The Democracy Research Institute is responding to the ruling issued by the Tbilisi City Court on conducting an investigative activity (seizure) at TV Pirveli. DRI notes that, given the current political and legal context in the state, the conduct of investigative activities will unreasonably and disproportionately restrict freedom of thought and expression, as well as freedom of the mass media.
It is disturbing that the Prosecutor General's Office launched an investigation into the recordings released by TV Pirveli under an article pertaining to the violation of the secrecy of private communication, whereas it absolutely ignored the actions of persons of high political influence, which contain signs of a crime, according to the recordings. The above deepens the suspicions of the society that the law enforcement agencies are acting on the basis of the principle of selective justice.
It is especially noteworthy that the court ruling was issued not for the seizure of information aired in the March 6 programme, but for the electronic information carrier device handed over (sent) to TV Pirveli by a confidential source referred and the envelope (or other packaging) used for sending the device. This wording, together with the categorization of the case, raises suspicions that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Georgia is motivated by the purpose of identifying the confidential source, which may have a chilling effect on the future coverage of alleged criminal activities of political officials by the media.
DRI notes that Georgian law and European Convention on Human Rights protect the right of a journalist not to reveal the identity of his/her source. The journalist is also not obliged to arrive at the investigative agency as a witness in connection with the information received during his/her professional activity or to transfer an item, document, substance or other object containing important information for a particular case. The practice of the European Court of Human Rights protects not only the anonymous source who helps the press inform the public about issues of public interest, but also the journalist who obtains/disseminates this information.
In view of all the above, we consider that the decision of the Tbilisi City Court of March 9, 2021 is unsubstantiated and will have a chilling effect on the coverage of alleged criminal actions of political officials by mass media in the future.
 Sub-paragraph “h” of the first part of Article 50 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia.