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Thursday, October 12
Non-Parliamentary Parties Concerned over ‘Discriminatory, Uneven’ Election Environment

A group of thirteen non-parliamentary opposition parties are concerned over the “uneven and discriminatory pre-election environment,” and call on the international and local observer organizations to consider that in their assessments, the parties stated in their joint appeal on October 10.

The non-parliamentary parties said in their statement that Channel Two of the Georgian Public Broadcaster, which had been “traditionally” used by the opposition for conveying their positions to the voters, has shut down all political programs before the municipal elections, and also noted that the only Tbilisi mayoral debates on GPB’s Channel One would be held just two days before the Election Day.

The opposition parties spoke about other television channels as well, saying that the Maestro TV, “one of the strongest independent television stations in Georgia,” is “practically merged into the state-controlled media holding.” The Imedi TV, according to the statement, has turned into “an add-on to the ruling party’s press-center.” “The channel’s editorial policy, as well as the choice of topics and respondents, is entirely dependent on the propagandistic interests of the ruling party,” they added.

The non-parliamentary parties also touched upon the issue of party finances, underlining that the ruling Georgian Dream party secured almost 92% of donations in August and September. “The undocumented financial resources (the so called black money) that significantly exceeds the State Audit-registered data is a major issue as well,” they also noted.

The following parties have signed the statement: New Rights, New Georgia, New Christian-Democrats, United Democratic Movement, Democratic Movement – United Georgia, National Democratic Party, European Democrats, National Forum, Free Georgia, Freedom, Labor Party, Traditionalists and Political Movement of Law Enforcement Veterans and Patriots. (

Abduction of Mukhtarli Abated Trust of Ethnic Azerbaijani Population towards Georgian Authorities

Ethnic Azerbaijani people make up 6.3% of the Georgian population, which is 233,000 people. It is the biggest ethnic minority community in the country, though their voice is the least heard here. The main reason is that ethnic Azerbaijani people do not trust the Government of Georgia. Moreover, they are afraid of the government.

A big part of the ethnic Azerbaijani population lives in the Kvemo Kartli region – Gardabani, Dmanisi, Bolnisi and Marneuli municipalities. Here they cope with the same social-economic problems as the population of other regions of Georgia. They hardly sell their harvest nor become employed. Their daily problems are additionally aggravated by the fact that Azerbaijani people cannot integrate into Georgian society.

A large part of the ethnic Azerbaijani people living in the regions of Georgia do not know the state language – Georgian. Due to the language barrier, they cannot actively participate in the social-political and cultural life of the country, thus find themselves isolated.

Georgian media, too, rarely report about the daily problems, life and needs of the Azerbaijani community. The Azerbaijani people avoid speaking about the problems openly with the media. They say it will have no impact and the state is indifferent to their problems.

There is one more reason for why they refrain from loudly speaking about their problems – they are afraid of the Georgian authorities. To explain the reason of their fear, we can recall a high-profile incident that happened in Georgia a few months ago – Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted in Tbilisi and handed to the Azerbaijani authorities.

Afgan Mukhtarli, together with many other journalists living in Azerbaijan, was persecuted by the Azerbaijani authorities and thus had to flee the country and found shelter in Georgia.

On May 2, 2017 he was abducted in Tbilisi and delivered to Azerbaijan. As Mukhtarli told his lawyer, special unit officers dressed in plain clothes kidnapped him in downtown Tbilisi and then handed him over to Azerbaijani colleagues. This incident caused huge resonance in the society and Georgian journalists organized several protest demonstrations. They demanded the Government of Georgia to impartially investigate the abduction. However, the investigation was carried out in a manner which further deteriorated the public trust in the authorities: Ministry of Internal Affairs refused to make public the video-recordings, which were installed in the sites which Afgan Mukhtarli and his kidnappers went through on their way to Azerbaijan. The video from the camera of one of the private companies, which most probably had recorded Mukhtarli, was damaged. This fact increased the doubt about alleged participation of the Georgian law enforcement bodies in the abduction of the journalist.

After Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted, Azerbaijani citizens living in Georgia became more afraid of the Georgian Government. You can sense their fear and mistrust to the authority in their conversations.

I was not surprised when people did not wish to speak with me as a journalist in Azerbaijan. But frankly speaking I did not expect the same in Georgia. I did not think that people will be afraid of their government in their country, which is declared to be an land of democracy in the Caucasus. When I try to find out the causes of this fear, I am often told that one “fine day” they might also be covered in a sack and taken to a cell.

Unless Georgia investigates the abduction of Afgan Mukhtarli impartially and punishes all perpetrators in accordance to the law, the trust of the ethnic Azerbaijani people towards the government will worsen even more.

This article was prepared in the frame of a project implemented by the Human Rights House Tbilisi, with financial support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tbilisi. Human Rights House Tbilisi is responsible for the content of the article and the views in it do not necessarily express the views of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. (DF watch)