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The News in Brief

Wednesday, May 21
National Communication Commission elects new chairman

Journalist Vakhtang Abashidze was elected as the new chairperson of the Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC) The election was held on May 19. The post became vacant after Irakli Chikovani left the role in July 2013.

He will hold this position for the next three years.

In April 2013 Abashidze was approved by Georgian Parliament to be a member of GNCC. He was voted in with overwhelming support and gained 85 votes in favour and 3 against.

Abashidze was a GNCC member from 2000 to 2004.

War veterans and their relatives to enjoy reduced bus fares

War veterans and their family members will enjoy reduced bus fares in Tbilisi mini busses.

According to Tbilisi City Hall, they will still pay half the mini bus fare and the other half will be covered by the City Hall.

“There are up to 17,000 war veterans and their families registered in Tbilisi. Each of them will be able to get a new passenger card at 99 Vazha-Pshavela Street special service centre. The old cards must be replaced with the new ones before 20 July by the war veterans and their family members to use the allowances,” the City Hall informs.

Online registration for first-graders underway

According to the Georgian Ministry of Education and Science online registration for first-graders has started. It will last on June 20, 21:00.

Parents will have the possibility to register their children via the official web-page of the Ministry of Education and Science as well as at the Education Management web-page To register the first-graders, parents will have to fill out a special registration form. After successfully registering their children, they will receive a text message on their phone.

The system will accept the personal data of only those students that will have reached the age of 6 by January 1, 2015. Georgia’s acting legislation envisages no deviations from the given regulation.

Conservatives rally at GPB after gay rights debate

A group of conservatives demonstrated outside the Georgian Public Broadcaster on Monday, demanding the closure of the TV program Red Zone, after it dedicated its Saturday show to homophobia.

Saturday evening, Red Zone was dedicated to homophobia. In the discussion part of the program, anchor Gogi Gvakharia spoke to human rights activist Eka Agdgomelashvili from the Women’s Initiative Support Group about homophobia.

After the discussion, the short films Pierre Pinaud’s ‘Early Frost’ and Lia Jakeli’s ‘Mother, Father, I am Gay’ were shown.

Monday, protesters appeared outside the studio building carrying posters with messages like “Don’t you care about your children growing-up?” “Close Gvakharia’s filthy Show”, “Managers of Channel 1 Resign”.

The GBP management responded in a written statement saying that they do not interfere with the editorial independence of the TV program, which is produced based on a contract between GPB and Radio Liberty. Red Zone is live at 22:00 every Saturday with a film in the end of the discussion.

The statement reads that the person in charge of the program decides the topics and content and choses the films. The contract with Radio Liberty ends on August 1, 2014.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Campaign wants mobile operators to oversee surveillance

The ‘This Affects You Too’ campaign demands that parliament appoints a special session to review a package of amendments to better regulate secret surveillance and considers it ‘shameful’ that the assembly failed to reach a quorum last Thursday.

If parliament does not appoint a session, ‘This Affects You Too’ might revive their campaign, which was suspended due to the upcoming local election on June 15.

Members of ‘This Affects You Too’ think it is concerning that a passage was removed from the amendments which made mobile operators have the access key to the servers, so-called black boxes, and not the Ministry of Internal Affairs. According to the NGOs, it is a common practice in Europe that mobile operators have the access key.

They failed to agree about this issue with the government. Parliament decided to separate the issue and discuss it in November. A commission with foreign experts will be created to make a recommendation regarding the so-called black boxes.

‘This Affects You Too’ also claims that despite the change of government, illegal surveillance is continuing and there must be taken real measures to prevent it. They think the best way out is to adopt package of amendments which foresees changes in five laws. The package was sent to parliament last year but the review of it has not yet started.

On Thursday, parliament should have started to review the bill, but there were not enough votes to pass it on the first hearing.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Man accused of assaulting a writer arrested

Police arrested a person accused of the armed assault on Georgian writer Mamuka Kherkheulidze. The incident occurred on May 14. The suspect, Giorgi N. shot at Kherkheulidze as he went out of his house in Vake district. Kherkheulidze was wounded in his legs. He was immediately hospitalized. Currently, his health state is satisfactory.

According to the police, Kherkheulidze had a gun registered in his name licensed for keeping not for carrying. Therefore, the police seized the gun as evidence in a new case, which was built up on the charges of illegal carrying of arms.
(Rustavi 2)

Festival of the flowers to be held on 24-26 May

Festival of the flowers will be held on 24-26 May at Sopiko Tchiaureli square and in the nearby streets. As InterPressNews was told by Tbilisi City Hall, the traditional festival of flowers devoted to Georgia’s Independence Day marks the 10th jubilee. The festival will take place for the first three days at Sopiko Tchiaureli square and the nearby streets on 24, 25 and 26 May.

The festival exhibitions will open at 10:00 and last till 19:00. Different green companies, flower shops and private collectors take part in the jubilee festival of this year. The festival is funded by Tbilisi City Hall.