TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgia has enforced new tough rules that make it prohibited to bring cell phones and other recording devices into court rooms.

Also prohibited are photo and video equipment.

The government does not comment on the issue.

Lawyers consider the measure suspicious, and say it will increase the tension in the country.

Currently, the law prohibits photo and video recording of trials. This regulation was introduced a few years ago, after journalists managed to document how judges were acting on the prosecutor’s orders.

Afterwards, legislation was made more strict, which the government explained with the need to follow western practice.

The new regulation was ordered on June 19 by the chair of Tbilisi City Court, according to which it is prohibited to bring photo cameras, video equipment, cell phones and other kinds of recording devices into the court building and into the yard of the court.

According to the new law, photographic and video recording is prohibited, as is broadcasting, except in cases when the court or a person in charge of the proceedings has a permit to do so. The court may release its own photo and video recordings of trials if it is not against the law.

When photo and video recording was prohibited, the government referred to practice in other countries, and also to the need for having orderly trials.

But the opposition and most experts in this field considered this decision alarming, considering that this wouldn’t allow for transparent sessions. Court sessions lost public interest and accordingly the degree of transparency fell.

Tamar Chugoshvili, chair of Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association, says that they will make comments only after having studied the issue.

Gia Gvilava, lawyer at International Transparency Georgia, says that it is very suspicious to make such a decision in this situation and that it raises many questions:

“Audio and video recording was already prohibited at courts. To make audio recording you needed the approval of a judge. So this decision didn’t violate the law. But it is very suspicious and very surprising why this happened now. The motivation for this was as if to keep order, and order was kept without it. Our organization has made monitoring of court sessions and the order was never broken.”

The new regulation also prohibits video and audio recording in the court’s yard. Gia Gvalava considers this a violation of law and says that there is no explanation for such a decision.

“The law doesn’t prohibit recording in the yard and if this new order says such a thing, this is nonsense. It is free to take administrative buildings, because they are public places and if this will also be prohibited, it is very unclear. The spirit of the law is that it is now allowed to record a session not to disturb the order, and what order would be broken by making a recording in the yard?”

It is suspicious, he says, that all these things are happening just as there are controversial court cases being heard at the city court.