Public Defender's Statement on Alleged Intimidation of Citizens

Since May 7, a lot of reports have been spread[1] that unknown persons contacted various citizens and their family members, including minor children, by phone, and verbally abused them, which, according to these citizens, is related to their critical opinions regarding the draft law of Georgia "On transparency of foreign influence". In addition to insulting and hateful messages, in some cases citizens note that the conversations contained threats.

The Public Defender has repeatedly explained that freedom of expression protects not only positive general information and ideas, as harmless and/or indifferent, but also those that are offensive, shocking or annoying to the State or any group of society. In addition, messages of political content enjoy special protection and are an integral part of the mentioned democratic processes. Therefore, even if critical opinions and civil positions expressed by citizens are unacceptable for any group, this is a good protected by freedom of expression and is a necessary prerequisite for participation in public and political life. Thus, any action that makes a part of society fear and causes self-censorship regarding the enjoyment of their constitutional right, or causes expectation for retribution in various forms among those who do not refrain from expressing their opinions, is inadmissible.

The Public Defender states that it is inadmissible to allow and promote similar practices, it is harmful to democratic processes and realization of human rights in the country; similar facts may have an intimidating effect on other citizens in terms of expressing their opinions without hindrance.

As it became known on May 8, the Personal Data Protection Inspector started to study the legality of personal data processing in relation to the phone calls. The timely assessments by the Inspector are of utmost importance.

In addition, the Public Defender of Georgia calls on the law enforcement authorities to launch an investigation into alleged threats against citizens and representatives of various professional circles, to take all effective measures to identify the authors of the threats and to hold them accountable. The Public Defender also appeals to citizens to contact investigative agencies in case of receiving death threats or other types of threats.

[1] For example, see: < >; < >; < >.

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