On May 31, the Coalition for Media Advocacy organized a round table meeting that brought together diplomats, human rights organizations, representatives of political parties, the Public Defender and the media. They considered cases of violence against journalists that took place, when journalists reported on the 26 May, 2011 developments.
Journalists that were assaulted during the dispersal of the rally also attended the meeting. Monitor Studio and the Association of Regional Broadcasters of Georgia showed a 20-minute documentary, in which journalists tell their stories.
“Journalists were not given an opportunity to perform their professional activities and they were inflicted physical, moral and material damage. On May 27, we got together to listen to the stories of victims. The stories were so impressive that shooting of the film started immediately. The film has not been finished yet. Not all journalists attacked during the rally took part in the film, however it depicts the real picture of the tragic night ,” said Nino Zuriashvili, a journalist of Monitor Studio.
The key aim of the meeting was to support the journalists. “This is the solidarity campaign against the violence against journalists. We call on the Ministry of Internal Affairs to launch a probe into the developments. We would like to know who specifically used excessive force. We would like to know who made the order. Once and for all we would like to know that we can perform our professional duties without being punished for that “, said Nino Danelia, the media expert.
Another aim of the meeting was to give legal assessment to the developments and facts, call on the authorities to launch an urgent probe into the facts of violence against journalists and compensate them for material loss. The authorities should take care to assign identification to all staff members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The written appeal prepared on behalf of civil society was signed by participants of the meeting either.
Tamar Kordzaia, the coalition coordinator, said the collected material serves as evidence that the actions taken may be deemed as criminal offences.
“Signs of criminal offenses are observed, however the absence of identification signs of those who severely treated journalists may raise barriers in the investigation and enforcement process. It is important to identity a specific public officer by some identification sign. It will be possible to conduct a probe if victims remember the numbers. This is the least the civil society may require from the state,” says Tamar Kordzaia.
The Coalition for Media Advocacy responded to the 26 May developments on the same day and condemned the measures taken against protesters on May 26 night. “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,”-reads the statement.
Watch the documentary
Watch, listen and read media reports covering the roundtable discussion.