News, Politics

Workers forced to renounce rights

by | September 27, 2011

Support is mounting for the three imprisoned metallurgy workers in Kutaisi. According to their labor union, they have been forced to sign a statement promising to never again go on strike. The appearant violation of their basic human rights had brought nearly thirty non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to Kutaisi Monday to show support for the three, who work at the city's metallurgical plant. "Today’s protest is a show of solidarity with people who didn’t even have any political demands," said Aslan Lortkipanidze, chairman of The Union of Independent Experts, an Adjarian NGO. "They are in jail just because they fought for their labor rights."   "This misconduct must be immediately investigated and certain individuals punished"  -- Tamar Chugoshvili, Georgian Young Lawyer's Association   Kutaisi is Georgia's second largest city, 200 km west of the capital, Tbilisi. Workers at the plant have been pressuring to improve their conditions since summer, but on 15 September their strike was forcefully broken up by police. Three days later, three of the striking workers were arrested and sentenced to ten days in prison. Supporters massed in the city on Monday to demand an ...

Media, News

Gate crashing the President’s vineyard

by | September 27, 2011

The reason journalist Shalva Ramishvili wanted to get into Mikheil Saakashvili's vineyard on Sunday was that the president was hosting a number of other TV journalists there. Georgian TV viewers have become accustomed to these events, which are often broadcast live on several of the national channels, all of which are widely believed to be under the control of the government, though this has proven hard to ascertain. Investigative reporters revealed that when the president held one of his live broadcasts in a village in the Sachkhere region near South Ossetia, in which he celebrated the completion of a new water supply which would let children swim in a new swimming pool, in fact the water supply had not been completed, and the water flowing from the tap had been brought up to the village in fire trucks only temporarily filling the reservoir. This report was shown on Maestro TV, which has called into question the truthfulness of a number of Mr Saakashvili's TV events. On Sunday the president had gathered journalists at his country estate nead the village Kvareli, 140 km west of ...


TV-crew detained in President’s vineyard

by | September 26, 2011

Police Sunday arrested the well-known Georgian journalist Shalva Ramishvili and his crew in president Saakashvili’s vineyard. Ramishvili was just done shooting footage for his TV show "Without Accreditation" in the president's vineyard in Kvareli, a village 140 km west of the capital Tbilisi when regional police and officers from state security appeared and confiscated all the equipment. The officers detained the crew and brought them to a nearby police station.   "They realized that our detention was groundless" -- Shalva Ramishvili, TV journalist   Twenty minutes after their detention, both journalist and cameramen were released. "They realized that our detention was groundless," Shalva Ramishvili said during a phone interview on Maestro TV Sunday. "There could be a scandal, and so they released us and returned part of our equipment, but without all the footage." No one warned the journalist not to enter the President’s property. DF Watch tried, but was unable to get a comment from the Ministry of Interior Sunday evening in connection with this story. "Without Accreditation" is a gonzo style political satire program aired on Maestro TV, a small independent cable channel available mainly in Tbilisi and ...


Revenue Service halts tax audit of Palitra Holding “indefinitely”

by | September 23, 2011

Georgia's revenue service has suspended the tax audit of Palitra Holding, one of Georgia’s largest media groups. The Revenue Service’s order, dated September 18, does not give any reason for the suspension. The GRS had only nine days left to complete their inspection when they suspended it "indefinitely", after extending the deadline twice in three months. It was on June 7 the news broke that the Georgian tax inspection had physically sealed off the premises of all Palitra Holding’s six divisions an initiated a full check-up of the company. The step was seen by many as politically motivated. Other Georgian newspapers quickly voiced their solidarity with Palitra in connection with the audit. The deadline was extended twice, but it was finally to have been completed by September 29.   "It could mean that the results of the whole inspection process is undesirable for them" -- Levan Kalandadze, economic analyst   "The reason for the suspension is the process of summarizing data,” Ana Gogichadze, spokesperson for the Revenue Service's PR department, said at a press conference. She did not specify why an indefinite period is needed for the ...

