Public Defender’s Statement on Detention of Protesters in Front of Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture

The Public Defender of Georgia echoes the detention of the participants in a rally held in front of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture yesterday, November 18. The Public Defender’s Office has already started to study the legality of the detention.

Yesterday, Public Defender's representative visited 7 detainees, placed in temporary detention centers of Tbilisi and Rustavi, including Varlam Goletiani.

It is worrisome that journalist Rati Ratiani is among the detainees, who was reportedly performing professional duties during the detention. The Public Defender emphatically notes that it is not allowed to interfere with the journalist's professional activities. Arresting a media representative in the course of his/her work, in addition to being a hindrance to journalistic activity, may have a chilling effect on the coverage of developments during assemblies. Therefore, it is important to respond to this fact within the framework of the special investigative body in a timely manner.

It is significant that the reason for the protest expressed by the participants in the assembly was the 49-year license issued in March 2022 for 104,712 ha of forest in Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti. Supervision of the right to environmental protection is one of the priority directions of the Public Defender. It should be noted that the Office is monitoring the ongoing legal processes related to the mentioned license and will inform the public about the results of the study of the issue later.

The Public Defender urges the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to immediately release Rati Ratiani and calls on the Special Investigation Service to respond appropriately to the interference in journalistic activity.

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