Media freedom alerts

 

Journalists Levan Sutidze, Irakli Kiknavelidze and Nino Macharashvili Attacked in Tbilisi

Update: 06 Dec 2018 Resolved
Year 14 Jan 2016 Country Georgia Category Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists Source of threat Unknown Partner EFJ/IFJ , RSF Alert level Level 2
14 Jan 2016 Georgia Attacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists Unknown EFJ/IFJ , RSF Level 2

Three journalists, Levan Sutidze, Irakli Kiknavelidze and Nino Macharashvili, working for the Georgian TV and news website Tabula were attacked on 12 January 2016 at a restaurant in the capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi. They suffered minor injuries. The journalists believe they were attacked because of their criticism of Georgian TV journalists’ stand towards the Georgian Church. Allegedly, one of the attackers was shouting “Orthodoxy” during the attack. Prior to the attack, on his Tabula TV talk show, Levan Sutidze hosted individuals from different religious backgrounds. The police has launched an investigation but so far no arrests have been made.

Resolved On 6 December 2018, considering that the investigation has been conducted by the Georgian authorities and that perpetrators were sentenced, the partner organisations to the Platform declared this case to be “resolved”, concluding it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.

Independence of Maestro TV Threatened

Update: 06 Dec 2018 Resolved
Year 11 Feb 2016 Country Georgia Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat Non-state Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
11 Feb 2016 Georgia Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Non-state EFJ/IFJ Level 2

On 2 February 2016, Georgian rapper Giorgi Gachechiladze, also known as "Utsnobi", became the main owner of the television company Maestro, which is the third most watched TV channel in Georgia. The company is now facing a private dispute between Giorgi Gachechiladze and another Maestro shareholder, Maka Asiatani. On 4 February 2016, six Georgian NGOs, including Transparency International Georgia, issued a statement expressing concern over the independence of the editorial staff of Maestro, just months prior to the Georgian Parliamentary elections. According to the NGOs, the dispute between the Maestro shareholders could be politically motivated: "The case of Maestro intensifies [fears] of civil society that the government wants to establish control over media prior to elections". The Independent Association of Georgian Journalists (IAGJ) supported the journalists of TV Maestro in their action against the appointment of a new director. IAGJ called upon TV Maestro owners to refrain from infringing on editorial independence. IAGJ also called upon the Georgian government to keep its distance from private media.

Resolved On 6 December 2018, considering that the conflict between the owners has been resolved following the merge of Maestro TV with the Imedi Holding Group, the partner organisations to the Platform declared this case to be “resolved”, concluding it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.

Updates

08 Feb 2017 : In January 2017, Maestro TV became part of the Imedi holding.
11 May 2016 : In April 2016, Levan Gacheriladze was replaced by Zurab Nakeuri as Maestro's Director General.

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Georgian TV Channel Rustavi 2 Faces Crippling Court Measures in Civil Case

Update: 17 May 2017 State replied
Year 25 Aug 2015 Country Georgia Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , AEJ Alert level Level 2
25 Aug 2015 Georgia Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ , AEJ Level 2

On 5 August 2015, the Tbilisi City Court issued an order freezing the assets of the country’s largest private media outlet, the television channel Rustavi 2, as an interim measure pending a verdict. The court order concerns a civil lawsuit lodged by Kibar Khalvashi, a local businessman, to recover shares he claims he was forced to give up in 2006. According to the Independent Association of Georgian Journalists (IAGJ), between 2004 and 2012, Rustavi 2 changed owners approximately 20 times, often in controversial deals involving people with close links to ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili. The TV channel, which is now the only major channel perceived to be close to the opposition, is facing excessive legal threats: over a hundred journalists may lose their jobs and news programs may be suspended. The court decision, based on an ownership dispute, is disproportionate and may negatively affect media pluralism in Georgia. The journalists’ organisations call on the Georgian authorities to ensure a transparent and fair process in handling the case, without any interference from politically affiliated groups.

Updates

17 May 2017 : On 7 March 2017, the European Court of Human Rights adopted an interim measure asking the Georgian Government to stay the execution of the judgment given by the Supreme Court of Georgia on 2 March 2017 until further notice.
03 Mar 2017 : On 2 March 2017, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled in favour of the former co-owner of Rustavi 2 TV, ordering a change in ownership.
01 Dec 2016 : On 10 June 2016, Tbilisi’s Appeals Court upheld a City Court ruling over the transfer of the ownership of the TV station to former owner Kibar Khalvashi. Rustavi’s current owners appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. On 21 November 2016, the three judges of the Supreme Court decided to hand the Rustavi 2 ownership case to the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court.

State replies

24 Sep 2015 : Response of the Georgian Government

Follow-ups

06 Mar 2017 : On 3 March 2017, the European Court of Human Rights suspended, under Rule 39 (interim measures), Georgia's Supreme Court’s decision to transfer ownership of Rustavi 2 TV.
03 Mar 2017 : OSCE Media Freedom Representative calls the Surpeme Court 's decision a "disappointing move and huge blow to media pluralism in Georgia".

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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