Media Advocacy Coalition Condemns Illegal Actions Against Journalists

27 May, 2011

May 27, Tbilisi.Georgia– Media Advocacy Coalition condemns and considers inadmissible the excessive use of force by the Georgian authorities against the street protesters on May 26, as a result of which several hundred individuals were injured. We regret the loss of human lives and physical abuse.

Facts of violence against journalists on May 26 are unacceptable for the Coalition. Seizure of journalists’ video cameras by law enforcement bodies is a crime envisaged by the Georgian Criminal Code, and qualifies as a deliberate interference with journalistic work. We believe that the law enforcement bodies should immediately investigate every fact of physical abuse of journalists, in order to bring to justice all those who pursued journalists carrying out their professional duties. Any type of violence against journalists is unacceptable for us.

Coalition is concerned with incompletely and biased coverage by several TV-channels. National TV broadcasters failed to provide comprehensive and unbiased coverage of crack down on demonstrators and illegal actions against journalists. It should be emphasized that the Public Broadcaster failed to provide comprehensive coverage of May 26 events.

According to the information available to us, the following illegal actions have been enforced against journalists:
1. Riot police physically abused Netgazeti journalist Tamaz Kupreishvili and confiscated his video camera;
2. Correspondent of the news agency Interpressnews Malkhaz chkadua was detained at Digomi District police Station without any legal ground;
3. Riot police physically abused Interpressnews journalist Darejan Paatashvili. Her video camera was confiscated and cameraman’s video camera was broken
4. Netgazeti journalist Nino Kakhniashvili was hospitalized after inhaling tear gas. After receiving the first aid she was released from the hospital;
5. Netgazeti journalist Nestan Tsetskhladze’ video camera was confiscated.
6. Riot police physically abused Guria News newspaper journalist Nato Gogelia and confiscated her still camera. This fact was witnessed by
7. Resonance newspaper journalist Zaira Mikatadze was physically attacked.
8. editor David Mchedlidze was beaten by policeman with a baton at Jorjadze Street and was not allowed to use his still camera.
9. Obiektivi journalist Diana Khoperia was physically attacked she had to be given several stitches to her head.

Once again Coalition expresses concern over the events of May 26 and calls on the law enforcement bodies to launch immediate investigation of these facts. We are ready to provide additional information to the law enforcement bodies for faster and more effective investigation. We also demand from the Ministry of Interior to provide information about its further actions in this regard.

Coalition member organizations are:
1. Georgian Regional Media Association;
2. NGO for Civil Society;
3. Georgian Regional Broadcasters Association;
4. Network of Regional Broadcasters;
5. Charter of Journalists Ethics;
6. Media Club;
7. Transparency International -Georgia;
8. Georgian Young Lawyers Association;
9. Civil Development Institute;
10. Open Society Georgia Foundation
11. Eurasian Cooperation Fund

Demonstrations against President Mikhail Saakashvili began Saturday and have attracted thousands of people. Protestors were moved to the location where the military parade was to pass later Thursday. As a permit for the rally expired, the police moved in with batons, tear gas and rubber bullets, leaving some demonstrators slumped on the street bleeding. Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested.

Some of the articles covering demonstration crackdown (as of May 26, 27):

Western press:

Riot Police Break Up Opposition Protest in Georgia-The New York Times
Two Deaths Mark Independence Day Protest
Two Die as Police Break Up Georgia Protest – The Wall Street Journal
Anti-government protests in Georgia-The Telegraph
Police clash with protesters in Georgia-BBC News
Georgia police use tear gas to clear protesters– BBC News
Georgian protests: Two killed as police clear Tbilisi– BBC News
Georgian riot police crush protest, two killed-Reuters
Saakashvili blames Russia for demonstrations– iol News
Georgian protesters dispersed with teargas– iol News
Georgian police crush antigovernment protest-Los Angeles Times
Police disperse protest in Tbilisi– Guardian
At least a dozen journalists attacked by police dispersing protesters-Reporter Without Borders

Russian press:

Михаил Саакашвили расчистил место для парада– Kommersant
Грузинская полиция легко подавила гнев– Kommersant
Москва требует международного расследования разгона акции оппозиции в Тбилиси– Newsru (RTV)
Бурджанадзе по телефону обсуждала с сыном, как разжечь в Грузии гражданскую войну (АУДИО)- Newsru (RTV)
Карательная операция в Тбилиси-
МИД России назвал действия против оппозиции в Грузии вопиющими
Грузинская оппозиция готовится к новым выступлениям
“Они хотели не свободы слова, а насилия и жертв”-Interfax
Спецназ разогнал акцию протеста в Тбилиси
Оппозиция Грузии: количество жертв при разгоне митинга гораздо больше, чем объявили власти–
Парад победы над оппозицией