Illegal Surveillance of Media Representatives in Georgia


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. 

On 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 files.

Following 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 computer data.

Following 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.

On July 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

On July 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.

While 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.

In 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.


The 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.