tamaz Tamazashvili was arbitrarily detained. According to Beselia, firearm was planted on Tamazashvili and it became reason for his pre-trial detention. The MIA and Prosecutor’s Office did not comment on Tamazashvili’s detention.

Tamaz Tamazashvili was head of the Kakheti Regional Police Department in 2000-2002. Before that he was Dedoplistskaro district chief police officer.

According to exclusive information of Kakheti Information Center, father of Irakli Gharibashvili Tariel Gharibashvili who was as an authoritative representative of the territorial entity of Tsiteltskaro village was also sacked. Governor of Dedoplistskaro municipality Nikoloz Shanshiashvili confirmed the fact of Tariel Gharibashvili’s dismissal. According to him, Tariel Gharibashvili personally filed resignation letter.

On October 18, at 5:00 pm, the cash-in-transit van of the Cartu Bank, which had just left the head office of the Bank of Georgia was stopped by special unit and police officers; six employees of the bank were detained and the van was taken away which was transporting particularly large amount of money of the Cartu Bank, which transported particularly large amount of money of the Cartu Bank. The tellers of the Cartu Bank Inga Javakhia, Irma Ketishvili, Lia Magradze, Nato Davituliani and money-collectors – Archil Japarashvili and Zaza Kavelashvili were detained. The detainees were released after interrogation. The MIA stated that criminal case was launched under the charge of money laundering. According to the Statement of the Cartu Bank, the law-enforcement officials seized the VOLKSWAGEN type cash collecting car with state licenses BAT 963 which was transporting financial assets of the bank 2 000 000 US dollars and 1 000 000 Euros to strengthen the bank cashbox thathas not been recovered to the Cartu Bank so far. The statement of the Cartu Bank states that during the incident the police officers did not wear uniforms; though some of them were in masks thus violating the Law on Police as well as procedural rules of detention and other rights and obligations. The cash collectors could have fired at the policemen since they were not wearing uniforms and could have been thought to be criminals.

On October 19, the National Bank started to investigate the activities of the Cartu Bank and their motive was the case launched by the Georgian MIA.

On October 19, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s son, Bera Ivanishvili spread information on his Facebook wall about detention of his friend – DJ Rembo. According to the singer, popular DJ Levan Mdinaradze was detained due to distribution of T-shirts of “Georgian Dream.” Bidzina Ivanishvili’s advisor in the issues of Public Relations Zurab Bigvava reported that Mdinaradze was detained at 1:00 am for the possession of narcotics. Later, Levan Mdinaradze was released from pre-trial detention under bail.

On October 22, Valeri Levin, representative of Businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Moscow Office was detained at the Tbilisi International Airport. He brought documents which were officially requested from Russian Consulate by Bidzina Ivanishvili’s representatives. Bidzina Ivanishvili’s press-center reported that Georgian law enforcement officers prohibited Levin to leave Georgia before the investigation finishes. Levin was released late at night after several-hour interrogation. Mineral stones were seized from Valeri Levin during the search and they were sent to expertise.  When the lawyer asked the investigator why Valeri Levin was detained he said they had information that Levin was bringing radioactive substance from Moscow. In fact, Levin brought magazine Stone Energy for Ivanishvili’s 14-year-old daughter Gvantsa; she is collecting mineral stones. The magazine is sold together with color crystals and the law enforcement officers withdrew those crystals from Levin. Two days later, the MIA spread ironic statement regarding the fact: “On October 22, strange minerals and printed materials were discovered on the citizen of Russian Federation Valeri Levin when he crossed the Georgian border. Levin stated the minerals and literature and occultist purpose and were used for prophecy. The minerals were sent for expertise which proved that the minerals were not dangerous for human health. Relatively, the occultist minerals and literature were returned to Bidzina Ivanishvili.”

On October 24, member of Akhmeta municipal board Zakaria Kinkladze was requested to leave the rented space for his industrial activities because of publishing supportive statement about Bidzina Ivanishvili. Next day, on October 25, his son Levan Kinkladze was sacked from job.

Zakaria Kinkladze from the Georgian Republic Party published Bidzina Ivanishvilis’ supporting statement on October 24. On the same evening, the son of the space owner visited him at home where the Kinkladzes had stationary shop. According to Kinkladze, the son of the space owner Gia Kisishvili is a patrol police officer. Kinkladze had leased a space from him based on the agreement up to 2016 and it was proved by the Notary. Despite that, on October 24, Gia Kisishvili visited them at home and requested to leave the space. Next morning, Kisishvili met Kinkladze near the shop and repeatedly demanded him to leave the space.

