In brief

Rustavi 2 owners offer to hand shares over to staff

by | March 25, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The owners of Georgia’s biggest opposition TV station have offered to hand over a controlling stake in the company to its staff. The brothers Giorgi and Levan Karamanishvili published an open letter to the staff of Rustavi 2 staff on Friday, offering them shares in the embattled TV company.

News

Activists claim police are planting drugs on government critics

by | March 23, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The daughter of the president of Georgia claims police framed her friend because he has been involved in political work for the president. It used to be an oft-heard story during the Saakashvili presidency: regime critics who are set up by police planting drugs in their pocket. But now activists raise the alarm and say police are again placing drugs on people connected to the opposition in order to get them hooked for a crime. A crowd of protesters gathered in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs building in Tbilisi on Wednesday to protest the resurgent practice. Incredibly, the daughter the serving head of state was among the protesters. Ana Margvelashvili, daughter of President Giorgi Margvelashvili, claims that when her friend was detained recently, it was part of what the activists call ‘the repressive drug policies’ of the law enforcement agencies. Ana’s friend, Mikheil Tatarashvili, was detained on March 17 for possessing Subutex, a brand name of buprenorphine; a synthetic opioid used to treat drug addiction which is illegal in Georgia. Now the president’s daughter insists that her friend was detained because of his links to ...

News

11-year-old girl killed by car in Tbilisi

by | March 22, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--An 11 year old girl was killed in a car crash on the outskirts of Tbilisi on Tuesday. The tragic accident occurred in the morning hours Tuesday on Aghmashenebeli Lane on the northern outskirts of the city. The car, presumably a BMW,

In brief

Houses damaged, trees overturned by overnight storm in Tbilisi

by | March 21, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Strong wind hit Tbilisi Monday evening, uprooting tens of trees and damaging houses and street signs. Monday night at 10pm, the wind reached a speed of up to 32 meters per second in the capital. This qualifies as a hurricane,

Politics

Georgian president vetoes controversial surveillance bill

by | March 20, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili on Monday vetoed a surveillance bill which civil society groups claim does not go far enough in reining in the powers of the secret police. Also opposition parties have criticized the bill. They suspect that it will give

News

Eight more detained as blame game continues after ‘parking fine riot’

by | March 19, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Police detained eight more people on criminal charges on Saturday as the blame game continues for last weekend's violent riot in Batumi. Altogether, the number of detainees has now reached 100, all of them men, the local newspaper Batumelebi reports.  

News

Hungarian tourist killed by avalanche in Georgia

by | March 18, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A Hungarian tourist died in an avalanche in Georgia on Friday while skiing near Gudauri, a mountain resort north of Tbilisi. Authorities did not identity the victim beyond describing him as a man aged around 40. The accident occurred when a group of tourists

Crime

Spanish police detain 48 in raids against Georgian robbery gangs

by | March 17, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Spanish police have arrested dozens of Georgian nationals suspected of home burglaries in an elaborate operation said to be targeting ‘the Georgian mafia’. The police released information on Thursday but operations were carried out earlier,

News

Six more arrests in wake of Batumi ‘parking fine riot’

by | March 17, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Police in Georgia arrested six more people on Thursday who are suspected of having been involved in a riot in the Black Sea city Batumi last weekend that started with a disagreement over a parking fine. The six are expected to appear in court on Friday.

News

Two drug arrests of UNM-linked youth raise calls of politicized justice

by | March 16, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Two young men related to government critics were arrested in Tbilisi on Tuesday on drug charges. Their mothers think it was politically motivated. One of the detainees is the son of Khatia Dekanoidze, a justice specialist who introduced Georgian experience with police reforms to Ukraine

In brief

Sen. McCain encourages Georgia to preserve pluralistic media

by | March 15, 2017

Georgian court's decision regarding Rustavi 2 looks like 'an attempt to silence opposition voices', US Senator John McCain said to Voice of America's Georgian service. "I am deeply concerned that the Georgian Supreme Court’s decision regarding Rustavi 2 appears to be an attempt to silence opposition voices in the press and curtail the country’s vibrant, pluralistic, and open media," Republican Senator from Arizona states in a written comment to VoA's Ia Meurmishvili. "As I have said, I strongly believe that a free and open press is an essential pillar of democracy, and vital for any democracy to succeed. I encourage the Government of Georgia to preserve a pluralistic media environment so that all voices in Georgia can be heard."  

