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Journalists Impose Three Requests on the Minister of Internal Affairs

10.06.2011

Sopo Getsadze

The representatives of Georgian media are requesting investigation into the unlawful acts committed against the journalists on May 26th. The Coalition for Media Advocacy elaborated several requests and sent them to the Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili.

As the member of Coalition for Media Advocacy Nino Zuriashvili explained, the Coalition has three requests to the Minister; to investigate the case of each journalist who suffered, to compensate the damage and to assign the law-enforcement officials with the identification sign in the similar situation.

According to Zuriashvili, the absence of identification codes contributes to the impunity: “This is a request of Amnesty International which was imposed on the Georgian government and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) in 2008 when the organization published its report on the 2007 protest disruption.”

The journalists gathered on May 31st in the hotel Radisson to discuss this topic. The NGOs, the suffered journalists, diplomatic corpus and the representatives of political parties attended the meeting.

The members of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) talked about the unlawful acts committed against journalists on May 26th at Rustaveli Avenue during the protest disruption by the members of Special Forces. The representative of GYLA, Tamar Kordzaia stated that they double-checked information on 16 journalists who suffered as a result. As for the unlawful acts against the journalists in general, Kordzaia notes that the violations of three offences envisaged by the Criminal Code of Georgia were observed: hindering journalists to perform their professional activity, exceeding their work authority… “Also, there were instances when the journalists were detained and kept for 6 hours in the police building. This can be assessed as the illegal suppression of freedom. There were facts when the journalists were beaten which is also a crime. For each concrete case the crime elements must be ascertained.”

The creation of special investigative commission was discussed at the meeting. The leader of Christian-Democrats Giorgi Targamadze thinks that the public will trust this commission more if it is created under the Office of Public Defender: “However, the parliamentary majority already expressed its position and they are not supporting creation of such commission. I will ask you a simple question – How do you imagine that these beaten people address the commission the 90% of which are the members of parliamentary majority, for example deputy Nugzar Tsiklauri or Mr. Givi Targamadze or Mr. Ako Minashvili the ones who gave “green light” to what happened to them?”

The documentary film made by the studio Monitor and the Association of Regional Broadcasters of Georgia was shown at the meeting. The film shows the journalists injured on May 26th.

Ana Gabunia, information agency expressnews: “In the morning of May 26th I was at the Freedom Square performing my journalistic activity. After the protest disruption I ran away with several colleagues of mine. The members of Special Forces chased us. We passed through the street next to the Movie Theater Rustaveli and then somehow happened to be at Tabukashvili St. The members of Special Forces showed up there and chased us. We cried that we were journalists but they still chased us. Then when they approached they ordered us to bend down and they started to beat my colleagues with clubs and truncheons. Also they swore on us. They did not beat me. One of the members of Special Forces said not to beat me since I was a girl. They handicapped me with plastic hand-cuffs and they took us all to the police building located in the back of Opera House. I was telling them that I was a journalist but they would not believe since I lost my ID card. For several minutes I was there. They brought other detainees, swore on them and abused them. Then they put us all in one car and brought us to the main agency of MIA in Dighomi. The women were put in a separate room in Dighomi and I was also placed with them. There were 5 other women. We were there for about 5-6 hours. Then two policemen came in and asked us to put our cell-phones on the table. We did it and then two policemen came and saw us off from the police agency.”

Tazo Kupriashvili, internet newspaper Netgazeti: “On May 26th sometime after 12 am, the protest disruption started. I was with other journalists of Netgazeti at that time in the corner of Chitadze St. I was taking video of the Special Forces. At the same time, were retreating back to the Metro Tavisupleba direction. We were passing the Youth palace and when we approached the metro we happened to be surrounded by the Special Forces. They were coming from all different sides. They were shooting rubber bullets from all sides. We showed them our journalist ID cards. In that minute I lost all my co-workers and found myself alone among the members of Special Forces who started to beat me with rubber bullets, swore on me and abused me. Then I fell down. They took away my video camera. My photo camera was hanging on my chest. They tried to take it away as well. This continued for about 30-40 seconds. Then the policeman came who said that I was a journalist and told them to let me go. He made a corridor and let me go. At that moment one of the members of Special Forces threw my video camera to the tree. I tried to pick it up but I could not. When I passed through this corridor the Special Forces beat me with clubs and kicked me till the hotel Marriott.

Malkhaz Chkadua, information agency interpressnews: “We were covering the protest rally when the Special Forces started disrupting the protest. I was in front of the movie theater Rustaveli at that moment. Soon I proceeded to the Vachnadze St. and then to Tabukashvili St. We had all documents of identification, including the badge, other ID documents, recorders, camera and etc. Despite this, the members of Special Forces severely beat me, as well as the journalists of other agencies. They verbally assaulted too and took away our badges. They tried their best to physically and morally break us. They transferred us to the newly built police building, then to Dighomi police agency. We were interrogated there and they are probably going to try us according to the Code of Administrative Violations. Then the high police official came in and when he found out that we were the journalists, they released us.”

As one of the members of the coalition, journalist Ia Antadze noted the journalists are in the hardest state in the situations of violence. According to her, one of the solutions is to teach the safety and behavior rules in the extreme situations.

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