Court Judgments on Defamation against Media having signs of Kleptocracy - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Court Judgments on Defamation against Media having signs of Kleptocracy

07 December, 2022

The judgment of the Tbilisi City Court that partially granted the claim of the Mayor of Tbilisi, Kakha Kaladze, against  TV Pirveli and the journalist Maia Mamulashvili constitutes a transition of the recent dangerous tendency of pressure on the media to a new stage, when representatives of the authorities use the court to oppress critical media. 

The Georgian media environment faces vital challenges, especially the activity of representatives of the critical media. In addition to the physical violence against journalists, massive illegal surveillance and targeted disinformation, the ruling party has been abusing their influence over judiciary to suppress the critical media

According to the information collected by our organization, 28 lawsuits have been filed during the past year against three leading critical TV stations – Mtavari Arkhi, TV Formula, and TV Pirveli. A large part of the claimants are representatives of the ruling party and individuals close to them. Number of lawsuits filed against the critical media within a short period of time evidently indicates a coordinated tendency, which aims at restricting and intimidating media activities. The change in judicial practice is also unfortunate; for example, despite an unequivocal provision in the legislation, the burden of proof rests on the journalist.

The imposition of a fine of GEL 15,000, which the court also extended to the journalist Maia Mamulashvili and TV Pirveli, constitutes the continuance of this negative tendency. According to the law, the owner of a media outlet shall be the respondent in the litigation on defamation published in the media outlet by a journalist. This is the second judgment delivered by a court against critical media in the recent two days. Specifically, the Court of Appeals has upheld a judgment of the City Court, including against TV Formula and Mtavari Arkhi, in which the claimant was the Head of the State Security Service, Grigol Liluashvili.

It is noteworthy that such a wave of pressure on critical media, which takes place against the background of the already internationally acknowledged backsliding in the country’s democratic development, fully conforms to one of the signs of kleptocratic governance when the authorities try to silence journalists working on the topics of corruption by filing defamation lawsuits against them.

We once again call upon the Georgian Dream to act in the country’s interests, to ensure the protection and independent activity of critical media, and to stop using their influences to oppress the media. The existing situation significantly impedes the country’s democratic development and damages Georgia’s European prospects.