Concerns over amendments to Georgia's laws on access to information and public broadcasting

Expression

On 15th December 2017, Parliament approved amendments to article 18 of the country's new constitution regarding public access to information. According to civil society groups, the amendments create greater constraints on what kind of information the public may request, namely information with "commercial or professional secrets, or if [it is] recognized as a state secret". Civil society issued a statement, asserting that the changes to the article 18 are "not well-prepared...unjustified and [do] not serve the purpose of strengthening constitutional standards and institutions”.

Also in December, civil society and private broadcasters spoke out against proposed changes to the Law on the Public Broadcaster that would reportedly broaden the Georgian Public Broadcaster's powers and places it more under the government's control.  On 22nd December, the amendment was approved but at the time of writing, the president had not yet signed it into law. 

On 28th November 2017, the European Court of Human Rights began the hearing regarding Georgian TV Channel Rustavi 2's transfer of ownership. As reported previously on the Monitor, in March 2017 the Georgian Supreme Court decided to transfer the ownership back to the former owner Kibar Khalvashi, a decision criticised by civil society and opposition political parties. 

Peaceful Assembly

From October to December 2017, a number of protests took place in Georgia as follows:

Anti-LGBT Protest in Tbilisi

In November 2017, several far-right Georgian nationalists protested in front of the Georgian Football Federation’s office in Tbilisi against a member of the national football team who wore a rainbow-coloured LGBT armband during a game. Protesters demanded the athlete's removal from the team, which was not granted. Six protesters were reportedly detained during the demonstration. 

Youth rally in Sukhumi

In October 2017, an activist group - Social-Psychological Aid Centre - reportedly organised a peaceful demonstration, attended mainly by youth, against pervasive drug abuse and addiction in Abhkazia. 

Saakashvili supporters protest in Tbilisi

In December 2017, several political protests took place in Tbilisi in support of former Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, who was detained in Kyiv on allegations of accepting funds from blacklisted oligarchs. According to one media report, about 500 people gathered near the Rustaveli subway station to demand Saakashvili’s release.