TI Georgia calls on the Government to investigate cases of illegal wiretapping
Transparency International Georgia is responding to the reported information regarding the illegal ‘tapping’ of the telecommunications of citizens by the law enforcement authorities. According to Mamia Sanadiradze, owner of a company which operates electronic communications, he was compelled to sell his controlling stake in the company as a result of pressure exerted on him after his rejection of government demands to carry out phone tapping.
Periodically over the last few years, a series of wiretaps have been released on social networks and through the media. It is unknown who made and distributed many of these audio recordings. Notably, the recordings have been disseminated during politically tense periods, and in particular on the eve of elections. In the majority of cases, the recordings prominently featured opposition politicians and opponents of the government. In some instances, the recordings were conducted by the government. It is still unknown to the public under what conditions and on what grounds such recordings were carried out.
This year, Transparency International Georgia sent Georgian mobile, internet and telephone service operators a questionnaire as part of its research into online media. The questionnaire, among other issues, dealt with the unauthorized practice of phone tapping. Contrary to the information provided during face to face meetings, operators did not confirm in writing that any illegal surveillance of their customers had taken place, or that they had been pressurized into committing the illegal act of phone tapping.
We welcome the recent decision of the Constitutional Court. According to this decision, a controversial article of the law on Operative Investigative Activity - which in the view of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association's allowed the law enforcement authorities to conduct surveillance on confidential internet correspondence without a court decision - was deemed unconstitutional.
Transparency International Georgia calls on the new government to fully investigate these cases of illegal tapping of Georgian citizens. We also believe it is important that all operators in Georgia make the information regarding the above violations public available to this investigation. Transparency International Georgia will continue to survey the media and communications sector, and will inform society of any further problems identified.