Covert Recordings Probe: CSOs Decry ‘Dangerous Precedent,’ TV Pirveli Appeals to Diplomats, Prosecutor Denies Raid Intention

Key Georgian CSOs and the Public Defender’s Office have been raising alarms today about the court order greenlighting the Prosecutor’s Office to retrieve material evidence of recently aired controversial recordings from TV Pirveli, a channel critical to the Georgian Dream Government.

Transparency International Georgia, watchdog, said the order sets “a dangerous precedent” that contradicts norms of freedom of expression and source confidentiality established both by Georgian and international laws.

The Public Defender of Georgia also decried the “unsubstantiated” order that goes against Georgian and international law, arguing that the court ruling sets a precedent to impede free activities of journalists.

The Coalition for Media Advocacy, uniting local media watchdogs, called on Georgia’s international partners to make note of “the campaign against the media in Georgia, which, unfortunately, is encouraged by state institutions and high-ranking officials.”

TV Pirveli Reacts to Court Order

The ruling party-critical TV channel has announced plans to appeal the court ruling in the Tbilisi Court of Appeals.

At a special briefing, TV Pirveli founder Vato Tsereteli pleaded to the foreign diplomatic corps to “promptly react” to the developments. “Only you could stop this hysteria [of the ruling party],” Tsereteli stated.

This court order is part of the “Georgian Dream’s agenda, [to forcibly raid the TV company] to get TV Pirveli to cease broadcasting,” Tsereteli asserted.

Prosecutor’s Office Responds

The Prosecutor’s Office denied allegations that it intends to raid TV Pirveli premises, claiming that such allegations “aim to deliberately mislead the public.” It stressed that the Court order only permits the retrieval of “the carrier of electronic data,” and does involve of a search warrant of the channel’s offices.

Noting that “the TV company and its journalists have the right not to submit” materials relevant to the investigation of the covert audio recordings, the Prosecutor’s Office, nevertheless, expressed hope that TV Pirveli will choose to cooperate.

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