Protesters Demand Better Working Conditions
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.”