Protesters demand better working conditions for workers in the country, more protests as construction workers die while on duty, Community members in Pansiki protest against construction of Hydro Power Plant in their region, Georgia drops one slot in RSF annual index,
Workers protest to demand better work conditions
In late March 2019, social workers in Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi took to the streets to demand better work conditions and more efficient services from the Social Service Agency of Georgia. The social workers announced the strike on 20th March 2019 after a five-hour meeting at the Health Ministry resulted in the parties agreeing on only two out of a total of 22 demands. Civil society organizations expressed their public support to the demonstrators. Among them was Open Society Georgia, that stated that the action had the aim to improve the social protection system in Georgia and all parties would benefit from that.
In a separate incident in late March, six activists were arrested and detained for participating in a protest calling for better working conditions after two workers died during the construction of a hospital in Chavchavadze Avenue 5 in Tbilisi, after a sink hole opened up during the construction. On 1st April 2019, the Georgian Health Ministry Work Inspection Department linked the incident to a possible violation of safety standards by the constructing company Transmsheni
The protestors blocked the street, asking for the mayor of Tbilisi to address them. Among the arrested activists were Vakhushti Menabde, lawyer at the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and David Subeliani, an activist of the White Noise Movement which mobilises protest rallies to challenge drug laws in Georgia. Most of the people the arrested were detained on charges of petty hooliganism and disobedience to police.
Photo from Pankisi, Georgia during the protests against the building of the hydroelectric power plant. I love the two old women at the front who appear to be looking for good rocks to throw. pic.twitter.com/srNJ3mG6Or— Mark Mola (@markbairden) April 25, 2019
Violent clashes between protesters and police officers in Pankisi Valley
On 21st April 2019, police officers clashed with hundreds of local residents from Pankisi Valley who were protesting the resumption of construction works for a hydropower plant in the area. Chaos ensued when police officers accompanied a number of construction workers to the site of the hydropower plant, whose construction has been opposed by the community. Protesters began to throw stones and sticks at the police officers, which prompted authorities to deploy ant-riot police. Anti-riot police reacted to the protest by lobbing teargas and firing rubber bullets, while protesters on the other hand damaged several police cars and other equipment. 38 police officers and 17 protesters were injured.
The Center for Media, Data and Society (CMDS) released a report analysing the media space in Georgia. Although the legal and policy framework for the media has improved over the years, in practice however, there is still a lot of government influence and pressure from politicians, according to the report,. The national media regulator – the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) was for instance noted for its non-transparency in decision making and political affiliation of its commissioners.
According to the World Press Freedom Index 2019 by Reporters Without Boarders (RSF), Georgian’s press freedom score declined in 2018. Georgia’s ranking went down one slot and is now ranked 60th in the press freedom index.
Explaining the latest ranking, RSF’s page on Georgia read in part:
“Georgia’s media landscape is pluralist but still very polarized. The reforms of recent years have brought improvements in media ownership transparency and satellite TV pluralism, but owners often still call the shots on editorial content.”
Everyone is guaranteed the right to freedom of association through the Georgian constitution. The authorities generally respect these rights and a vibrant civil society is evident across the country. Since the Rose revolution in 2003, improvements to the law have been widely praised for encouraging minority rights organisations to register as legal entities.
Everyone is guaranteed the right to freedom of association through the Georgian constitution. The authorities generally respect these rights and a vibrant civil society is evident across the country. Since the Rose revolution in 2003, improvements to the law have been widely praised for encouraging minority rights organisations to register as legal entities. Furthermore, the laws governing NGO registration have ensured that associations can form and register easily and without lengthy delays or arbitrary impediments. Despite these improvements, groups working on LGBTI issues still face threat. On 13 January 2016 the office of Identoba, an NGO working on LGBTI issues, was set on fire. No one was ever held accountable for the blaze, leading many to question the ability of the state to protect civic groups working on LGBTI issues.
Protest rights in Georgia are constitutionally protected and activists only need approval if their planned demonstration blocks transport or is held on a road.
Protest rights in Georgia are constitutionally protected and activists only need approval if their planned demonstration blocks transport or is held on a road. Authorities largely respect these rights, with a variety of peaceful protests occurring over the past year. However, since the peaceful mass protests of the Rose Revolution which ousted President Eduard Shevardnadze, authorities have adopted a cautious approach, seeking to control mass demonstrations that directly threaten the power of the government. Although measures have been taken to eliminate discrimination, LGBTI activists also report a lack of adequate protection during assemblies. The International Day Against Homophobia rally in 2013 was violently disrupted by religious activists, leading to clashes and 28 people being injured. The high profile arrest and beating of activist Irakli Kakabadze in 2015 for peacefully protesting has raised more questions over police tactics during assemblies.
In accordance with the constitution, Georgian citizens enjoy their right to freedom of expression. Georgia is known for having one of the most progressive legal frameworks in the region, one which is specifically designed to support a free and independent media.
In accordance with the constitution, Georgian citizens enjoy their right to freedom of expression. Georgia is known for having one of the most progressive legal frameworks in the region, one which is specifically designed to support a free and independent media. As a result, a variety of radio, television and Internet sites operate without interference. However, local groups have documented an increase in biased online reporting, a reticence by the government to provide public information to online journalists and a growing culture of self-censorship on web content for fear of reprisals. The ongoing legal battle between Rustavi 2 television company and a former shareholder is thought to be politically motivated owing to the channel’s critical stance towards the government. Civil society groups have criticised the court ruling freezing the television company’s assets, drawing attention to the politicised nature of the case. The ongoing tension has led to an outcry from local and international civil society groups, who view this as a thinly-veiled attempt to stifle one of Georgia’s most critical media outlets.