In 2022, journalists' safety continued to be a major
issue in Georgia as media freedom became increasingly restricted by the actions
of the government. Impunity for crimes committed against media representatives,
an increasing number of attacks on journalists, and political pressure on the
media all contributed to a deteriorating media environment. Despite a legal
framework that provides protection for journalists, a lack of enforcement and
growing sense of impunity has made it increasingly difficult to protect the
rights of media representatives in Georgia. In addition to encouragement of abuse
and discrimination against journalists by members of the ruling party,
large-scale surveillance and electronic eavesdropping on journalists and media representatives
by the State Security Service also presented a major challenge to their safety
and rights to privacy. As of
the end of 2022, the Media Advocacy Coalition is representing 96 journalists
from 16 media outlets in relation to illegal surveillance. The investigation
into this surveillance, which was launched by the Prosecutor’s Office in
September 2021, has yet to release any public information or take relevant
action against the alleged culprit.
In 2022, large-scale illegal surveillance and eavesdropping on journalists and the investigation of the secret surveillance cases continued to be a major issue for the media. Alleged illegal eavesdropping is carried out when using the services of mobile operators as well as various popular applications, including Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp. International community and local CSOs have called on the authorities to conduct a transparent and independent investigation.
Following an alleged leak from within the State Security Service, on August 1, 2021, Mtavari Arkhi TV aired an investigative report about alleged illegal surveillance of the heads of non-governmental organizations by the State Security Service. The leaked material included details of phone communication between representatives of NGOs held on June 16, 2020, which the affected parties confirmed were authentic. That same day, Mtavari Arkhi also releaseდ the contents of phone conversations involving Radio Liberty's investigative journalist Giorgi Mgeladze from 2020, which they claimed were the result of illegal surveillance of the journalist by the State Security Services.
September 13, 2021, multiple media outlets reported on large-scale illegal wiretapping and surveillance by the
State Security Service. The reports noted that approximately 58,000 files
containing detailed information on the private communications and personal
lives of journalists, representatives of religious organizations, politicians,
civil activists, diplomats, and other public figures had been allegedly leaked
from the State Security Service. Numerous affected parties, including
journalists, confirmed the authenticity of the information in the distributed
the reports, Tbilisi Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation under Parts
1, 2, and 4 of Article 158 of the Criminal Code ("Subsection A"),
which includes the unauthorized recording or monitoring of private
conversations and the recording of private communication or information
obtained by technical means, as well as illegal use and distribution of
the news of the illegal wiretapping and the subsequent launch of an
investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office, the Media Advocacy Coalition’s member
organizations, which include the Georgian Democratic Initiative (GDI), Georgian
Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), Transparency International - Georgia (TI) and Media Ombudsman announced that
they would represent the interests of the affected individuals.
13, 2022, the organization Media Ombudsman registered a complaint with the European
Court of Human Rights on behalf of ten journalists. On the following day and in response to the complaint, the Tbilisi Prosecutor's
Office formally recognized TV Formula host Nino Zhizhilashvili as
a victim in
the investigation. Later, the Prosecutor's Office interviewed and granted
victim status to 42 journalists out of 48 applicants that are represented by
Media Ombudsman. Thirty-four of the 44 journalists being represented by the Democratic
Initiative of Georgia, another coalition member organization, have also been
recognized as victims.
Illegal surveillance of the
Mtavari Arkhi editorial team in 2022
13, 2022, Gia Gachechiladze, a host of the pro-government media channels Maestro
and Imedi TV, released a secret recording, which, he claims depicts the Mtavari
Arkhi TV editorial team and journalists discussing how to
sensationalize their news coverage to negatively depict the ruling party. The affected individuals verified that the content of the recordings was authentic.
Gachechiladze denies that these recordings were provided by any
government-related entity, the distribution of the illegal recording, which
paints an opposition media outlet in a negative light, to representatives of a
pro-government media outlet has led to widespread speculation that the recording
came from the State Security Services.
response to the release of the recordings, the Media Advocacy Coalition called on the Special Investigation Service to dispel the suspicions about the
illegal surveillance of journalists by the state with a quick and effective
investigation. The investigation has not yet been completed.
large-scale surveillance and illegal monitoring of media representatives’
communication represents not only a violation of their privacy but also a major
threat to media freedom in Georgia. In an already increasingly polarized and
hostile media environment, the threat of surveillance and possible retribution
from government actors only contributes to an atmosphere where media
representatives may feel unsafe in performing their journalistic activities.
Delays in the investigations and a lack of justice have also left many of the victims
with a sense that the illegal surveillance is ongoing and may negatively affect
them again in the future.