GEO

This Affects You calls on law enforcement to probe into alleged surveillance over journalist

21 September, 2015

 

On 8 September 2015 during her interview with the talk-show Archevani on Rustavi 2 TV, Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) journalist Eka Mishveladze alleged that she had been subject to secret government surveillance.

Mishveladze, an author and anchor of the political talk-show Pirveli Studia on the GPB, publicly confirmed that she and Aleksi Petriashvili, her husband and one of the leaders of the opposition Free Democrats party, had been under surveillance. Several days prior, reports had emerged regarding possible suspension of Eka Mishveladze’s talk-show Pirveli Studia by the GPB. On 4 September 2015, Basa Janikashvili, Advisor to the Director General of the GPB, publicly suggested that Mishveladze has a conflict of interests as she is now married to Aleksi Petriashvili. GPB has not made any public statements on the issue yet.

This case is particularly worrying due to the fact that along with the journalist of the GPB, surveillance was also possibly conducted over one of the opposition leaders.

This is not the first instance when suspicions over illegal surveillance against journalists are raised. In May 2014, hidden video cameras were found in Rustavi 2 TV’s building. Progress of the investigation on this case is unknown to the public, and we believe this demonstrates ineffectiveness of the law enforcement agencies.

This Affects You campaign calls upon the law enforcement agencies to immediately launch an investigation based on public statements made by the journalist. The investigation must determine whether illegal surveillance had in fact taken place and identify all culprits. If fails to do so, the government will need to assume political responsibility for the surveillance and intimidation of citizens based on their journalistic and political activities.

Georgia’s civil society has been concerned about intimidation and violation of privacy of citizens, including politically active and public persons, for a long time. Protection of this important civil liberty was the main cause around which the campaign This Affects You, They Are Still Listening was launched in 2013.

Even though the current government officials had themselves been victims of the mass wiretapping system while still in opposition, the Georgian Dream government has shown no political will to abandon this vile Soviet practice. Despite the public’s active protest, the law enforcement bodies retain capacities to conduct massive, unwarranted surveillance to date.

Largely due to advocacy by This Affects You, on 1 August 2014, the Parliament adopted legislative amendments which significantly strengthened human rights protection safeguards during the investigation. However, several months later, the Parliament made it practically legal for the law enforcement agencies to have unlimited and direct access to the personal communications of the citizens by adopting a new law in November 2014. Following its initial adoption, the President vetoed the bill, providing the Parliament with an opportunity to reconsider. The MPs, however, supported the bill lobbied by the law enforcement agencies for the second time as well. Members of This Affects You campaign believe that the adopted legislation grossly violates the constitutional rights of the citizens and has applied to the Constitutional Court with a request to repeal the law.