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Laptop of Journalist of Newspaper Rezonansi Searched by Georgian Checkpoint of Akhalgori

02.09.2011

“If you are Georgian, you should know what can be dangerous information for Georgia”

Mariam Imerlishvili

Mari Otarashvili is a journalist of newspaper Rezonansi (Resonance). She was brought up in Akhalgori and most of her relatives live there. She often travels in the occupied territory of Akhalgori both to visit her family and perform journalistic activity. Mainly she works on the conflict themes and other related problems and often prepares reports from Akhalgori.

It is not easy to enter or leave Akhalgori territory. You have to go through several checkpoints to do so, first through Georgian, then through Russian and finally the checkpoint where South Ossetia de facto representatives stand and check the documents of the passengers.

Mari Otarashvili has not had serious problems to enter or leave occupied territory before. She is an official resident of Akhalgori and all her documents are in order. However, several days ago her laptop was searched at Georgian checkpoint and she was advised not to enter Akhlagori with laptop again.

Mari Otarashvili, journalist of Rezonansi: “It has been about three months I have been travelling with a notebook in Akhalgori. I did not have it before. I have not had any problems till now. I have never been stopped and asked to show what documents I have in my laptop. On August 29th when I was leaving Akhalgori, such fact occurred: after going through Ossetian and Russian checkpoints, the mini-bus stopped at Georgian checkpoint as well to get the ID cards of the passengers checked. One of the policemen asked me what I had in my bag. I did not hide the fact that I had a notebook with me. I was asked to turn it on and show everything. Though I protested against their request and said that they did not have right of search they repeated it one more time. Second time they were being more polite. I agreed, went out of the mini-bus and entered the police cabin at the checkpoint. I turned on my notebook. I have the files on the desktops entitled Law on Occupied Territories and Strategy which is Strategy on Occupied Territories. These are the materials which I need the most to write the articles. The file named Strategy aroused particular interest among the policemen. They asked me to open it. I opened it and explained that it was a file downloaded from the Ministry of Reintegration of Georgia. They read the Strategy with great interest and then asked me to show them photos. First I refused to since it was my private photos and the photos I took during writing. Finally I decided to show them these photos. They found the photo of deputy head of Ossetian separatists Merab Chigoev. They asked me numerous questions about this photo. I explained who he was and said that I sometimes use this photo to write articles since I mainly work on Georgian-Ossetian conflict covering. They asked me why I carried notebook with me. I said that I needed it for my journalistic work. Then they warned that it is not desirable to walk in Akhalgori with a notebook since I can transfer information that can be dangerous for Georgian side.”

The journalist has not received precise answer on the question to what kind of information they consider to be dangerous. “Are you Georgian or Ossetian?” – they asked. On the answer of Otarashvili that she is Georgian, they added: “If you are Georgian, you should know what can be dangerous information for us.”

We can make another conclusion from this case: except for the fact that “Georgian should know what can be dangerous information for country,” he/she must be ready to be checked by police any time and searched and interrogated without sanction and if the order comes from the upper instances, be imprisoned.

Human Rights Center considers that illegal checking of Rezonansi journalist at Georgian checkpoint represents grave intrusion in her work. Considering the spy mania and total surveillance of active citizens by the government, Mari Otarashvili might be under the danger of imprisonment under the charges of espionage.

Human Rights Center addresses Ministry of Internal Affairs to investigate the incident occurred at Akhalgori checkpoint, determine the policemen who violated the law and suppress these kinds of illegal acts from policemen’s side.

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