Investigation launched into legality of wiretap of Georgian PM, oligarch's son – not the content discussed
Public outrage in Georgia has flared up over a selective court decision to only investigate the illegality of a wiretap of a conversation between Prime Minister Garibashvili and the son of billionaire and informal ruler of the country, Bera Ivanishvili.
The content of the conversation, which includes a discussion about the punishment of teenagers for critical posts on social media, will not be investigated.
A protest broke out after the court ruled the audio recordings be seized from TV channel Pirveli, “using force if necessary”.
TV channel Pirveli in turn says the prosecutor’s office is not interested in the recordings themselves, but in a certain envelope and electronic carrier, given to the TV company by an unknown person.
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Nodar Meladze, the host and main producer of Pirveli, says that he does not know what is meant by “forcible confiscation of materials”.
According to him, the purpose of the prosecutor’s office is to establish the source – where exactly the audio recording came from, and not the facts that are in the recording itself.
“What does it mean? That is, the prosecutor’s office will break into the building of the TV company and start searching the editorial offices and checking all the computers?” Nodar Meladze said.
“Are you going to invade Pirveli TV? Do you want war? Well, go for it!” says journalist Inga Grigolia.
What the prosecutor’s office is investigating
The prosecutor’s office says that all the necessary investigative and procedural steps will be taken to determine the legality of the receipt and distribution of the records. They will also check their authenticity.
“Media is under the protection of the law” – opposition reaction
Gigi Ugulava, head of the opposition European Georgia party, also commented on the court’s decision. According to him, it is possible that a serious blow will be dealt to free media.
“The media is protected by freedom of speech. This law is the last outpost that Ivanishvili’s dirty hands have not yet touched … And the only obstacle on the way to the transition to a Russian-type state is a free media,” Ugulava said.
Bera Ivanishvili does not deny the authenticity of the recordings
The wiretapped conversation between Bera Ivanishvili and government officials were broadcast on the air of Pirveli TV on March 6.
In them, besides Ivanishvili, one can hear the voices of the current Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili and the head of the State Security Service Anzor Chubinidze.
The conversation participants discussed, using obscene language, the punishment and intimidation of social media users who spoke badly about Bere Ivanishvili, including underage teenagers.
Initially, representatives of the ruling party called the recordings a fabrication.
However, later in an interview, Bera Ivanishvili not only confirmed their authenticity, but also stated that today he is ready to repeat the same thing and “demand an answer” from anyone who insults his mother or family.