We would like to react on March 19 developments taken place at the building of Rustavi 2 and call on law-enforcement bodies to be strict while reacting on such actions as violence, hindering of journalistic work and freedom of expression.
It should be noted that it was not the first instance when the members of "Georgian March” expressed their aggression against different ideas. During the last year, their criminal actions and so called Civil Patrol initiative, announced in February, indicated that they would continue physical violence against any person who thinks differently and try to suppress diverse ideas by criminal actions.
Therefore, another fact of expressed aggression around Rustavi 2 clearly shows necessity of government policy against extremist, which will be focused on prompt reaction and prevention of such crimes.
It should be noted that publicized video recordings, depicting an assault on Rustavi 2 employees, clearly points to violation of Criminal Code of Georgia. Among other alleged crimes these are the most noteworthy ones: violation of article 143 (illegal deprivation of freedom) and article 154 (illegal hindering of journalistic work). However, the Ministry of Internal Affairs started an investigation only on violation of article 123 (violence) and 187 (impairment of other’s property). Moreover, according to the statement of the Ministry, the members of "Georgian March” were detained for violation of article 166 (minor hooliganism) and 173 (disobedience of legal instruction of police officer) of Administrative Code of Georgia. Nevertheless, we welcome March 21detention of Lado Sadghobelashvili and four other members of "Georgian March” for group hooliganism (article 239.2.a. of Criminal Code of Georgia)
We should also note that infringement of freedom of expression for the reason of preventing so called "insulting of religious feelings" is not acceptable. The main principle behind the freedom of expression implies a possibility to have a right to express critical, even shocking or insulting ideas. Religious feelings, which all in all are subjective and individual, cannot be a ground for such restriction. Any such attempt encourages restoration of "inquisitional” past, which will have a negative impact on grounded criticism in the society.
Inappropriate reaction of state on the facts of violence, intolerance and restriction of freedom of expression encourage extremist groups and crime. Therefore, it is very important for the state to conduct prompt and impartial investigation, follow appropriate legal provisions, adequately punish all convicted persons, protect the freedom of press, speech and expression and inform the society on taken measures.
In addition, we ask the Minister of Internal Affairs to meet with the NGOs working on human rights issues and inform them on steps made to handle the crimes against freedom of expression and the results of investigation.
Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI)
Transparency International Georgia (TI)
Georgian Reforms Associates (GRASS)
Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
Media Development Fund (MDF)