Statement of the U.S. Embassy in Georgia Regarding the Freedom of Speech

Charge d’Affairs of the United States in Georgia Mr. Philip Remler made the following statement on behalf of the Government of the United States after his meeting with the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia Zurab Zhvania:

“The United States of America was the first country in the world to make freedom of speech a part of its constitution. The United States is an unwavering supporter of freedom of speech everywhere in the world.

Freedom of speech means the right to express opinions, however unpopular or however critical of authorities in power.

Wherever there is a freedom of speech, it is the duty of law enforcement bodies to protect it. When they cease to protect it, or when they actively seek to intimidate free speech or free press under one pretext or another, freedom of speech ceases to exist. In this regard, we all remember that in the Soviet Union, those who practiced free speech and other “political crimes” were often prosecuted under unrelated pretexts such as economic crime.

Independent Georgia, under the leadership of President Shevardnadze, has had an excellent record of freedom of speech. The people of Georgia value this right — they have shown this by their demonstrations of protest over the past few days against actions by the Ministry of State Security. Thanks to its reputation for freedom of speech and the press, Georgia has been welcomed into the Council of Europe and cooperates closely with other Western political, economic and security institutions.

We urge the political authorities of Georgia and its law enforcement bodies to protect fully the right to freedom of speech in Georgia, and to exert all efforts to ensure that Georgia remains committed to the rights its people expect, rights that all people in the western world expect.”