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Prime Minister vs NGOs

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, May 2
The Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, has stated that the non-government organizations’ campaign It Concerns You, regarding illegal eavesdropping and surveillance, undermines state interests. The PM stated on May 1 that the movement is an aimed anti-state movement, concerned with threats that do not exist.

Two months ago, various NGOs launched a campaign against illegal activity widely used under the previous government. The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), Transparency International Georgia (TI), International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) and many others claim that the Ministry of Interior Affairs still has the ability to listen to 21,000 mobile subscribers through the use of special technologies planted at the head offices of mobile operators in Georgia. The NGOs appealed to Parliament to timely adopt a law against this violation.

The Prime Minister admitted yesterday that the bill that was introduced into Parliament and was drafted by the United National Movement and the above NGOs included serious threats for state security.

“I demanded my adviser in security issues Mindia Janelidze work on the draft. He has completed the action and the bill will be delivered to the legislative body in the upcoming days,” Gharibashvili stated, noting that there was no need of such a campaign.

“We have a strong will in terms of the problem. We have defeated the faulty practice. Our door is open and I appeal to the NGOs not to break the open door,” the PM added.

Representatives of the aforementioned NGOs called the PM “a liar” for his assessments. Eka Gigauri, the head of TI Georgia, has stated that the majority member Shalva Shavgulidze and the Editor-in-Chief of Rezonansi newspaper Lasha Tughushi drafted the bill that was represented to the legislative body. Gigauri stressed that the problem was mentioned by Thomas Hammarberg, the EU Special Adviser on Constitutional and Legal Reform and Human Rights in Georgia as well.

“Are such persons and foreign organizations also engaged with undermining Georgian interests? To be more correct would be a better outcome from the PM’s side,” Gigauri stated.

Nino Lomjaria, Executive Director of ISFED has explained that the campaign was launched under the previous government. She has stated that there were signs after the new government’s entry that the Interior Ministry was artificially blocking the draft.

“That is why we re-started the campaign two months ago. We have been waiting for a year. However, there were no real moves made in the legislation in this regard,” Lomjaria stated, stressing that Gharibashvili’s speech looked like an “authoritarian leader’s words,” and the Georgian PM spoke about the civil sector in the same manner as Vladimir Putin speaks.

The head of the GYLA, Kakha Kozhoridze, said that the statement made by Gharibashvili was “anti-state, non-competent and absolutely unreal.”