The Georgian Far-right through the Lens of Freedom of Expression
Far-right Groups and Freedom of Expression
Despite the high standard set by the law, peaceful protesters and minority representatives in particular instances are deprived of the right to fully exercise free speech and assembly – this is in part due to the abuse of the same right by the far-right groups in Georgia. Such practices pose a serious threat to the freedom of expression, especially if the violations of that fundamental right is not met with the proper response from law enforcement agencies. Ensuring free speech and expression for all citizens is an important prerequisite of democracy and pluralism.
Far-right groups in Georgia are particularly hostile to sexual minorities (LGBTQI) and, therefore, their actions are often focused on limiting the free speech and expression of sexual minorities and their supporters. The far-right often uses threats, counter-rallies, calls for violence, or violence in order to achieve their goals. For instance, in response to Tbilisi Pride Week far-right political group Georgian March appealed to the Tbilisi City Hall for the permission to occupy the central streets during the same period of time with the explicit aim of restricting the free speech and assembly of the sexual minority groups involved. Later, anti-LGBTQI groups held a counter-rally, which displayed signs of threats and violence. Apart from that, Georgian March explicitly threatened a football player, Guram Kashia, for his public support to the LGBTQI community. Later on, the same far-right group also stated that they would burn LGBTQI flags and surround the football stadium in the event that LGBTQI themed items appeared during the match. Some of the citizens also faced difficulties or were deprived of the possibility to attend the LGBTQI themed movie premiere “And Then We Danced” due to the far-right mobilization outside of the “Amirani” movie theatre and the violence their supporters instigated.
Far-right groups also take religious issues very seriously. More specifically, Georgian March protested a comment about religion made by a journalist and consequently, surrounded his car during a rally in front of the Rustavi 2 building. Another journalist was hurt in the process as well. Peaceful protesters, who were protesting against the large scale police operation in Tbilisi night clubs, were also targeted by far-right groups. Protesters attending the rally “For Our Freedom” were forced to leave the territory in order to avoid further escalation as the counter-rally organized by several far-right groups displayed signs of threats, physical violence and calls for violence.
Far-right groups continuously attempt to restrict the freedom of expression of the groups they find unacceptable by calls for action or organizing counter-rallies. Moreover, those groups often claim that they act in accordance with their right to freedom of expression. However, in several instances their actions displayed signs of threat and violence, which represents an abuse of the aforementioned right and falls outside the scope of the right to free speech and expression defined by the law. Therefore, it is unreasonable to consider those actions as part of the freedom of expression.