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Editor detained at Tbilisi airport after confronting MP

11 June 2024
Mariam Tsitsikashvili. Photo via Facebook.

The editor of a Georgian fact-checking platform has been arrested and charged with petty hooliganism for confronting an MP at the airport over their support of the foreign agent law.

Mariam Tsitsikashvili, the editor of Fact-Meter, got into a verbal altercation with Viktor Japaridze, an MP from Georgian Dream’s parliamentary faction on Sunday.

Footage of the incident shows Tsitsikashvili telling Japaridze that he ‘should hide, you should be ashamed’.

A police officer can be seen standing between the two.

During the altercation, Tsitsikashvili said that she was the daughter of an immigrant Ossetian mother, to which Japaridze can be heard saying ‘you seem to be’.

Following the incident, Tsitsikashvili stated that her documents and those of her friend, Irina Gurgenashvili, were confiscated by the police.

Neither she nor her travel companion, who did not appear to be involved, were allowed to board their plane.


‘For an hour, one after another, the black-clad representatives of different agencies were only interested in our workplace’, she stated. 

Fact-Meter is operated by Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS), a local non-profit think-tank.

Tsitsikashvili said she was escorted by the police to the Tbilisi City Court after the incident but had her session adjourned until mid-June.

She later told RFE/RL that she and her friend were able to leave the country on Monday.

In a Monday statement, GRASS said that Tsitsikashvili’s arrest was ‘another step towards growing authoritarianism’, and that charging the fact-checker with petty hooliganism was a violation of her constitutional rights.

‘It is clear from the video that the member of the parliament used discriminatory vocabulary towards Mariam Tsitsikashvili’, read their statement, highlighting Japaridize’s response to Tsitsikashvili when she said that her mother was Ossetian as an example of discriminatory behaviour.

‘Such actions by a member of the Parliament of Georgia violates the requirements defined by the Code of Ethics. In addition to the violation of the Code of Ethics, this action stirs up ethnic intolerance and threatens the protection of freedoms and rights defined by the Constitution of Georgia’.

Parliament’s Code of Ethics stipulates that MPs should treat citizens equally regardless of ethnicity, among other qualifiers.

GRASS said they would apply to the court with a request for compensation from parliament’s Ethics Council. Tsitsikashvili told RFE/RL that she and her friend lost ₾800 ($280) in total for missing the flight on Sunday.

Japaridze previously made headlines after being confronted by another member of the public on 28 May, as he was leaving parliament after Georgian Dream overturned President Salome Zourabichvili’s veto of the foreign agent law.

Footage of the incident showed a man swearing at MPs including Japaridze, who then exited his car, stole an orange from a nearby store, and threw it at the man.

The next day, Japaridze returned to the store to pay for the orange he stole but was met with criticism for his support of the foreign agent law by the owner of the store.

Georgia’s foreign agent law labels any civil society or media organisation that receives at least 20% of its funding from outside Georgia ‘organisations carrying out the interests of a foreign power’. Such organisations are subject to ‘monitoring’ by the Ministry of Justice every six months, which could include forcing them to hand over internal communications and documents and confidential sources. Organisations and individuals who do not comply would be subject to large fines.

Right now, online media in Georgia is in dire need of safety equipment, legal support, and technology as we cover increasingly challenging circumstances. Support small, independent media outlets in Georgia via our collective fundraiser.

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