18 August 2020
For the consideration of:
Christian Danielsson, Director General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
Olivér Várhelyi, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement
His Excellency Carl Hartzell, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the European Union
We call on all European institutions to monitor the threats made against Georgian journalist, Giorgi Gabunia and work to support all journalists and media workers in Georgia
Dear Commissioner Várhelyi
Dear Director General Danielsson
Dear H.E. Ambassador Hartzell
On behalf of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), we would like to draw your attention to the escalating threats made against prominent Georgian journalist, Giorgi Gabunia, which has resulted in the recent arrest of an individual who was allegedly planning the assassination of Mr Gabunia. This comes after a number of different threats made against him and his employer, Rustavi-2 TV, for which he was an anchor.
Giorgi Gabunia caused controversy in Georgia and in a number of Russian speaking countries for a monologue (presented in Russian) in which he criticised Vladimir Putin. This led to him being suspended for two months and subsequently fired when the ownership of Rustavi2 Broadcasting Company changed hands. Russian and Georgian authorities swiftly condemned Mr Gabunia’s monologue. The Georgian President, Salome Zurabishvili stating his words were a threat to statehood. Russia threatened economic sanctions, with the Russian Duma suggesting that it would seek the extradition of Gabunia. The threatening and intimidating language against Gabunia continued as the Head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov called on Georgian leaders to launch a criminal investigation into Mr. Gabunia, before sharing an explicit threat of violence on Telegram “Gabunia better hide behind seven fences, because the first person he encounters will do to him what he deserves”.
On 15th June 2020, Formula TV reported that a Russian national was arrested in Tbilisi by state security forces for planning an assassination of Mr. Gabunia. Additionally, while this case is still being investigated, Nika Gvaramia, the Director General of Mtavari Channel, has publicly accused Ramzan Kadyrov of orchestrating the attempted assassination. While much is still unclear, as documented in the investigations into the murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Malta and Ján Kuciak in Slovakia it is imperative that authorities uncover who was ultimately responsible for the threats of violence. As the investigation into the arrested Russian national continues, we call on the Georgian authorities to take all necessary steps to uncover who orchestrated, instructed and financed the assassination plot and bring them to justice. This will be a powerful step towards dismantling impunity towards threats against journalists and media workers, and prove the law holds everyone accountable.