The Georgian State Security Service has launched an investigation into an alleged act of sabotage in connection with a TV story aired by pro-opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV on June 20.
In a statement released on June 25, the State Security Service noted that the story aired by Mtavari Arkhi TV was deliberately manipulated.
According to the story, medical staff and local authorities were allegedly offering money to residents of the southern Marneuli Municipality so that they named COVID-19 as the cause of death of their family members or relatives. The State Security Service said that TV deliberately mistranslated these Azerbaijani-language interviews.
The investigation has been launched under article 318 of the criminal code of Georgia, involving interference with the normal functioning of public or other enterprises, institutions, organizations, or agencies for the purpose of weakening of the country that is punished by imprisonment for a term of two to four years.
“Through these actions, Mtavari Arkhi TV would, on one hand, have tried to discredit the government and blame it for deliberate unlawful actions, while on the other hand, it would have incited a feeling of insecurity,” the statement reads.
It further noted that “through misinforming Georgian population it would have affected citizens’ mental condition that would have caused fair protest and hampered smooth functioning of government institutions and organizations.”
Subsequent to the statement, journalists, civic activists as well as leader of the opposition Republican Party, Khatuna Samnidze were summoned by the State Security Service for interrogation in connection with their Facebook posts reacting to Mtavari TV story.
Commenting on the issue on June 26, the United National Movement slammed the investigation, saying that it was “an anti-state act” with an aim “to impose censorship” on the pro-opposition TV channel.
Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the Georgian Dream’s parliamentary majority, said that “[the story aired by Mtavari Arkhi TV is a deliberate attack against the state and its success in combating COVID-19 pandemic.”