"No one wants Georgia to return to times of censorship and fear" - US Ambassador
Kelly Degnan on censorship in Georgia
Nobody wants Georgia to go back to the days of repression, when there was censorship and fear, US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan said.
Chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Irakli Kobakhidze, reacted to Degnan’s statement about anti-gay riots at the Tbilisi Pride festival, that everyone in Tbilisi would feel more secure when the people in the video were arrested and punished.
“Giving arrest orders is not the job of an ambassador,” Kobakhidze said.
Degnan also noted that the police allowed an uncontrolled crowd to enter the festival grounds, vandalize it, rob participants and destroy their property.
“It is alarming when people feel fear in exercising their rights protected by the constitution, such as, for example, freedom of speech. Georgia has an ancient history, and unfortunately there have been many examples throughout it when people were intimidated, their opinions were censored, and no one wants Georgia to return to such a repressive environment.
It is a very creative, innovation-loving society that, through its literature, poetry, music, has been able to express a deep yearning for freedom and independence, including freedom of thought. I remember some of your writers and politicians who were very progressive in their time and led society forward by speaking out in a way that others might be afraid to.
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Therefore I consider it extremely important that Georgia continue to develop its democratic institutions. This is what protects your constitutional freedoms, what protects basic human rights – you must have strong democratic institutions. We see what happens when they are not there – in the neighborhood, in Russia, where people live in fear, there is no more freedom of speech, freedom of assembly …
This is one of the reasons why the US is trying to support Georgians – civil society, non-governmental organizations, politicians, artists who are working hard to protect Georgia’s reputation as a country where freedom of speech is protected. And we will continue to do this because we believe it is very important for Georgia’s future as a strong democracy,” Degnan said.