Zakaria Kinkladze’s son Levan Kinkladze worked at the Kakheti region coordinating center of the Social Agency and he had been on holiday since October 24. On October 25, he was called to the office. Deputy head of the Agency Teona Kaldani requested him to right resignation letter. However, they did not tell him the reason why he had to leave the job.

Zakaria Kinkladze does not exclude possibility that he and his family will be subject to other persecution too. So, he intends to petition to local and international human rights organizations.

It is noteworthy, that Zakaria Kinkladze was already detained once during the pre-election campaign. More precisely, several days before the local self-governmental elections in 2006, he was put in prison for 4 months under charge of causing 130 GEL damage during two years for the agency he had founded. In fact the government wanted to prevent him from participating in the elections.

On October 28, press center of the billionaire oppositionist Bidzina Ivanishvili reported that the Supervision City Service does not allow Cartu Group continue work at King Erekle’s Square, in the “King Rostom’s Palace.” The lawyer of the Cartu Group clarified that the company New Capital within the Cartu Group purchased the building in 2009 and finished the reconstruction activities for multifunctional business-center late in August of 2011. On September 1, 2011 the Company requested the City Hall to inspect the implemented reconstruction activities in order to launch the exploitation of the building. According to the law, the representatives of the Supervision Department were to inspect the King Rostom’s Palace before October 13 but they arrived there only on October 26 and requested the workers to stop working. The Supervision Department suspended the construction activities in the multifunctional business-center because of incorrectly implemented construction works.

Another property of the Cartu Group also faced problem – the land of 3 000 sq. meters in King Erekle’s Square. In 2010 the Company New Capital within the Cartu Group purchased the space from the state for 59 year-term and intended to construct an underground parking-lounge there. The preliminary permission for the construction was issued by the Tbilisi City Hall. The construction of the tunnel finished on May 26, 2010 and only incrustation activities were to be carried out there. Archil Kbilashvili clarified with the Radio Liberty that on October 26, the New Capital received an email which stated that the resolution, determining agreement between the Tbilisi City Hall and the New Capital, was annulled. Consequently, the Tbilisi City Hall requested the company to leave the entity.

On November 2, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s press-center spread information the cargo of the Company “ATU”, one of the charity-construction organizations of the Cartu Group, was arrested in Batumi Port – Bidzina Ivanishvili’s press-center reported about it. The cargo consisted of transformers and distributors of high-voltage electricity was delivered for the Sachkhere district medical center; the Company ATU will finish the construction of the center within several months; ventilation equipments were brought for the under-construction rugby stadiums in Rurstavi, Martkopi and Didi Digomi district of Tbilisi. The press-center of the Revenue Department stated “It was ordinary custom procedures. The cargo was not detained at all; they just conducted several procedures and now it is already free.”

On November 6, a friend of the businessman’s nephew Zaza Kobakhidze was detained near his house. He was going to the St. Trinity Cathedral for the blessing of his family name.
According to Ivanishvili’s press-center, Zaza Kobakhidze was a military servant at the Vaziani military base. Several days before the detention, he was interrogated by law enforcement officers, who inquired his relation with Ivanishvili’s nephew. Zaza Kobakhidze told them they had been friends since childhood and they came from one village.

He was sentenced to two-month pretrial detention for arbitrarily possession of firearms.

On November 7 board member of the Zugidid district office of Free Democrats Gizo Sartania was in Jikhashkari village. 4-5 days before, he was distributing the propagandist materials of the political party in the same village. At 5:00 pm three people [one in military uniform and two others in civil clothes] in a vehicle stopped him; one of them was holding automatic gun. The car did not have number plate on. The young man with the automatic gun started talking with Gizo Sartania in an aggressive tone. Supposedly, he was drunk; he was cursing Irakli Asalania, leader of the FD; called him a spy of GRU. He told Sartania he had information about his visit in Jikhashkari village and threatened him with opening fire against his car if he visits the village again. The incident lasted during 20 minutes. Gizo Sartania can recognize the person.

On November 8, Gizo Sartania filed a complaint to the MIA office of Zugdidi district. According to the Free Democrats, they have no information about investigation activities and its results so far.

