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Media Coalition Urges Investigation of Alleged Mtavari Arkhi Surveillance

The Media Advocacy Coalition, a group of press freedom watchers, on July 14 called on the Special Investigative Service (SIS) to “immediately” investigate the distribution of the secret audio recording which allegedly details a conversation between the journalists of the critical Mtavari Arkhi TV.

The Coalition noted that an investigation must be started under Article 158 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which implies a violation of the secrecy of private communication.

“Freedom of communication is a fundamental aspect of the right to inviolability of personal and business life… The protection of this right is of great importance for the inviolability of a person’s personal and business space,” it stressed.

The Coalition underscored that “reasonable suspicion” that the state is eavesdropping on journalists has arisen repeatedly. Along this line, it cited the example of files allegedly leaked from the SSG in 2021, which “allegedly depicts the content of illegal wiretapping of dozens of journalists.”

The press freedom watchers concluded that the latest dissemination of secret recordings of journalists, “increases the suspicion” that this recording belongs to the SSG as well.

The recording in question was released on July 13 on Maestro TV, by TV host and singer Gia Gachechiladze, who is known as Utsnobi (Unknown). Gachechiladze has had close ties with the ruling Georgian Dream party. Gachechiladze also got the airtime on pro-governmental TV Imedi and coverage on another pro-governmental channel, PosTV as well. According to Gachechiladze, the audio recording was given to him on July 13 by a representative of the “so called critical media” who “is really worried about what is happening.” In the recording, Giorgi Gabunia, the now former host of the Mtavari Arkhi program Post Factum, is allegedly speaking with employees about how to cover the secret recordings provided to them by Ioseb Gogashvili, former Deputy Head of the State Security Service (SSG).

Mtavari Arkhi TV Responds

Giorgi Gabunia, who currently serves as the channel’s director, confirmed the authenticity of the recordings today during a briefing. According to him, a conversation of similar content took place between him and his employees in November 2021 and the recording was made in the TV channel’s building.

Gabunia says, the recording seems to have traces of editing and, in his mind, it confirms once again that “in reality, they [the security services] are listening to everyone, everywhere” and “there is no space left in the country where we are not listened to.”

Gabunia says “we will most likely see and understand soon” why the government chose to publish this recording now. He emphasized that he does not believe Gachechiladze’s words about receiving the recording from a representative of critical media.

Taking into account that “it is ridiculous to demand an investigation under the conditions of oligarch [Bidzina] Ivanishvili,” Gabunia noted that he does not demand “something that has no point.”

“I ask the Public Defender, [civil society organizations], and our international partners, to take an interest in this fact of spying on Mtavari Arkhi journalists, to study and respond appropriately because an impartial investigation and independent court no longer exist in our country,” he said.

“Our local, European, and American friends, look at the conditions under which critical media has to work – the general director of Mtavari Arkhi [Nika Gvaramia] is in prison on absurd charges, and we journalists are listened to and watched in our offices as in Russia, we are beaten, maimed… as in Russia, and at the same time, in the captured parliament they pass laws so that we will not be able to exist anymore, [so] we will collapse financially and close down,” Gabunia declared.

Gabunia addressed the ruling Georgian Dream party that they will not be intimidated and will continue to “work and expose the already government already internationally recognized as oligarchic, which avoids the West and pursues [Vladimir] Putin’s interests.” “Listen to us as much as you want, thank you for leaving nothing behind and always listening to us, we already knew that we were very important to you,” he addressed the ruling party.

Update: Special Investigative Services (SIS) announced late on July 14 that they launched an investigation into the matter under Article 158(1) of the Criminal Code of Georgia, envisaging violation of the secrecy of private communication. 

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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