Rustavi 2 TV, one of the largest private television channels in Georgia, said offices of its top executives in the station’s headquarters in Tbilisi has been under video and audio surveillance.
Nika Gvaramia, chief executive officer of Rustavi 2 TV, said on May 6 that a source from the Interior Ministry leaked to the television station two video recordings – one shot from a surveillance camera in Gvaramia’s office and another one shot in the office of Nino Shubladze, Rustavi 2 TV’s deputy chief executive and head of the newsroom.
Citing the source from the Interior Ministry, Gvaramia said “dozens” of other recordings made inside the Rustavi 2 headquarters and possibly outside its premises as well are also available showing “business and private conversations of our employees.”
“We tried to find surveillance devices, but we could not,” Gvaramia said, adding that although they found tiny holes in the ceiling, no devices were found there.
Rustavi 2 TV released brief extracts from the video recordings – in one of them Shubladze is seen and heard discussing in her office news coverage details with colleagues and in another Gvaramia is seen and heard in his office discussing routine business details with an employee. Recordings were apparently made in June, 2013.
“We call on the Georgian authorities to stop secret surveillance and eavesdropping of our media outlet; to immediately launch investigation and strictly punish perpetrators and all those officials, who have issued an illegal order or who were aware of these illegal actions, but did nothing to eradicate these actions; the Georgian authorities will bear full responsibility in case illegally obtained video or audio recordings are disseminated,” Gvaramia said.
“It was shocking,” Nino Shubladze said. “We hope that it will be investigated in the shortest period of time and we will find out who was carrying it out in the television station.”
Nika Gvaramia, who held senior government positions under ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili’s administration, started his announcement at a news conference in Rustavi 2 TV office, by apologizing and expressing “sincere regret” for taking part in wrong practices of the previous authorities related to publicizing of secret surveillance recordings, among them of political opponents. Gvaramia was deputy chief prosecutor in 2007, Justice Minister in 2008, education minister till late 2009, became chief executive of Rustavi 2 TV in November 2012.
This wrong practice of the previous authorities, Gvaramia said, “regrettably is pursued by the current authorities as well.”
In a written statement inspector for protection of personal data, Tamar Kaldani, has called on the law enforcement agencies to immediately probe into reported case of illegal surveillance on Rustavi 2 TV executives.
Prosecutor’s office said it will make a statement on “information released by the Rustavi 2 television station” at 1:30pm local time on Tuesday.