On November 8, four people visited Diana Mariamidze, activist of Free Democrat’s Gori district office. They were Tengiz Zhizhniashvili (headman of Berbuki IDP settlement), Zakro Kochishvili (activist of the National Movement), Kote Romelashvili (Activist of the NM) and Ato Okropiridze (employee of Kurta municipal board); they warned the woman against cooperation with the Free Democrats and threatened her with creating problems unless she stopped her activities. A day before, on November 7, Diana Mariamidze had organized Irakli Alasania’s meeting with residents of Berbuki IDP Settlement.

On November 11, a house of Tamaz Tamazashvili, former head of Kakheti regional police department was burnt in Leninovka village in Dedoplistskaro district. Lawyer of Bidzina Ivanishvili Eka Beselia stated the house was burnt because of negligence and it had nothing to do with the political persecution of Tamazashvili.

On November 21, ICK reported that Akhmeta district police officer Giorgi Kisishvili sued member of the Akhmeta municipal board from the Republic Party Zakaria Kinkladze. Kisishvili blames the latter in breaching lease agreement and requests 1 500 USD from him. According to the ICK, unless the tax is paid, the police intend to arrest Zakaria Kinkladze though nobody commented on the issue at the district police.

In November of 2011, Director of Ali Public School in Khashuri district Temur Kulijanashvili sacked wife of Nodar Kiladze, board member of Khashuri district office of the Free Democrats, who taught German language at school.

In the same period, director of Khashuri Public School Nana Lomidze fired teacher of English Language Ketevan Kharazishvili who is a wife of Zaal Ptskialadze, executive secretary of the Free Democrats’ district office.

Director of Khashuri Public School # 1 Nana Lanadze fired Maya Tskhadashvili, English language teacher, who is sister of Giorgi Tskhadashvili, head of Khakhuri district office of the Free Democrats.

According to the Free Democrats, the school directors were instructed to fire their colleagues by Darejan Gugberidze, head of Khashuri district education resource-center. Besides that, the teachers were sacked only on political grounds.

On November 28, Coalition for Freedom of Choice spread urgent appeal, which stated that the auction announced by the Tbilisi City Hall for the installment trading booths in the capital creates serious threat of closure for press distribution booths. The auction is announced in the locations where there press boxes operate. Thus, the press boxes will have to be taken down after the auction ends. ”We have a reasonable doubt to think that the goal of government is to neutralize the printed media so that public receives infiltrated information which is provided to population through national channels. This leaves hundreds of small businessmen without jobs and will lead to their social devastation. We fear that after the end of the auction, the press dissemination will have problems. This will significantly hinder the provision of magazines and newspapers for the population. Thus, we assess this decision of City Hall to be one more mechanism for pressuring the media intended to lead to its full paralyze,” the statement of the Coalition.

Early in December Georgian news agency “Pirveli” reported that head of police department Bakhturidze and several other police officers were sacked in Sachkhere district, native district of Bidzina Ivanishvili. The locals told the Pirveli that the reason of firing Bakhturidze from job was his relation with Ivanishvili. “Bakhturidze was considered to be a protégé of Ivanishvili and he was sacked on that ground. Afterwards, some other police officers were also fired. Allegedly, they were instructed to implement some activities against Bidzina Ivanishvili and they refused.”

On the same day, Pirveli reported that director of Ivanishvili’s native village Chorvila’s public school Nukri Gogatishvili was also sacked. According to the source of information, Gogatishvili had made a toast to Ivanishvili at a party after what he was fired.

Besides that, according to the source of the information, Sachkhere district governor Zurab Tsertsvadze suggests directors and teachers of the public schools to decline monthly allowances allocated by Ivanishvili. The inhabitants of Chorvila village still receive similar allowances as well as relatives of the governmental officials.

On December 5, Telavi district court finished discussion of police officer Giorgi Kisishvili’s suit against Zakaria Kinkladze, member of municipal board from the Republic Party. The parties did not achieve the agreement. Zakaria Kinkladze was ready to pay 1 500 USD to Kisishvili within 6 months though Kisishvili had to allow him to continue commercial activities in his space; the suitor refused. Afterwards, Kisishvili stated he had a loan of 9 000 GEL in the bank and he was ready to withdraw his suit if Kinkladze covers his loan. Kisishvili added the bank loan was connected with Kinkladze though he did not speak about details. The Court is due to pass judgment on December 13.