Opinion

Tbilisi and Brussels: tending to the democracy we have fired up

by | March 14, 2017

Every time someone in Brussels criticizes the Georgian government, a chain reaction begins in Tbilisi.  With specs of truth, the opposition starts a fire designed to scorch the reputation of Georgia, while certain media will provide ventilation. It is not long before the whole

News

Rioters will be strictly punished, Georgia’s interior minister warns

by | March 13, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Most who were detained in a riot in Batumi, Georgia have now been released, but the interior minister warned that they will be strictly punished. Seven people are still incarcerated after a court placed them in preliminary administrative detention,

News

Government and opposition trade accusations over Batumi riot

by | March 12, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The government and the largest opposition party in Georgia are blaming each other for being behind a riot that shook the Black Sea resort city Batumi last night, injuring dozens and leaving the burgeoning tourist destination in disarray. A special unit

News

PM Kvirikashvili blames ‘destructive political forces’ for Batumi riot

by | March 12, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--“A common incident has been utilized by destructive political forces to escalate the situation,” Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated at an emergency briefing at about 5 am on Sunday appealing the crowd in Batumi to calm down. “Unfortunately, those forces

News

Around 20 police and protesters injured in riot over parking fine in Georgia

by | March 12, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Around twenty police and protesters are injured after a riot broke out in Batumi, Georgia, Saturday evening over a disagreement about a parking fine. The riot began after a man refused to accept a fine for parking in the wrong place

NGO news

Campaigners in Georgia urge president to veto surveillance bill

by | March 11, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--An activist group in the former Soviet republic of Georgia urges the president to veto a secret surveillance bill and plans to sue the government in the European Court of Human Rights over the bill. The bill on secret surveillance was adopted

Opinion

Remembering Bob Walsh: A man who brought big ideas to life in Georgia and around the world

by | March 10, 2017

The Memorial Service, remembering Bob Walsh, will be held on March 11 in Seattle… So today, indeed, is a sad, tough, rough day because Bob Walsh was my friend for 30 years. Maybe it was for even longer, it seemed that he was a part of my entire life.

Legal reform

Escalating rhetoric between Georgia’s parliament and president

by | March 9, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A meeting summoned by the Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has become the latest episode in the downward spiral of deteriorating relations between him and the ruling Georgian Dream party. On Thursday, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze

News

Prosecutors release secret videos in the Georgia’s church poisoning case

by | March 8, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Prosecutor's Office of Georgia on Wednesday presented its theory of how a priest allegedly was planning to murder an adviser to Patriarch Ilia II, backing the allegations up by secretly obtained videos. The central part of the evidence

Europe

EU denies link between Georgia visa waiver and refugee centers proposal

by | March 8, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--A member of the European Unions executive branch denies that there is any connection between a proposal to host refugee centers in Georgia and the recent decision to allow visa-free travel to the Schengen area for Georgian passport holders.

In brief

ECHR suspends Rustavi 2 takeover ‘until further notice’

by | March 7, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday confirmed a decision by one of its judges to suspend a ruling by Georgia’s Supreme Court about changing the ownership of the opposition-leaning TV company Rustavi 2. "A Chamber constituted from the Section

Europe

Georgia rejects idea of hosting refugee center for EU

by | March 7, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia distances itself from a controversial statement by the Austrian minister of foreign affairs, who proposed establishing refugees’ centers outside the borders of the EU, including in Georgia. “There are no plans to set up refugee camps

Media

Georgian PM proposes creating new media ombudsman post

by | March 6, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgia’s prime minister proposes creating an office of media ombudsman. The PM's proposal comes at the same time as the situation surrounding a lawsuit about the country’s most popular TV company remains in a deadlock. After a meeting with PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili

Media

Georgia’s embattled TV station Rustavi 2 plans new rally on Saturday

by | March 6, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Embattled Georgian TV channel Rustavi 2 plans another rally in Tbilisi on Saturday to protest what it claims is an attempt by authorities to silence free speech in the country. On March 3, Georgia’s Supreme Court upheld a decision to change ownership of Rustavi 2.

