Transparency International Georgia calls on Prosecutor’s Office and media outlets to respect privacy of victims in secret sex videos case
On January 15, Archil Kbilashvili, the prosecutor general, told reporters that his office did not violate human rights because the people depicted in secretly recorded sex videos could not be identified. Irakli Gharibashvili, Ministry of Interior, said that the release of the videos was necessary in order for the public to know about the case.
A day earlier, the Prosecutor’s Office released a statement, alleging that a former high-level official of the Ministry of Defense’s Military Police department secretly filmed gay men, some of them figures of public life, while having sex.
The Prosecutor’s office alleged that the videos were then used by the official to blackmail prominent individuals into publicly supporting the previous government led by the United National Movement party and to coerce payments from the victims.
The authorities released some of the secretly recording videos of men having intercourse to media outlets without altering the sound, only pixeling the faces and bodies of the persons depicted. A number of television and online outlets aired the videos and posted them on youtube, which, in the opinion of various civil society groups, disregarded the privacy rights and dignity of the individuals in these videos, whose voices might be identified by their friends and relatives. LGBT Georgia, an organization fighting against homophobia, has expressed its deep concern over the release of the videos.
Questions remain about with what reason the Prosecutor’s Office released the videos to the public, as the authorities appeared to have sufficient evidence to fully investigate the case.
In our opinion, there is no public interest in seeing these secretly recorded videos, while there is a strong interest of the people affected by this case to have their privacy protected.
Several TV stations showed the explicit videos, without prior warning to their audience. They thus failed to comply with the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters, according to which TV stations shall not show sex in programmes aired before midnight and shall only portray sex or discussions about sex between 20:00 and 23:00 if this is justified by public interested and edited in a proper form. The Code also highlights that when reporting on crime “broadcasters shall seek to balance the freedom of expression with the presumption of innocence and respect for the privacy of suspect, accused, convict, witness and victim.”
Transparency International Georgia calls on the Prosecutor’s Office to pursue the case while protecting the victims, ensuring that they cannot be identified and have their personal rights and dignity protected. The authorities should ensure that all Georgians enjoy the same protection of their constitutional right to privacy, no matter what their sexual orientation is. We ask reporters and media outlets to cover this case in a professional manner that ensures that the identities of victims are not revealed. We also call on the Prosecutor’s Office to refrain from releasing any secretly recorded video or audio material to the public if the release is not necessary for the investigation of a crime or if there is no strong public interest.