We would like to respond to comments made in the program Qronika on Imedi TV channel by the Minister of Justice, Thea Tsulukiani, on February 18, 2015, which contained xenophobic, discriminatory attitudes and a racist connotation in relation to citizens of concrete countries:
“Not everyone is happy with the large-scale reform... For example, the Agency of Tourism is not happy... When this [immigration] reform became effective On September 1, this caused a decrease of 42,000 people in the flow of tourists to our country during the last four months of 2014 – the Chinese, Iraqis, Iranians, and Egyptians... We narrowed this down, and we achieved success in Brussels, and we expect some kind of success at the Riga Summit... Then we can exercise control within the established framework and allow those who wish well for our country, tourists, or, what is most important, investors.”
This statement is xenophobic and clearly discriminatory towards people with the ethnic and racial identities named by the Minister, since she equates them with people who wish badly for Georgia and should not be allowed to enter the country. Such statements contradict the universal principles of human rights and are completely in line with the rhetoric cultivated in our society by radical groups. It is especially alarming that such a populist narrative is propagated by a high-ranking political official.
In addition, the Minister of Justice propagates a false idea that such discriminatory approach – restriction of entry of representatives of certain countries and ethnic groups into the country – is a precondition of Georgia’s success on the course to integration with the EU, which, in its turn, contributes to deepening false and stereotypical ideas about Europe.
It should be noted that it is such expression that the Council of Europe indicates in its Recommendation on Hate Speech of October 30, 1997, which emphasizes the “special responsibility” of government officials “to refrain from statements, in particular to the media, which may reasonably be understood as hate speech, or as speech likely to produce the effect of legitimising, spreading or promoting racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of discrimination or hatred based on intolerance.”
We believe that statements of a high-ranking official, the Minister of Justice, that contain xenophobic, discriminatory, and racist approaches and stereotypical attitudes contradict the principle of equality guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia and are harmful for Georgia’s democratic development, as well as for the country’s reputation on the international arena.
It is important that high-ranking officials understand the influence of their statements on the attitudes in the society and refrain from encouraging the incitement of intolerant attitudes. We call on members of the Government and other high-ranking officials to respect people with a different identity and base their public statements on the principles of human rights and equality.
Georgian Democracy Initiative
Media Development Foundation
Georgian Young Lawyers Association
Tolerance and Diversity Institute
Georgia’s Reform Associates
Transparency International – Georgia
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)
Article 42 of the Constitution