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Eavesdropping investigation launched

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, May 13
The Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia has launched an investigation over secret recordings aired by Rustavi 2 on May 10.

Several days ago the head of Rustavi 2 Nika Gvaramia stated that the company was being eavesdropped upon. He also displayed recordings reflecting the process. Gvaramia stressed that the recordings was delivered to the channel by an informer from the Interior Ministry. According to the TV program Aktsentebi, the audio recordings, which were made in 2013, feature phone conversations between several high ranking officials. This is all during the time that Mikheil Saakashvili was president and Ugulava was Tbilisi’s mayor.

Rustavi 2 TV claims that the offices of its top executives were bugged by the current authorities. However, the prosecutor’s office states that the offices were possibly bugged in December 2012 by a security agency, which at the time was under President Saakashvili’s subordination. The office claimed these devices were used to record private conversations so they could be later used to blackmail or to discredit evidence.

"There is a high possibility that people under the influence of the former government are using the espionage equipment. We are working to find the equipment and the people involved in this criminal offence. They will be punished to the full extent of the law when they are aprehended,” the Prosecutor’s Office stated.

The Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Transparency International Georgia and the Civil Development Agency (CiDA) have released a special statement.

The NGOs say in the statement that the television station or any other media source will not be held responsible for obtaining or releasing the secret videos or audio recordings, especially where there is high public interest in the case. According to the statement, in this case Rustavi2 is protected by the Law on Freedom of Speech and Expression.

“The activities of the TV Company entirely meet the Code of Broadcasters` Conduct, which stipulates that obtaining and releasing information by secret means is justifiable, when the case has high public interest,” the NGOs state.

Head of the Elections and Political Technologies Research Centre, Kakha Kakhishvili, states that the videos aired by Rustavi 2 concern only 2013 when the president was Saakashvili. “Thus, a definitive claim that MIA was eavesdropping on Rustavi 2 based on the materials is impossible. However, I do not deny the possibility that the ministry could eavesdrop or is eavesdropping on the public again. The fact is that law-enforcement officials should specify who made the recordings,” Kakhishvili said, stressing that not a single man was punished ever for the crime, despite the fact that thousands of recordings were detected and destroyed. “The government should be more alert and realize that they have obligations to protect human rights,” Kakhishvili added.