TI Georgia responds to wiretapped recordings released on October 29
Wiretapped recordings of two phone conversations involving Georgia’s ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili were released by a Ukrainian website on October 29. One of these recordings is between Saakashvili and the head of Rustavi 2 TV Nika Gvaramia, and the other between the ex-president and Giga Bokeria, former Secretary of the National Security Council and a leader of the United National Movement (UNM) party. Giga Bokeria and Nika Gvaramia have already made public statements confirming the authenticity of these recordings.
At a time when public attention is directed towards the ongoing court dispute over Rustavi 2 ownership, it is unfortunate that the governor of Odessa region and the former president is attempting to instruct the director of the TV station to resort to aggressive actions.
We do not believe that the existence of media organizations with editorial policies built on various political platforms is a significant problem (such media is present in many developed countries as well). Therefore, it is unacceptable for government representative to criticize a media organization on this basis. It is also unacceptable for politicians to give instructions to journalists and media managers, especially when these instructions call for an escalation of events. We believe that expressing disrespect towards journalists and using their work for the purpose of achieving political objectives is absolutely inadmissible.
For this reason, we would like to express our solidarity with Rustavi 2 journalists and their desire to distance themselves from any proposed action that can jeopardize the TV station. The fact that the Rustavi 2 management has not followed any of Saakashvili’s radical instructions is complimentary.
We would also like to comment on the public dissemination of audio recordings containing private conversations. Transparency International Georgia calls on law enforcement agencies to launch an investigation to determine who engaged in illegal wiretapping of Georgian citizens and how. If it is determined that the recordings were obtained in accordance with the law, it will then also be necessary to identify and prosecute those persons that were responsible for their public dissemination. At the same time, using this investigation as basis for obstructing journalistic work is inadmissible.
It is unfortunate that some UNM leaders disregard their responsibility by taking actions that could damage Rustavi 2 and its future activities. This is especially unfortunate at a time when the TV station has received support from citizens that had previously been dissatisfied with its editorial policy, largely due to Rustavi 2’s special role in the Georgian media environment and its editorial policy oriented towards government criticism. The irresponsible attitude of some UNM leaders towards the media may give rise to public mistrust towards any decisions made by the Rustavi 2 management. It is also important that the recently released recordings do not influence the ongoing court dispute over Rustavi 2 TV’s ownership.