The Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, is demanding clarification from the EU representative office in Georgia regarding how the article about the Shovi tragedy by Gela Mtivlishvili, the editor of the online edition Mtis Ambebi, made it to the finals of the European Union Prize in the category of the best investigative works.

Papuashvili noted that no one has raised a question on this issue. The Speaker of the Parliament stated that he prefers to focus on substantive matters rather than commenting on political issues.

“When they call him a journalist, I mean Mtivlishvili, who, during the natural disaster, created panic with lies, and then, unfortunately, even made it to the finals of the EU competition, in the so-called Investigative Journalism category, for an article in which lies were written.

Now that this kind of article has reached the finals of the EU competition, is it just a lie? The purpose of this was to sow panic in society, especially during natural disasters, to create hysteria, and to turn people against the government. When a person who calls himself a journalist engages in this kind of work, and then instead of the journalistic world exposing such misinformation, the ethics board discussing it and exposing it, an article full of lies reaches the finals in the EU competition. It was an intentional lie.

Therefore, I expect that... if there was an intention to have an article full of lies in the finale of the competition... that it has been known for years that there would be a disaster, was a lie; That the river had been flooded for days was a lie; That if there was a dam construction there would have saved lives was a lie. Everything that was there, almost everything was a lie, and when such a false article reaches the finals in a competition organized by the European Union, I think it is important to clarify who was there in the commission and to what extent the European Union takes responsibility for such competitions,” said Shalva Papuashvili.

According to Gela Mtivlishvili, the editor of "Mtis Ambebi," today's statement by the Speaker of the Parliament is a continuation of the aggressive campaign that he and the current Prime Minister started against "Mtis Ambebi" in the first days of the Shovi tragedy.

“At the time, we said that these attacks threaten the physical integrity and professional activity of our journalists, renew the dangerous forms of violence that we have already experienced many times, including on January 23, when the police illegally arrested me, and then Judge Shcherbakov, a servant of the system, fined me 2000 GEL completely without grounds, based solely on the policeman's false testimony. "We are continuing the journalistic investigation of the Shovi tragedy, even though the authorities have not provided us with public information and we have several lawsuits in court,” Mtivlishvili notes.

The EU representation in Georgia has not commented on this matter yet.

33 people, including children, were killed in the natural disaster that occurred in the Shovi resort on August 3, 2023. Mtis Ambebi covered the Shovi tragedy from the very first moments of the natural disaster. Despite the government's interference, the publication published a journalistic investigation in October - Crime in Shovi.

The investigation showed that the disaster in Shovi had been expected for decades. This was indicated by dozens of documents, qualified studies, geological maps, and natural disasters that occurred. Nevertheless, there was not even a single evacuation plan, board, or sign in the resort area. Due to the criminal indifference of the authorities, the dam on the Buba River, which saved the vacationers of Sunset Hotel and before which all the inhabitants of Mamisoni cottages died, was not completely built. After the disaster, the rescue operation was uncoordinated. There was no protocol, the rescuers did not have the necessary equipment, and the most precious first hours were lost. People were left face-to-face with death. The rescue operation started several hours late and was stopped at dusk on August 3. During the whole night, no helicopters flew, no rescuers worked, and no drones were used. Proper investigative actions were not carried out, and the bodies were transferred to the morgue without mandatory procedures, which made it impossible to determine the exact cause and time of death.

Mtis Ambebi’s investigative film received the Best Journalistic Investigation award from the Charter of Journalistic Ethics of Georgia. The material was among the finalists of the European Union Prize for Journalism competition in the category of Best Investigative Article or Story, although the competition was won by an investigation prepared by another author on a different topic.

Due to its in-depth and critical coverage of the Shovi tragedy, Mtis Ambebi has repeatedly been the target of attacks by the Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, Shalva Papuashvili, and the current Prime Minister, Irakli Kobakhidze.

On August 5, Shalva Papuashvili called Mtis Ambebi to delete the information published on the Facebook page. The publication wrote that the man standing in the photo was the father of one of the missing persons, who had been waiting for news of his son for the second day.

On August 8, the Speaker of the Parliament accused Tea Godoladze, the director of the National Seismic Monitoring Center of the Institute of Earth Sciences, the environmental organization Green Alternative, and the online publication Mtis Ambebi of sabotage.

“When dealing with natural disasters and moments of crisis, especially when there is direct sabotage through the spread of misinformation, serious questions arise about the donors of organizations like Green Alternative and Mtis Ambebi, particularly regarding their foreign donors.

While we appreciate the condolences we have received from various countries, it is concerning when these countries also fund organizations that engage in sabotage during a crisis, spreading panic and disorienting the public. What kind of behavior is this, and what is the purpose of such funding?

I don't know who the donors of these organizations are, but whoever they may be, I urge them to consider what they are funding. Is this supportive of the people? When these organizations, funded by their donors, sabotage the entire process and try to spread panic during a crisis, it raises serious concerns. The main issue here is disinformation, which we can usually manage and be less emotional about, as we are somewhat accustomed to it. However, during times of tragedy and crisis management following a disaster, it feels like a betrayal. Such behavior from media outlets and NGOs places a heavy responsibility on their donors, and I call on them to reflect on this, Papuashvili said.

On the same day, Irakli Kobakhidze, the chairman of the ruling party Georgian Dream, referred to the editor of Mtis Ambebi as a scoundrel during a broadcast on Imedi TV.

Shalva Papuashvili criticized Mtis Ambebi also on August 9 and September 14.

“On September 14, we witnessed a self-proclaimed journalist in a crisis situation spreading lies and sowing panic among the population,” Papuashvili said, citing Mtis Ambebi as an example of “one-sided and unverified journalism.”

On the same day, Kobakhidze remarked, “Gela Mtivlishvili is a shameful man in general. ...talking about such people in the media context is absolutely wrong. Gela Mtivlishvili has nothing to do with the media and journalism.”

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