On December 13, Judge Ketino Luashvili from Telavi district court, instead publishing resolution part of the judgment, decided to continue the case discussion. She said the suitor had provided the Court with audio-recording of his and the defendant’s conversation. So, the Judge decided to renew the case investigation based on the new evidence. “Before the trial of December 5 started, suitor Giorgi Kisishvili provided the Court with the audio recording between him and Zakaria Kinkladze; the court listened to the audio-recording in order to create personal confidence. The audio recording originated many questions. So, in accordance to the Article 216 of the Georgian Procedural Code, the Court concluded to renew the case discussion by studying the evidence. I would like to note that the audio-recording shall not be used as evidence and audience will not hear it during the trial. The copy will be assigned to the defendant side in order to enable them to create questions” said Ketino Luashvili. The next trial is scheduled at 12:00 pm on Decemebr 20.

On December 12, ICMM reported based on the statement of head of Tsilkani Seed Agricultural Enterprise Ioseb Kavsadze that Police is oppressing their employees. The Enterprise belongs to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s company Agro Cartu. According to Kavsadze, the oppression against the employees started after Ivanishvili made a statement to join politics. “After Bidzina Ivanishvili made a statement to join politics, our employees are constantly oppressed. I do not know which law-enforcement the oppressors represent, Special Operative Department of Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) or Constitutional Security Department, but I know for sure that they are from Mtskheta-Mtianeti Regional Office of MIA.”According to Ioseb Kavsadze, several cars are patrolling at the farm: “They brought out employees to interrogate. The officer visited some of them even at night. They mostly inquire about our work. And the point is that they warned everybody not to tell others about it.” The Press-center of the MIA refused the ICMM to make comments on the issue.

On December 14, at about 00:30 am the son of opposition deputy of Parliament Giorgi Tsagareishvili, 19-year old Zurab Tsagareishvili was beat late at night of December 14th by unidentified individuals at Kavsadze St. As Giorgi Tsagareishvili stated to interpressnews, 4-5 unidentified individuals attacked his son when he was coming back home at about 00:30 am. The MP said the neighbors ran out when they heard noise and the attackers ran away. Emergency brigade delivered Zurab Tsagareishvili to Central Hospital where he was diagnosed with brain concussion and face injuries. Giorgi Tsagareishvili links the accident to his political activity. According to his statement, this is a revenge which will take wider scales soon and will grow into tragic events as Mikheil Saakashvili, Vano Merabishvili and all the rest are ready to dare anything. The assaulters did not aim to rob Zurab Tsagareishvili because they did not seize his wallet and cell phone. The Free Democrats request to immediately identify and arrest the harassers. First of all, the tape shall be removed from the video-camera installed in Kavsadze street. We hope the government will properly respond to the assault on the family member of the MP in order to eradicate all doubts that the incident was related with Tsagareishvili’s activities,” official statement of the Free Democrats.

District organization members of Free Democrats and supporters are being oppressed and watched when they meet the leader of the political party Irakli Alasania. According to the FD, people watched their meetings from the following cars: in Tbilisi – silver Toyota Rav 4 (IBJ 513), Nissan (MCM 985), silver Mercedes (KJK 889); in Gori – white Mitsubishi (HWH 579), in Chokhatauri – Hyndai (ZFZ 979), Mitsubishi Pajero (VJV 880); in Tsalenjikha – Opel (WLW 875), blue Opel (WLW 380); in Martvili – blue Opel and Mercedes; in Jvari – blue Jeep Cherokee (ABW 995). In Tskaltubo, the district chief police officer watched Irakli Alasania’s meeting with local population from his own car.

The Free Democrats also report that unidentified people in Martvili and Lentekhi district (supposedly from law enforcement agencies) threatened their activists and warned against participating and organizing the meeting with the party leaders. Concerning the above-listed facts the FD representatives appeal to corresponding institutions to study the facts and address to all violation facts. The information was also sent to international organizations.

Teachers from the following public schools were sacked from jobs because of their different political opinions in Samtskhe-Javakheti Region:

1. Karine Tadevosian – Akhalkalaki Public School # 4 (Akhalkalaki district)
2. Vahagan Rstakyan – Akhalkalaki Public School # 1 (Akhalkalaki district)
3. Aghunik Gabrielian – Vachani Public School(Akhalkalaki district)
4. Ruzana Eremyan – Akhalkalaki Public School #4 (Akhalkalaki district)
5. Varduh Muradian – Gado village Public School (Akhalkalaki district)
6. Ema Antonyan – Satika village Public School (Ninotsminda district)

According to the teachers, the real reason of their dismissal was their different political opinion and their opinion about the current government; their relationship with the leaders or representatives of various opposition political parties. As for official motive, they were told they were poor professionals and did not have required education level to teach at school.

