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The News in Brief

Monday, November 2
TI Georgia responds to wiretapped recordings

'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, the 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's 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 a 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 tension. 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.'
(TI Georgia )

"We decided to create a public council," the Head of Rustavi 2's news service, Giorgi Laperashvili, declared

"Over the last two days we have repeatedly stated the position of the Rustavi 2 news service . We are distancing ourselves from the agenda of political parties and the rules of their games. We want to do work which we are equipped and experienced in doing - to cover ongoing processes and news. Our aim is to be critical, but objective. However, we realize that due to processes of the last two days, some amongst the public may have questions about our editorial independence.

“These questions must be answered in order to ensure our independence, and so we made the decision to create the council, which will control the content prepared by Rustavi 2's news service. This includes both the news, as well as analytical and political programs.

“Today we have discussed this initiative with non-governmental organizations at the meeting. As the initiative was acceptable for the Rustavi 2 journalists, the management and the owners of the channel it was decided to create the public board that will operate as the channel`s self-regulatory mechanism.”

Russian soldiers kidnap two Georgian farmers near occupied Tskhinvali

Russian border soldiers have kidnapped two Georgian farmers who were herding their cattle near the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) with Tskhinvali (South Ossetia), one of the country’s occupied territories.

Locals said the two Georgian cattle herders were detained yesterday by Russian occupying forces from Dvani village, which is located in the Kareli district on Georgian-controlled territory.

The men have been named as Davit Mindiashvili and Vladimer Makhachashvili.

Since 2009, more than 2,000 Georgian citizens have been detained by Russian border guards at ABLs near Georgia’s occupied Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) and Abkhazia regions.

Dvani village residents said the area where the two men were snatched was a typical place where local farmers grazed their cattle.

Locals said as a rule, Russian border guards and de facto representatives of the occupied territory accused individuals of illegally crossing the so-called border and demanded a ransom in exchange for their release.