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On 19 November 2013, at the sitting of the Parliament, MP Giorgi Kandelaki stated:  “An officer of the State Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, someone named Tsibadze, works at the Georgian Public Broadcaster and blackmails board members of the TV channel. The board, as well as several non-governmental organisations, like Transparency International - Georgia,

have spoken out about this situation.”

FactCheck

took interest in the accuracy of Giorgi Kandelaki’s statement. We tried to find out whether or not the officer of the State Security Service, a certain Tsibadze, works at the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), if he has tried to blackmail GPB board members and if board members and non-governmental organisations have voiced any comments about this fact.

On 6 September 2013, Emzar Goguadze, Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Georgian Public Broadcaster, announced:  “As soon as the board meeting opened, I made a statement in front of the press that the so-called ODR was waiting for me in my office [Editor’s Note:  ODR from the Russian ОДР - офицер действующего резерва). This practice was introduced by the Soviet KGB at the end of the 1960s when state security officers worked in the ministries or various public agencies].

On behalf of his supervisors, he promised me everything, including the positions of a minister and the chairman of the next board in the case if I changed my decision. I even have no idea how he knew about my decision. The name of this ODR is Irakli Tsibadze; I did not know that he also had another function in this organisation.” Another Board Member, Giorgi Mgeladze, also commented upon this issue: “This is an unprecedented case when there is direct pressure upon the chair of the board who is offered a high position for being an obedient employee.”

According to the media portal, Media.ge, based upon the information provided by the Georgian Public Broadcaster, Irakli Tsibadze has been in the position of an Advisor to the General Director of the Georgian Public Broadcaster in Security Issues since 21 March 2013. This information was confirmed by Giorgi Baratashvili, former General Director of the Georgian Public Broadcaster.

As for the statements of the non-governmental organisations in respect to the abovementioned issue, the report of Transparency International - Georgia, entitled Media Environment Ahead of the 27 October Presidential Elections, states:  “The Ministry of the Internal Affairs is continuing the practice of the previous government and maintains an officer positioned inside both the GPB and the Georgian National Communications Commission, in violation of Georgian law.” Later, Transparency International - Georgia declared:  “The report mentioned the so-called institute of ODRs. This practice

reflects an approach that was once popular during the Soviet period and was used by the government of Eduard Shevardnadze as well as after the Rose Revolution. Furthermore, the authorities appear to have failed to launch an investigation into the allegations of several GPB board members about outside pressure being exerted upon them.”

It is worth mentioning that on 17 October 2013, during his meeting with representatives of the mass media, the former Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, confirmed the existence of the abovementioned practice; in particular, he stated:  “We are trying to eliminate this and I hope that we will do it in the nearest future. I agree with you completely that this is wrong.”

On 22 November the Media.ge website reported that the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) does not publicise any information on Irakli Tsibadze. The media portal addressed the Public Information Distribution Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on 9 September 2013 and on 17 October it also addressed the Ministry with an administrative complaint and requested public information about Tsibadze. According to Media.ge:  “The MIA did not reply to any of the requests sent by the publication.”

In response to the statement of Transparency International - Georgia, the Head of the Public Relations Office at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Nino Giorgobiani, stated on 24 October 2013 that this information [about the representative of the MIA working at the Georgian Public Broadcaster] was false. According to her statement:  “If the organisation holds certain information about the violation of the law, let them name the specific people. We will study the issue immediately and react to it. The individual [Tsibadze] that Goguadze speaks about is not our employee.”

On 13 January, during an interview with FactCheck,

the representative of Transparency International – Georgia, Diana Chachua, admitted that the Ministry of Internal Affairs does not confirm Nino Giorgobiani’s words in a written statement nor does it respond to the letter of the abovementioned organisation about whether or not Irakli Tsibadze works at the Ministry.

FactCheck

tried to get in touch with Irakli Tsibadze several times. While asking to be connected to the Advisor to the General Director of the Georgian Public Broadcaster in Security Issues, we were transmitted to the secretary of the General Director who gave us the following answers for several days:  “Everybody is in a staff meeting now,” “Tell me and I will let him know,” “He is out of the city,” “Address us in written form and the Director will decide whether or not to respond to your letter,” “I do not have his telephone number,” “You should get public information yourselves,” etc.

After the speech of the Member of the Parliamentary Minority, Giorgi Kandelaki, at the Parliament, Emzar Goguadze, Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Georgian Public Broadcaster, started to speak about this issue again. According to his statement: “Irakli Tsibadze should leave his position at the Public Broadcaster. Both his position and his functions at the television are absolutely vague. It is a violation of Georgian legislation that an employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is working at the television. This reduces the freedom of the media.”

Conclusion MP Giorgi Kandelaki admits that his statement is based upon the comments of board members of the Georgian Public Broadcaster and representatives of non-governmental organisations. FactCheck found out that the board members confirm the abovementioned facts and that Transparency International - Georgia in fact speaks about the pressure exerted upon the board of the Georgian Public Broadcaster. The existence of ODRs

in various agencies was also confirmed by the former Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili.

FactCheck

understands that, formally, it is impossible to determine whether or not Irakli Tsibadze works at the State Security Office. Nevertheless, we believe that in this case the facts speak for themselves.

It is a fact that Irakli Tsibadze has been in the position of an Advisor to the General Director of the Georgian Public Broadcaster in Security Issues since 31 March 2013. It is also a fact that board members of the Georgian Public Broadcaster speak in details about the pressure exerted upon them by this individual. The chair of the board calls him an employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and finds his functions at the television quite obscure. The chair demands this person to leave the position and stop the pressure upon free media. All of the abovementioned is further aggravated by the silence of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It is true that the Press Speaker of the Ministry, Nino Giorgobiani, made an verbal statement that this person is not an employee of the Ministry although the Ministry does not confirm this fact in written form. In addition, the fact that the Ministry has not proceeded on the statements of the supervisory board members about the pressure exercised upon them also seems rather odd. The same can be said about the absence of the reaction of the Ministry to the report of Transparency International - Georgia which also commented upon the actions of Irakli Tsibadze. Furthermore, we also take into consideration the fact that the existence of this vicious institute in Georgia, an institute which represents a remains and an anachronism of the Soviet Union, is in fact well known within Georgian society.

Based upon all of the aforementioned and taking into account the comments and statements of the competent individuals immediately involved in the process, as well as the facts enumerated in this article and the corrupt tradition of the country witnessed over the years, we conclude that Giorgi Kandelaki’s statement:  “An officer of the State Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, someone named Tsibadze, works at the Georgian Public Broadcaster and blackmails board members of the TV channel. The board, as well as several non-governmental organisations, like Transparency International - Georgia, have spoken out about this situation,” is MOSTLY TRUE.