Reports of a sex tape leak, purportedly showing senior Georgian Dream lawmaker Eka Beselia, caused widespread outcry among civil society organizations and has again raised concerns over violation of privacy rights.
This Affects You campaign, a group of civil society organizations campaigning against illegal surveillance, issued a statement on January 29, calling on the authorities to prevent the practice of sex tapes blackmail.
“It is alarming that disclosure of secretly recorded tapes suspiciously coincides with Eka Beselia’s recent criticism of the developments in the judiciary; it is also of concern if specific individuals are trying to halt the judicial reform and support the dominant clan of judges through releasing secret tapes and blackmail,” reads their statement.
The rights group stressed that a failure of the authorities to address properly similar cases in the past and ignoring allegations voiced previously by some public figures about being threatened with releasing of videos of their private lives, has exacerbated concerns over the privacy rights.
“The sense of impunity promotes and encourages repeat crimes, represents a gross violation of human rights and hampers democratic development in the country,” the group noted, adding that the authorities’ inaction to address the problem implies that they “have no desire to ensure that the privacy rights are upheld in the country.”
Georgian Women’s Movement, a group of human rights and gender equality activists, condemned the reports as well. “Manipulations with private life, including with one’s sex life, and its disclosure is the most brutal method for discrediting and marginalizing female politicians,” reads their January 29 statement.
The Women’s Movement said disclosure of sex tapes has become frequent in recent years, targeting particularly women politicians. “We condemn such attacks against women’s private and public lives; attacks against women in this manner not only violate human rights, but also undermine representative democracy.”
Public Defender Nino Lomjaria echoed the rights groups’ concerns, saying blackmailing with recordings of private lives has become a systemic and unaddressed problem in Georgia.
“Unfortunately, in Georgia this crime is gender-driven and targets female politicians [mostly],” she noted, adding that there has to be complex measures implemented in order to minimize the risks and tackle the problem, including through awareness raising and immediate blocking of disclosed materials.
Reactions of political leaders
In his press remarks on January 29, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze said disclosure of recordings containing private life “is of course immoral.” “I call on the law enforcement bodies to investigate the case thoroughly and find out what we are dealing with,” Kobakhidze noted.
President Salome Zurabishvili commented on the matter as well, calling on the authorities to carry out prompt and effective investigation. “Manipulations with private life have to come to an end in Georgia… this significantly harms our society,” Zurabishvili said in her brief statement on January 29.