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Reporter threatened by Georgia has a message to UNWTO delegates: Vote NO

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After claiming he received death threats from Georgia, Frank Tetzel, Editor in Chief for Fair-Economics, a leading German publication based in Berlin, today urged delegations attending the UNWTO General Assembly in China next week to vote NO for the UNWTO Secretary-General Elect Pololikashvil confirmation. Frank Tetzel is also an investigative reporter for the German edition of Huffington Post.

Tetzel today issued an open letter addressing all UNWTO delegates. Does his opinion piece make a strong case for not ratifying proposed Secretary-General Elect, Zurab Polikashivil?

Specifically, Tetzel, a citizen of Germany, is addressing the German delegation to the UNWTO General Assembly and German tourism politicians to raise awareness of the insidious election manipulation Georgia is continuing to engage in to ensure their candidate is confirmed next week at the General Assembly in Chengdu.

As part of the German free press, Tetzel has performed extensive due diligence on the Georgia candidate as part of the background for articles related to the UNWTO Secretary-General election. Tetzel has received extraordinary personal attention with multiple threats from individuals in Georgia, hoping to discourage his pursuit to learn more about Polikashivili and his past.

Tetzel’s article and the open letter was published today in Fair Economics and The Huffington Post. Click here to read:

Dear Members of the German Economic Ministry of Tourism, and Delegates of the UNWTO General Assembly:

Before the end of the current session of the German parliament, I want to share a concern, that in my view, is an urgent matter that needs immediate attention and action.

I would like to ask you to urge our representative at the tourism unit to make the right decision related to the election for the UNWTO Secretary-General and confirmation for Zurab Pololikashvili,. This is not a campaign, but the issue is for Germany to remain believable in a UN agency. Let me explain what has happened.

I was threatened via phone calls numerous times with this message: “If you love your family you better stop with the investigation.” The caller ID showed a number in the country of Georgia. The caller repeated this demand several times before disconnecting.

When I tried to call this number back I was told in English and Georgian language, that the number was not in service. I have filed two criminal complaints against “unknown” with the Berlin Police and with the Berlin prosecutors office.

I suggested to German authorities this threat may be in connection with my research on the UNWTO Secretary General election process for Zurab Pololikashvili, during the 105th UNWTO Executive Council in Madrid in last May. I have published a number of articles in Fair Economics and HuffPost to disclose irregularities related to this election. I discussed this issue with politicians and have tried to investigate further.

My research on the designated Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili,, has produced remarkable facts and inconsistencies which have since been documented. For example, on the Internet, there is no evidence of a past of the candidate, almost as if the Internet had been cleansed of the past life of the designated UNWTO Secretary General. Neither his role in the management of TBC Bank, one of the largest Georgian banks, nor his ministerial work or CEO of Dynamo Tiflis, has any trace of this man. In the international digital age, it is very curious, as if the prior life of the nominee from Georgia was erased.

It very much appears his government did a great job hiding his identity in cyberspace.

The current UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, brought up a good point when he was holding a press conference after the election on May 12 in Madrid. Rifai said: “Its member states that vote for a candidate.”  Left unsaid was qualifications are secondary.

It seems this election is about political deal making. A member of the Georgian delegation in Madrid confirmed the highest priority for Georgian politics (unrelated to tourism) is to get, finally, the Secretary-General position of the UNWTO.  For this, the candidate’s government has worked hard. They will continue putting pressure on voting delegates. The support indicated by the expected visit of Giorgi Kwirikaschwili at the General assembly applies, even more, pressure and shows their need for a confirmation to be important.

Of course, every government, including Georgia, has the right to nominate one of their own for the leading job at UNWTO.  However, inviting voting delegates during the May election meeting to a sold out to championship football game is not appropriate.

The manipulations in Madrid are nothing short of scandalous, and it seems to be covered up. Perhaps the invitations to the football game by the Georgian embassy are considered “peanuts” for some, but it’s not ethical to invite voting figures to attend this game with a candidate and compliments by a candidate who is lobbying the same people to vote for him the next day. Delegates should not have been on the list of invited guests. This wouldn’t happen in Germany and other civilized western countries.

The football game has a high level of entertainment and attending this game could not have had a connection to any business discussion or business meeting. Because those invited are the top decision makers and voters,  the shadow of being “bought” and the willingness to “sell” a vote is transparent. If this was happening in the private industry any compliance manager would have a serious problem with the issue.

Different from other UN agencies, UNWTO includes a  good number of private stakeholders or associate members. Compliance managers for those associate members may have to urge boards to cancel their membership in UNWTO. The action UNWTO Executive Council members showed is contrary to the legal understanding of how this organization should function. In private companie, executives would have been fired or prosecuted criminally in far fewer circumstances.

One of the fundamental tasks of UNWTO is the implementation of the Global Ethics Code for Tourism. All members at the UN agency are supporting this. Ethics and getting the authority to function as a Secretary General without such ethics. This question must be asked to the proposed Secretary- General elect Zurab Polikashvili. How could any delegate justify to vote for such a man?

In the past, I have had very few career links with UNWTO. I am a journalist who often reports about sustainability and international cooperation issues. I became interested in UNWTO because of the sustainable year for tourism.

Why would I get involved in the UNWTO election process?  First of all, my family and I were threatened. These are criminal acts. Secondly, I, therefore, decided to not only be a chronicler or journalist but one with an opinion.

What I have experienced in the last few weeks has made me doubt UNWTO. The representatives at the General Assembly in Chengdu should decide if they want a “continue like usual” or if they want a new beginning.  Without credibility, competence in tourism and a willingness for reform, this agency will no longer be taken seriously in the future.

Therefore, may I ask you personally to respond with an appropriate NON-approval vote for Georgia’s candidate, from our country (Germany) at the General Assembly in Chengdu, China.

Frank Tetzel
Editor in chief Fair Economics

From the eTN Editor: It’s not proven any alleged threats Mr. Tetzel received from Georgia can be linked to the UNWTO nominee or even to Georgia. All other issues raised including the football game had been reported by this publication numerous times. In a survey, 91% of responding WorldTourismWire readers thought attending the football game was equal to receiving a bribe in exchange for a vote.

About the author


Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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