Ten civil society organizations, including Transparency International Georgia, Georgia’s Reforms Associates and Civil Development Agency, expressed their concern over the recent charges against Avtandil Tsereteli over the TBC Bank case.
In a joint statement of August 22, the CSOs noted that in the wake of the developments at Rustavi 2 TV “when the change in the channel’s ownership and management actually resulted in the steps taken to change its editorial policy, the indictment of Avtandil Tsereteli, family member of the owner of another critical broadcaster, TV Pirveli, is extremely concerning.”
A suspicion arises that the investigation process could be used to exert pressure on the independent and critical broadcaster, especially considering that the ruling team had allegedly attempted to change the editorial policy of TV Pirveli in the past as well,” reads the statement.
“There is an obvious strengthening trend of informal governance and state capture, which entails concentration of considerable power in the hands of the ruling party and influential persons and their use of public institutions to serve their personal goals and the parochial interests of the party,” the CSOs said.
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The CSOs find the recent developments “of extremely worrisome nature, threatening freedom of speech and the country’s democratic development.”
They call on the Government of Georgia to “recognize the damage that could be inflicted on the state interests if the well-founded suspicions concerning selective or politically motivated administration of justice are substantiated further.”
They also call on the Prosecutor’s Office to present and publicize “credible evidence with regard to the culpability” of the founder and former Board Chair of the TBC Bank, Mamuka Khazaradze and his Deputy Badri Japaridze, as well as Avtandil Tsereteli, “so that the public no longer has questions concerning other motives for accusations.”
They also call on Georgia’s international partners to pay special attention to the recent developments in the country, “which point to the challenges in such areas as freedom of speech and freedom of expression as well as the systemic challenges facing democratic institutions in general.”