Statement of the State Security Service of Georgia

To the knowledge of public, State Security Service carries out investigation into criminal case launched on the fact of sabotage, crime envisaged by article 318, paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code of Georgia.  

Investigation into the mentioned case was launched on March 16, 2020, on the basis of operational information received by the Service, according to which, certain individuals and groups of individuals through various means of mass communication (including electronic ones) were actively trying to disinform public through disseminating of fake news on the matters of the scope of spread of a Novel Coronavirus and effective fight against the virus, in order to affect population’s mental condition, cause distrust, panic and chaos, that would hamper regular functioning of state authorities and organizations  and hinder effective fight against pandemic. 

It should be highlighted that  a dedicated task force - East StratCom Task Force set up by the European Union has identified dissemination of fake news related to the pandemic as one of Russian anti-western propaganda tools, which aims at creating distrust of population towards democratically elected governments and states and fueling feeling of insecurity.

As a result of investigation carried out into the case, the following has been established: on June 20, 2020, a story set up on the ground of devised and deliberately altered facts was aired by TV outlet “Mtavari Arkhi” in a programme “Shabatis Mtavari”, which spread a deliberate fake news to mass audience as if in Marneuli Municipality, during the pandemic, government officials offered the family members of persons deceased due to various diseases certain sum of money, from GEL 3 000 to GEL 10 000, in exchange for naming Novel Corona Virus as a cause of death.

In order to disseminate the fake news delivered by the TV story, representatives of a certain political parties and their supporters responded to it in an organized way through social network and TV-comments and tried to make the fake information plausible.

In the course of the investigation, in rigorous compliance with requirements of legislation of criminal procedure and with participation of qualified interpreters, all persons and respondents involved in the TV story aired by TV outlet “Mtavari Arkhi” in “Shabatis Mtavari” program have been interviewed, while persons subject to interview who wished to testify before a magistrate, have been interviewed in court. 

As a result of interviews it has been proved that Azerbaijani-language interviews of the respondents had been deliberately wrenched by the authors of the TV story through incorrect translation and it has been established that not only nobody had offered these persons money in exchange for naming unreal cause of death of a family members, but also they had not had even a general information concerning the mentioned fact. 

This circumstance is additionally proved by a raw interview of a citizen A.G. (Arkinaz Gulieva), aired during 21:00 run-in of the information program of “Mtavari Arkhi” TV outlet which had been broadcasted with captions, and content of which is diametrically opposite to interpretation aired in “Shabatis Mtavari” of June 21 2020.

Apart from this, persons who were active in relation to this matter in social networks, who categorically stated that they had had information on particular families who had been offered money in exchange to naming Novel Coronavirus as a cause of death of their family member and relatives, have been also interviewed by the investigation. It should be noted that none of the interviewed persons could name neither a particular fact proving this, nor the source from which they had had the incorrect information.  

As it is widely known, Georgia is effectively coping with the pandemic both in terms of prevention of its spread, as well as in terms of delivering medical support to the infected ones, which is proved at least by the fact that Georgia, alongside other 14 European countries has been announced by the EU as a safe country , as well as the one which succeeded  in fight against Corona Virus  and recommended to the member-states to re-open borders for our citizens.

At the same time, the investigation clearly outlines that particular actors and groups of individuals in the country, through disseminating of fake information via various means of mass information, are deliberately trying to create diametrically different sentiments among the citizens of Georgia, which gives rise to a valid assumption that the organizers of this disinformation campaign,  through fueling of feeling of insecurity as well as distrust towards the state, creating panic and chaos aim at hampering normal functioning of state institutions, organizations and services. 

In order to pursue further absolute, thorough and objective investigation into the case, to take decision on legal response in relation to  each particular  fact of viable and consolidated evidence, on the basis of initiative of investigative authority and relevant mediation of the Office of Prosecutor General, Tbilisi City Court has issued a ruling  to obtain entire and continuous uncut footage of the TV story  - “Purchased COVID 19” - broadcasted in  a program “Shabatis Mtavari”, within the period of 21:03-21:13 on June 20, 2020, as well as this of the TV story broadcasted on June 25, 2020 within the period of  21:03 – 21:13 . The mentioned ruling will be officially submitted to the leadership of “Mtavari Arkhi” TV outlet.

Investigation is ongoing in an intensive manner and State Security Service will continue to inform public on the progress and results of the investigation.