The Material was prepared by the Human Rights Center, Georgian Media Club and Civic Education Resource Center

Analyze of Media Problems

We observed various problems in media too. The oppression and intimidation facts of journalists have increased. It is noteworthy that mostly they are intimidated by MIA officers. Although the facts are published, the corresponding officials have not responded to any of the facts yet.

Release of public information is still a problem as well as court proceedings related with the issue. Online auctions and service purchase is a huge and painful topic particularly in the regions of Georgia.

Press distribution has also encountered problems. After the Tbilisi City Hall announced project “1 000 Trading Booths”, the number of press booths has been reduced in the capital that of course had impact on the circulation of newspapers.

Below listed are the concrete cases of violations in media field.

Journalist Gela Mtivlishvili reported that on November 6, 2011, he received a mail of threat from the former prosecutor of Kakheti regional prosecutor’s office Levan Sachishvili to his personal mail. The journalist connects the fact with his professional activities. On November 11, Gela Mtivlishvili petitioned to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia. The journalist requested them to evaluate the fact and start investigation under Article 100 of the Criminal Procedural Code; however, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office has not responded to it yet.

On November 24, 2011, Public Defender of Georgia got interested in the fact and requested the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to provide him with the detailed information about implemented activities in regard with the case. “The Public Defender thinks the Prosecutor’s Office shall take prompt and effective measures to start impartial investigation on the fact,” statement of the Public Defender’s Office reads. Unfortunately, nobody responded to the Ombudsman’s statement either.

On November 14, at 11:00 am, officers of Chokhatauri district police officers did not allow journalist Nato Gogelia from Guria News to record detention of citizens in the central street.

Although the area was not isolated by a special ribbon and other civilians also were in the area, the police officers prohibited the journalist to record the detention of people and search of the car. Head of Guria regional police department Davit Tsirekidze ordered to remove the journalist from the area by force and threatened her with arrest. Although the fact was published and the video-materials recorded by the journalist was published on websites, the fact has not been responded yet.

On November 20, newspaper Batumelebi found the person who tried to blackmail Tedo Jorbenadze, coordinator of the newspaper’s investigative team, on November 25, 2009 to cooperate with the Special Forces in the Batumi office of the MIA. Davit Devnozashvili, born in 1971, lives in Dolidze Street # 26 in Tbilisi. Director of the newspaper “Batumelebi” Mzia Amaglobeli could recognize him when she visited Devnozashvili in his house together with her colleagues. Devnozashvili confirmed that he really worked in Batumi. Afterwards, Mzia Amaglobeli called patrol police and reported them they had found the person who had abused his power by blackmailing Tedo Jorbenadze. The patrol police crew arrived several minutes later. However, they did not draw up a protocol though the journalists insisted and left the area. 

On November 10, 2010, the President of Georgia made a speech during close meeting on media freedom with non-governmental organizations and said: “The “Batumelebi” is not so important newspaper to make the government interested in intimidating them. Mikheil Saakashvili noted “they were shown photos but could not recognize anybody.”

When the investigation was looking for “Certain Davit,” on July 11, 2011 the President of Georgia issued a decree # 11/07/02 and assigned a state property – a flat of 67, 17 sq. meters in Kakheti Road # 36 in Tbilisi to the “certain Davit” – Davit Devnozashvili for symbolic price – 1 GEL. According to the Civil Registration Agency, the flat already belongs to Devnozashvili.

Since November 2011, the Tbilisi City Hall announced auction on the spots of press-distribution booths in Tbilisi in the framework of the project “1 000 Trading Booths”. In fact, the auction is announced on the lots where press-booths are located currently. 46 press booths have been removed throughout the capital by now. Among them 29 booths belonged to the press distribution company “Matsne” (three of them were removed because of reconstruction in Agmashenebeli Avenue in Tbilisi), 13 booths of the PDC Planeta Forte and 4 booths of the Elva Service. It is noteworthy that representatives of the supervision department of the Tbilisi City Hall got in touch with the press distribution companies in advance and requested them to remove their booths though the auction had not finished yet. According to the Press Distribution Service, they will have to remove more booths before the auction finishes.

