Prime Minister pledges to end practice of leaking “horrendous” secret videos “once and for all”

Giorgi Kvirikashvili said today: "We should establish a very high standard of actions by public servants." Photo by the PM's Press Office, 12 Mar 2016 - 13:48, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili says the leak of a secretly recorded sex tape of an opposition politician is "an attack against the state” and promises to counter this crime "severely”.

"Two months ago I promised our citizens that every step I take, every statement I make, and every activity I undertake will serve our country and, first of all, the Georgian people.  It is the state’s duty to protect each and every citizen,” Kvirikashvili said  yesterday after the illegal video was leaked online.

"What happened today is an attempt to blackmail and intimidate society as a whole, not just one person.  It is an attack against the state, and we will counter it severely!”

Yesterday a number of Georgian journalists were sent a link to a Youtube clip showing intimate activities of an opposition politician. The journalists agreed not to spread the illegal video nor identify the people featured in the tape. The incident was  also reported to police.

An investigation was launched into the case shortly after the video was posted online. Prime Minister Kvirikashvili summoned heads of law enforcement agencies to his office and instructed them to investigate the crime.

It took about 45 minutes for law enforcers to communicate with Youtube administration to remove the illegal video from the website. 

In the meantime one Tbilisi-based news agency posted a news story saying a video was leaked on Youtube. The agency didn’t mention the name of the politician involved but it did mention the name of the video, so people were able to search for the video and watch it while it was still available online.

A number of politicians including Georgia’s Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani and Defence Minister Tinatin Khidasheli condemned the activity of the news agency as "very shameful” and "unprofessional” and stated their ministries would stop cooperating with that news agency.

Shortly after posting the story the news agency removed it, said it "acknowledged its mistake”, apologised and fired the editor who, the agency said, was responsible for posting the news.

Meanwhile head of Georgia’s Personal Data Protection Inspector Tamar Kaldani called on authorities to identify the person or people responsible for posting the video online but to also investigate the origins and authenticity of the tape.

In his late evening statement the Prime Minister strongly condemned the crime. He said: "I will fight to the bitter end to make sure no person is ever targeted by such crimes”.

"It will be an example to discourage those who so much as entertain such disgraceful ideas. Everyone who undermines our society’s development by committing such heinous acts will be face the toughest punishment."

Kvirikashvili said he had instructed the relevant law enforcement institutions, including the Prosecutor’s Office, the State Security Agency, and the Interior Ministry, to launch a speedy investigation into this case. 

"It is a test which our investigative bodies must pass.  We are ready to engage any organisation and any group able to provide help in this process,” the PM said.
"I pledge to make an all-out effort to uproot these horrendous recordings from our lives once and for all.”

Opposition politicians linked the leakage of the video with upcoming elections and suggested this was a "dirty method” of discrediting candidates.

Human rights groups said if the state had "properly investigated” similar cases and "severely punished” those who did such things in the past, this would not still happen today.

Condemning the crime, Parliament Speaker David Usupashvili said in a statement posted on Facebook: "We should face the truth and admit that we are failing to tackle this terrible problem through technical and other means available to us.”

The Speaker called on law enforcement agencies to appeal to Georgia's international partners to assist them in their investigation and to also offer a major financial reward for those who provide any information leading to identifying those behind the leak of the video.

Later yesterday a small group of people gathered in front of the Governmental building in Tbilisi for a spontaneous rally against blackmail. The rally participants protested against violation of the right to a private life and said "having sex should not be the subject to being blackmailed”.