Protests demanding justice for the murder of two teenagers in 2017 continue

Peaceful Assembly

In September 2018, several protests took place in Georgia. One of the first protests was triggered by heavy truck drivers involved in import-export operations. Government authorities made some changes to the regulation which limits the amount of goods that can be transported on land. The drivers claim that the changes create conditions for unfair competition and monopolies. The protest lasted a few days.

As previously reported on the Monitor, mass protests took place in Tbilisi at the end of May and June 2018, following a court decision that found one of two suspects not guilty for the murder of two teenagers during a brawl between students of two different schools in December 2017. The protests continued in September in front of the parliament building. Reports indicate that clashes erupted between Zaza Saralidze, protest leader and father of  one of the young man killed, and the police, while protesters tried to set up a tent. Saralidze, announced during the protest that he would go on a hunger strike until all of his demands are fulfilled, and until “justice is restored in the country”. 

The Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA)  issued a statement calling on the Ministry of Internal Affairs to: 

 "[T]o respect human right – to exercise the right of peaceful assembly through placing the tent on the pedestrian. Also, we call on relevant institutions to examine the fact of restricting the right of peaceful assembly and respond appropriately." 

Expression

In September 2018, Tbilisi-based Iberia TV (owned by the Omega Group) reported that it has been subject to political pressure by the authorities as the Ministry of Finance decided to freeze the operations of the Omega Group’s cigarette production company. A spokesperson from the Omega Group said that authorities were "using “financial and other instruments” to cut the main source of funding of independent media". A few days later, audio recordings were released featuring a conversation between former Sports and Youth Affairs Minister and Zaza Okuashvili from the Omega group. It appears the former Minister offered Okuashvili to "give up the TV in exchange for [resolving] the financial problems." 

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association called on "the investigative authorities to timely, comprehensively and thoroughly examine the fact and react accordingly".

As a result, several of Iberia TV employees and some supporters interrupted the broadcast for a few hours to protest and to defend the right to freedom of expression. During their protest, they were holding signs with messages like: “Hands off Iberia!” and “Iberia tells the Truth.