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Information about ‘Adjara Development Foundation’ Hidden From Journalists

Information about ‘Adjara Development Foundation’ Hidden From Journalists

The ‘Batumelebi’ newspaper did not manage to get public information regarding the activities of the ‘Adjara Development Foundation’, even through the courts. Why is the media not being supplied with information about the Foundation? Why do the activities of the Foundation still remain as secret and obscure as the foundations that existed in times of Aslan Abashidze - the former Leader of Adjara.

The ‘Adjara Development Foundation’ was created after the Rose Revolution in May of 2004. The founder of the Foundation is the Supreme Council of the Adjara Autonomous Republic of Georgia. According to regulations, the Foundation is a non-profit organization which implements its activities through various contributions. The ‘Batumelebi’ newspaper however claims these contributions are not voluntary but are in fact obtained forcefully.

“The Adjara Prosecutor’s Office forced people who were prosecuted for wasting money from the state budget to transfer their money to the Foundation. Frequently, detained people were freed if they provided sufficient documentation showing that the transfers had been carried out. The existence of the Foundation was secret. We got information about the foundation from a certain customs officer”, says Tedo Jorbenadze, Assistant Editor of the ‘Batumelebi’ newspaper.

The ‘Batumelebi’ newspaper applied to the Foundation several times in order to get public information. The newspaper asked for information about the incomes and expenditures of the Foundation. However, these turned out to be unavailable. “At first, instead of providing us with the required information, the representatives of the Foundation informed us about the aims and regulations of the Foundation. Besides, they also unofficially stated that we would only be supplied with the information that Mr. Levan Varshalomidze considers should be made available to us”, said Jorbenadze.

“The Executive Director of the Foundation sent us a written note, which stated that the foundation was a legal entity under private law, consequently, such information could not be required under the existing rules about freedom of information. However, it should be mentioned that the Foundation was founded with assistance from the Ministry of Finance which allotted 10 thousand laris for its creation. According to the Administrative Code, information about an institution which is financed from the state budget must be made available to the public. Thus, the Foundation is obliged to make information about incomes and expenditures transparent and available for those who are interested in it”, says the Assistant Editor.

“The ‘Batumelebi’ newspaper applied to the Batumi District Court; however, the court did not satisfy their demands and made the decision in the absence of the party bringing the law suit”, said the Assistant Editor.

According to Iago Baramidze, a lawyer with the Human Rights Information and Documentation Centre, The Foundation must give information if it was created with the assistance of the state. Because the Foundation is founded by the Supreme Council of Adjara, it is mandatory for the Foundation to provide information concerning its funds. The fact that the Foundation is created under the civil code is a weak argument not to do so”.

Despite our attempts, Tea Tsetskhladze, the Head of the Public Relations Service within the government, was not able to put us in touch with the Heads of the Foundation. “Zaza Nachkebia who is the Executive Director of the Foundation does not answer the phone”, commented Tsetskhladze.

Maka Malakmadze from Batumi

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