Watchdog Condemns Pressure on Journalists to Reveal Sources

Transparency International Georgia, a local civil society outfit, said in a statement of August 7 that recurrent summoning of journalists to reveal their confidential sources contradicts both national and international press freedom standards.

As stated in the document, on August 2, the Interior Ministry summoned Davit Kashiashvili, anchor and reporter of Formula TV, for his TV story on the case of death of Tamar Bachaliashvili, 23-year-old programmer. Kashiashvili was interviewed by the police following the broadcast but refused to name his sources.

According to “Formula TV”, an anonymous source close to the investigation told the channel that young programmer fell victim to accidentally uncovering compromising videos involving three high-ranking politicians. According to the same source, Bachaliashvili was then attracted to a trap threatened and killed – while her body was dumped in her car, transported to the venue where it was discovered, and cleaned of all the traces.

The watchdog said the same motif – to uncover the confidential sources -was behind summoning Nika Gvaramia, general director of pro-opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV, for his TV stories over the death of 19-year-old footballer Giorgi Shakarashvili.

Earlier, in late June, the State Security Service summoned Nodar Meladze and Maka Chikhradze, journalists of the opposition-leaning TV Pirveli, over the death plot case of Giorgi Gabunia, noted the CSO.

TI Georgia reminded that as per the recommendation of Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, “the protection of the confidentiality of sources used by journalists” is “essential to enable journalists to perform their function and to contribute to the maintenance and development of genuine democracy.”

The watchdog also highlighted that the Criminal Code of Georgia allows journalists not to reveal its sources and not to testify as a witness.

“Recurrent summoning of journalists by law enforcement bodies contains the risks of promoting self-censorship,” the CSO suspected, adding that this tendency might lead those with confidential information to avoiding collaborating with the journalists, TI Georgia added.

The watchdog then called on the relevant agencies to carefully treat the issue of a journalist summoning and to allow them freely perform their professional duties.

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