Elections, Legal reform, News, Politics

Government introduces surprise changes in new election law

by | September 23, 2011

After reaching a hard-fought agreement with several opposition parties, the ruling party has introduced significant changes in the draft for a new Georgian Election Code. According to lawmakers, the eleventh-hour changes were only made in order to ensure a democratic election environment in the country, however many opposition parties remain skeptical. Some of the changes in the draft were made due to recommendations tabled last year by the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal and constitutional affairs. The latest draft is already sent to the Commission for another round of review. Work to reform the election process began in October 2010 with talks between a coalition of opposition parties and the ruling National Movement party, but in the end, the ruling party managed to strike an agreement only with two out of eight opposition groups.   "There is no point in discussing things in an editorial group if the government continues with such surprises"  -- Levan Vepkhvadze, Christian Democrat party   The agreement envisages nine basic changes which will come into force in time for the parliamentary elections in 2012. Eight of them were ...


President defends 26 May dispersal: ‘we have improved since 2007’

by | September 19, 2011

President Saakashvili maintains that the deadly police action last May was necessary.President Mikheil Saakashvili has no regrets about issuing the order which led to the police clearing the area in front of parliament the night before the Independence Day rally. An opposition movement led by former parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze had gathered around 300 people in the evening of 25 May, refusing to move and calling for the president to step down. When 3000 police surrounded the crowd, leaving them no escape route, the ensuing violence led to at least three deaths. A number of human rights groups have criticized the police operation. Mr Saakashvili shortly after claimed it was necessary in order to send a signal to the Kremlin, because the crowd of demonstrators was infiltrated by Russian military intelligence agents. Today he defended his position in an interview with the Ukrainian tabloid Segodnya, and said he was sickened by watching on TV stories of authorities using force against the people. -It should be understood what choices we had. And I believe we acted correctly. Judge for yourself. A group of provocateurs, which are ...

Elections, News

Leak shows U.S. believed secret tapes ‘turned the tide’ for Saakashvili in 2008 election

by | September 9, 2011

The United States ambassador at the time thought that two recordings which were televised by Saakashvili's government right before the presidential election in January 2008, decided the final outcome in his favor. The two clandestinely acquired tapes purportedly proved that one the president's challengers  to the presidency had plans to commit a coup d'etat. The new cable released by WikiLeaks shows that just as the country geared up for presidential elections on January 5, the U.S. ambassador John Tefft thought there was considerable uncertainty about the outcome, until the government released the tapes.   "We believe [the secret tapes] have turned the tide in Saakashvili's favor, as most Georgians were shocked and revolted by an alleged plot..."   - U.S. Ambassador John Tefft, 04.01.2008   "The polls are unreliable and all over the map. Those commissioned by the opposition show former president Saakashvili not gaining enough to win a first round victory; those commissioned by the ruling party show just the opposite.  The most interesting aspect of all the polls is their common denominator:  a large number (some 25 percent) of undecided voters.  The key to ...

Europe, News

Privatization will not mean losing control, government guarantees

by | September 9, 2011

As Georgia makes a new push to find more investors who will have a stake in its most strategically important assets, like the post and railways, the state will keep a controlling share of the stocks. Chair of the financial budgetary committee, Zurab Melikishvili, made the promise today during a debate in parliament about a new law which will allow old state businesses to be listed on foreign stock markets. But Levan Vepkhvadze from the oppositional Christian Democrat party raised doubt over the guarantee, and reminded Melikishvili that the government has categorically refused to write such a guarantee into the new law proposal. Another opposition politician, Guram Chakhvadze from the National Democrat party, sided with the government during the exchange and pointed out that there is a separate law which says that 75% of national company of oil and gas companies must remain in state ownership. This law, however, does not cover important assets that are now up for sale to foreign investors, such as the Georgian Railways and the Georgian Post. (Source: Interpressnews.)

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