On November 28, media and non-governmental organizations protested in front of the Tbilisi City Hall, and in reply to their protest the press-center of the City Hall stated newspapers will also be sold in new booths. However, only food companies like Koda, Nugeshi and similar companies have won the auction so far; thus newspapers are unlikely to be sold in new booths.

Concerning the issue, on November 29, the Coalition for Freedom of Choice petitioned to the Tbilisi City Mayor and Public Defender of Georgia. On December 12, the Ombudsman and Coalition members agreed that Coalition members will update the Public Defender with detailed information after what the Ombudsman will address to the problems. As for the Tbilisi City Mayor, although the Coalition members requested meeting with him, Gigi Ugulava has not responded to them yet.

TV-Company “Maestro” has been working in emergency regime since December 1. Director-General of the TV-Company Ilia Kikabidze (officially registered in the CRA) and journalists cannot enter the office. Unfortunately, relevant state institutions do not implement their functions and despite the appeals of the TV-Company owners, they do not ensure their return to the office; it hinders valuable functioning of Maestro and journalists’ activities.

The following incidents have not been responded by the law enforcement bodies yet:

A patrol police officer physically assaulted’s journalist Iza Salakaia The incident occurred in the afternoon of August 26 in the yard of Poti hospital. Journalist Iza Salakaia was covering the detention of Genadi Berishvili, who had fainted in the market because of being fined and then was brought to hospital by ambulance. The Patrol police officers, who did not introduce themselves to the journalist, banned her to enter the hospital building without explaining the reason. When transporting the detainee from hospital to the police station, a police officer, who was particularly aggressive, initially touched the journalist in the shoulders and then grabbed her by arms in order to restrict her movement and not to allow her to video-record how the detainee was forcibly pushed into the patrol police car.

Member of the Dusheti district municipal board Zurab Otiashvili threatened journalist of the Information Center of Mtskheta-Mtianeti Manana Kveliashvili with death and detention. Several local employees of the ICMM quitted the job because of threat of detention and persecution against their family members.

The representatives of the ICMM petitioned to local public agencies for public information 20 times during two months. They have not received any reply yet; the chief guard of the district administration and municipal board did not allow the ICMM’s journalists into the building and insulted them.

Three police officers hindered journalists of the newspaper Guria News Shorena Glonti and Giorgi Girkelidze to perform their professional activities; one of the harassers was Giga Japaridze, head of Guria region main department of MIA. They deleted photos from journalists’ cameras, which they had taken in front of the MIA office.

Georgian Journalistic Ethic Charter also spread statement about the incident; however corresponding agencies did not respond to the fact yet.

On December 12, at about 8:00 pm, military and patrol police officers prohibited independent journalist Tamar Chkheidze to take photos initially in the King Tamar Bridge and then in Agmashenebeli Avenue. A young man in civil clothes approached her when taking photos and asked her to stop it and to show the already taken photos. The man introduced himself as a police officer. The journalist told him the photo-camera was her property and he did not have right to seize it from the journalist. Later, two men [again in civil clothes] approached Tamar Chkheidze in Agmashenebeli Avenue; one of them was a military police officer Archil Samadashvili; only he showed the ID to Tamar Chkheidze. Samadashvili told the journalist she could not take photos on the bridge near the office of the Defense Ministry. The journalist again refused him to give the camera. Afterwards, the military police officer called patrol police and two crews arrived at the place. One of the patrol police officers told only his first name “Zaza” to the journalist and demanded her to give the camera. Tamar Chkheidze said she had requested the police officer to tell her the law which prohibited her to take photos on the King Tamar Bridge. In reply, the police officer told the journalist they would take her to a police station and there everything would be clarified. The police officers did not allow Tamar Chkheidze to leave the area. After the journalists of the online newspaper Netgazeti arrived at the place and after the police officers consulted on phone for several minutes, they said “everything was cleared up” and left the territory.

On December 12, the Tbilisi City Court and judge Nino Sharadze from Administrative Collegium was to discuss the suit of Nino Mikiashvili, correspondent of the media-union Obiektivi, vs MIA.  However, the defendant did not appear at the trial. They had not introduced counter appeal either. Hence, regulatory process did not turn into a main court hearing; the trial will be held in first half of January in 2012.

