Statement of member organizations of the civil platform "No to Phobia!"
We are concerned by comments of the Minister of Justice, Thea Tsulukiani on the program Qronika on Imedi TV , on February 18, 2015, which contained xenophobic, discriminatory attitudes and a racist connotation in relation to citizens of specific countries:
"Not everyone is happy with large-scale reform... For example, the Agency of Tourism is not happy... When this [immigration] reform became effective On September 1, this caused a decrease of 42,000 people in the flow of tourists to our country during the last four months of 2014 – the Chinese, Iraqis, Iranians, and Egyptians... We narrowed this down, and we achieved success in Brussels, and we expect some kind of success at the Riga Summit... Then we can exercise control within the established framework and allow those who wish well for our country, tourists, or, what is most important, investors."
This statement is xenophobic and clearly discriminatory towards people of those ethnic groups named by the Minister, since she equates them with people who wish Georgia harm and should not be allowed to enter the country. Such statements contradict universal principles of human rights. Moreover, they are completely in line with the rhetoric cultivated in our society by radical groups. It is especially alarming that such a populist narrative is propagated by a high-ranking political official.
In addition, the Minister of Justice propagates a false idea that such a discriminatory approach – restriction of entry of representatives of certain countries and ethnic groups into the country – is a precondition of Georgia’s success on the course to integration with the EU. This, in its turn, contributes to deepening false and stereotypical ideas about Europe.
It should be noted that the Council of Europe has raised its concerns about such expressions by government officials in its Recommendation on Hate Speech of October 30, 1997. This Recommendation emphasizes the "special responsibility" of government officials "to refrain from statements, in particular to the media, which may reasonably be understood as hate speech, or as speech likely to produce the effect of legitimising, spreading or promoting racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of discrimination or hatred based on intolerance."
We believe that statements of a high-ranking official, the Minister of Justice, that contain xenophobic, discriminatory, and racist approaches and stereotypical attitudes contradict the principle of equality guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia and are harmful for Georgia’s democratic development, as well as for the country’s reputation on the international arena.
It is important that high-ranking officials understand the influence of their statements on attitudes in society and refrain from encouraging or inciting intolerant attitudes. We call on members of the Government and other high-ranking officials to respect people with a different identity and base their public statements on the principles of human rights and equality.
Georgian Democracy Initiative
Media Development Foundation
Georgian Young Lawyers Association
Tolerance and Diversity Institute
Georgia’s Reform Associates
Transparency International Georgia
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
Article 42 of the Constitution