News

Leaders of Georgia’s Orthodox Church gather to discuss poisoning plot

by | March 5, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--When top clerics within the Georgian Orthodox Church gather for a Holy Synod on March 9, there are several difficult problems on their agenda, notably a priest accused of planning to murder someone in the patriarch’s inner circle. The Synod is the highest authority

News

Gvaramia: ECHR has suspended Georgian Supreme Court ruling

by | March 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The director of Georgia’s largest opposition TV company says the European Court of Human Rights has decided to temporarily suspend a ruling by the former Soviet republic’s Supreme Court which changes the ownership of the company, Rustavi 2.

Brief

State Department: US is concerned by the impact of Supreme Court decision in Rustavi 2 case

by | March 3, 2017

"The United States is concerned by the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Rustavi 2, which could limit the access of opposition voices to Georgian broadcast media. A pluralistic media environment is essential for Georgia’s democratic growth and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. We urge the Georgian government to take steps to ensure that the media environment remains free, open, and pluralistic," State Department states in a comment provided to Cyndi Saine and Anna Kalandadze of Voice of America on March 3. "The news is troubling, although not entirely unexpected,” Paul Stronski, Carnegie endowment Russia and Eurasia fellow in Washington DC, commented by an email to Anna Kalandadze, Chief of VoA Georgian service. “There has been a controversy over the ownership structure for years.  Whatever happened to the station ten years ago under the Saakashvili government is beside the point today.  Rustavi 2 plays an important role as an independent voice and independent media is needed in Georgia, particularly after the Georgian Dream’s decisive win in the October elections. Reiterating the Saakashvili era without end does little to address urgent issues of today and I certainly hope that voices ...

News

Georgia’s president advises all sides invlolved in Rustavi 2 case to refrain from hasty steps

by | March 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Georgian president on Friday stepped into the tense situation surrounding the largest TV station in the country, urging all sides to refrain from undertaking 'immediate' action. The decision led to a protest

Legal reform

Georgia’s ruling party postpones switch to indirect election of president

by | March 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Georgian Dream is backing down on a previous pledge to phase out the use of direct elections to select a president already from next year. Instead, the ruling coalition plans to introduce the change from the 2023 election. “The rules of presidential

Media

Vigil held as Georgia’s embattled TV station vows to block takeover

by | March 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Opposition activists and supporters of Rustavi 2 held a vigil at the studio complex last night, after the Supreme Court upheld a decision to hand ownership of the embattled TV company over to a private investor who critics fear will silence the government’s

Media

Georgia Supreme Court upholds decision to change Rustavi 2 ownership

by | March 3, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Supreme Court in the former Soviet republic of Georgia has controversially upheld a decision to take away ownership of the country’s biggest opposition TV channel and hand it to a private investor. Critics say the decision will effectively silence

Media

Georgia Supreme Court begins review of Rustavi 2 case Thursday

by | March 2, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--The Supreme Court in the former Soviet republic of Georgia on Thursday begins to review a highly publicised lawsuit about the ownership over the country's biggest TV channel. The case concerns who shall control 100 percent of shares in Rustavi 2,

Europe

Georgian PM signs visa waiver document with EU

by | March 2, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--After years of negotiations, Georgia’s prime minister finally signed an agreement with the EU on Wednesday which gives his country’s citizens the right to visa-free travel to the Schengen area. The visa waiver plan will be published in the EU

News

Detained Georgian priest curses prosecutors and law enforcers

by | March 1, 2017

TBILISI, DFWatch--Prosecutors in Georgia are still unable to interrogate archpriest Giorgi Mamaladze who is accused of murder attempt of an unidentified person from patriarch's inner circle. "Instead of responding to our critical questions, he cursed us,

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