Journalist Nino Mikiashvili requests the court to order the MIA to issue full public information about riot police officers (name, institutional and regional division identifications) who dispersed peaceful demonstration on May 26, 2011 in Rustaveli Avenue. Mikiashvili’s lawyer Mamuka Nozadze said the information is public and the MIA also confirms the fact. On July 27, the MIA partly satisfied the administrative suit though since it was inadequate the journalist appealed to the Court. Although Nino Mikiashvili lodged suit on August 19, the court could not start its discussion during 4 months. and Maestro film-crews were not allowed to cover President’s visit in Zugdidi. President had dinner in the restaurant Diaroni together with Samegrelo Zemo Svaneti regional governor Guram Misabishvili and Zugididi district governor Aleksandre Kobalia. District police, CSD and state security police officers did not allow the journalist to footage the fact. Zugdidi district chief police officer Davit Dartsmelidze and head of Zugidid office of the CSD Ruslan Shomakhia prohibited the journalists to take photos and videos without clarifying the reason. Afterwards, they blocked journalists and did not allow them to continue their professional activities.

Journalist Ilia Chachibia reported that due to permanent oppression on his family members, he had to leave Samegrelo region and move to Tbilisi.

Shida-Kartli based TV-Company Trialeti reported several times during the last one month that their journalists are hindered to work. The TV-Company complains about the Georgian National Communication Commission too. Journalist Lado Bichashvili reported about threat- messages sent to his cell-phone.

MIA is ready to partly reimburse the material damage and health injury of journalists who were victimized during the May 26 dispersal. The MIA Representative Nino Tsotsonava stated at the trial at the Tbilisi City Court on December 12.

During the dispersal of protest demonstration by riot police officers on May 26, 2011 journalists lost equipment and were injured. In July of 2011, seven applicants lodged suit vs MIA. They are: Netgazeti, newspaper GuriaNews, Ltd Newspaper “Batumelebi”, Ltd “Chokhatauri’s Matsne,” Ltd “Akhali Ambebi”, and Ltd RadioCenter Plus.

Nino Tsotsonava said the MIA does not argue that Netgazeti’s journalists were injured and had lost two digital video-cameras of the editorial office during the dispersal. Additionally, the MIA recognized Interpresnews’ journalist Darejan Paatashvili as a victim who alleged that riot police officers had seized camera from her. However, despite the provided evidence and witness testimonies, the MIA considers that the evidence do not prove the allegation about material damage of Guria News’ journalist Nato Gogelia, Ltd Chokhatauris Matsne and Ltd Radio Center Plus.

The Court will issue the judgment on December 26.

Topic of online auctions and service procurement is a very vast topic. We hold documents about those editions which win simplified online auctions in the districts. There are cases when those media outlets have not territorial relevance with the districts where they win auctions. For example, newspaper Sakartvelos Respublika  publishes normative acts of the Borjomi district municipal board and informs the local population about them. The agreements signed based on those competitions do not state anything about sort, amount and period of service.

It is also noteworthy that local self-government sometimes declines similar formal competitions and directly assigns subsidies to the companies. As for legal basis they establish non-commercial (non-profit) legal entities. For example, Kharagauli district self-governmental entity established a non-profit legal entity and funded it with 27 000 GEL; the latter is authorized to publish a newspaper. Although the local newspaper Chemi Kharaguali has lodged suit to the Court concerning the issue, the local authority has already envisaged increased funding for the non-profit legal entity in its 2012 budget.

The same happened in Gurjaani district where the district administration established a new non-profit legal entity Gurjaanis Municipaluri Matsne based on the municipal board’s resolution. The function of the entity is to issue newspaper of the district administration and to provide the local population with news service. The “Matsne” received 25 000 GEL funding from the local budget.

The materials and requested documents, which we have obtained so far, prove that increased unreasonable media expenditures mostly occur during election years. So, the Coalition for Freedom of Choice will monitor the expenditure of the budget funds in local media organizations.

On December 14, Transparency International – Georgia published a new report about Georgian Advertising Market. The Coalition for Freedom of Choice fully agrees with their findings and conclusions as well as TI-Georgia’s recommendations to media-organizations and Georgian Government. 

Prepared by Georgian Media Monitoring Center and Georgian Media Club

The materials collected by the Coalition for Freedom of Choice will be forwarded to the Public Defender of Georgia, foreign embassies accredited in Georgia and international organizations.