Investigation launches as opposition-minded TV reports ‘artificial increase’ in coronavirus cases

  • Mtavari Arkhi claims that people in several municipalities are offered money to fabricate coronavirus statistics. Photo: video grab., 25 Jun 2020 - 14:49, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Georgian State Security Service has launched an investigation following reports of opposition-minded TV channel Mtavari Arkhi on June 20,  claiming an alleged artificial increase in coronavirus cases in Georgia. 

The channel said that people were offered money in Marneuli municipality of eastern Georgia to confirm in official documents that their family members died because of the coronavirus, while the real reason of death was a different health issue. 

The media outlet cited locals as saying that doctors and ‘low-ranking’ local officials offered them about 10,000 GEL for the fake information. 

The media outlet also cited several experts as saying that the motivation of the action was to artificially increase the coronavirus cases which would allow the government to postpone the October 2020 parliamentary elections. 

If the elections are postponed due to the coronavirus lockdown, the next parliament will be valid for almost five years instead of four as elections in Georgia can be held only either in spring or autumn. 

The agency has already interrogated two journalists of Mtavari Arkhi Arkinaz Guliyeva and Zanura Talibova who made the reporting from Marneuli. 

The crime is punishable by two to four years in prison.