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‘Respect for Freedom of Speech, Press, Assembly Worsened’ - U.S. Report
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 12 Mar.'08 / 12:41

U.S. Department of State’s annual human rights report said while the Georgian government's human rights record improved in some areas during the year, “its record worsened in other areas, especially during the fall, and serious problems remained.”

“Respect for freedom of speech, the press, assembly and political participation worsened, especially during the fall crisis,” the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007 reads. “Other problems included reports of government pressure on the judiciary and the media, restrictions on freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, and corruption among senior-level officials. Despite government efforts, trafficking-in-persons continued to occur.”

The report noted that the constitution and law provided for freedom of assembly, “however, the government restricted this right in November, and the police on occasion used force to disperse peaceful protests.”

“On November 7, after using excessive force to disband opposition protesters, the government instituted a State of Emergency which, according to the constitution, suspended all broadcast press activities, except those of Public Television. As a result, operations were suspended completely at three television stations during this period (Imedi, Kavkasia, and Channel 25) and Imedi was raided by Special Forces from the Ministry of the Interior,” the report said.

In the sections dealing with freedom of media, the report reads: “Observers believed that some members of the government directed pro-government television stations, notably Rustavi-2 and Mze, to provide positive coverage of the government.”

“Throughout the year, self-censorship remained a concern among journalists, often tied to the fact that most journalists worked without contracts,” it also noted.

“NGOs continued to report that in practice police conducted searches and occasionally monitored private telephone conversations without first obtaining court orders,” the report reads. “Some individuals claimed to western monitors that they were afraid to criticize the government publicly or by telephone for fear of reprisal.”
 
It also said there were “concerns about the lack of due process and respect for the rule of law in a number of developments related to property rights.”

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