SEEING RED State Security Service started investigating a Mtavari TV broadcast on charges of sabotage. The TV report showed residents of Georgia’s southern provinces saying – in their native Azerbaijani – that doctors offered them money to say their relatives, who died of natural causes, were in fact Covid-19 victims. The Security Service said they have testimonies that these statements were deliberately manipulated and mistranslated. Worrying and reprehensible, if confirmed, but why sabotage, you may ask? Because, says the security service “through misinforming of Georgian population” the report “would affect citizens’ mental condition, that would cause fair protest and hamper regular functioning of state authorities and organizations.” Seems a bit far-fetched, yet, the journalists may face 2 to 4 years in prison.
UNDIPLOMATIC It is highly unusual for a foreign ambassador to reprimand national human rights watchdogs. Yet, this is precisely what the German Ambassador to Tbilisi seems to have done. Referring to a letter of 53 CSOs who spoke against nomination of the ruling party MP Sophio Kiladze to the UN Committee on Child Rights, Ambassador wrote “attacks of a personal nature do occur” between parties, in Georgia’s “deplorably polarized political landscape”, but while “international partners appreciate the fact that [CSOs] do valuable work on issues and causes” they must avoid “descending to such a level.” CSOs did not speak lightly though – their statement lists both procedural issues and the questions against nominee’s integrity. Mrs. Kiladze is known as an ardent supporter of the “traditional family”, publicly spoke and legislated against LGBTQ+ community and religious minorities.
ON THE BENCH Judge Merab Turava landed as the Chair of the Constitutional Court. A controversial appointment, with a long trail of politically charged cases behind him.
PUNCHING AWAY Tbilisi Mayor Kaladze did well on his promise and went live tonight lambasting opposition media for spreading “fake news”. Broadsides against opposing media outlets are in fashion world-wide this way, but Mr. Kaladze has distinguished himself by high-school antics – blood drenched (?) logos of the three main opposition TVs were nailed to the banner announcing his show, with their names altered to spell “lies”. Media Advocacy Coalition said such attacks are below “expectations of the democratic society” and may put the journalists at risk of reprisals.
OTD 1920: Batumi returns to the Georgian fold The Georgian press was filled with anticipation hundred years ago, at the imminent return of Batumi under control of the Georgian authorities. As Russia quit the World War I after Bolshevik takeover in 1917, Soviet Authorities signed away the swaths of land – including Batumi – to the Central Powers, including the Ottoman Empire. As the Russian Empire crumbled, the Ottoman military advance forced Georgia to accept the loss, but the prompt victory of the Allies put Batumi under the British Occupation. Tbilisi used diplomacy to bring Batumi back under Georgia’s fold, but this only materialized after the Soviets took Azerbaijan and thus Baku-Batumi corridor was rendered useless. Hence the British withdrawal. Georgian flag finally flew over Batumi on 7 July.