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Journalist Was Physically Assaulted While Trying to Video Strike

21.09.2011

Mariam Imerlishvili

At the territory of hospital construction which is underway by the order of the insurance company GPI Holding the journalist Gela Mtivlishvili was not allowed to film the place. According to the journalist of Kakheti Information Center and the coordinator of Kakheti Human Rights Center Gela Mtivlishvili, he was physically and verbally insulted and they broke his video camera.

As Mtivlishvili assumes the main reason to why he was prohibited to film, was to cover up the fact of strike of workers and employment of youth.

The construction works are underway by Turkish-Georgian Company Umut in Georgia and several of its subcontractor companies. The employees are both Georgian and Turkish citizens.

“An unidentified man called me on the phone and told me that a part of workers employed at the construction of hospital were planning to go on strike for non-payment of salary for several months. He asked me to visit the place and cover this issue. The most interesting thing is that only Turkish citizens received their salaries on time. A discriminative attitude took place. I showed interest in this fact, went to the territory of hospital and saw teenagers among the workers on strike. On the one hand, it is illegitimate to employ young people on such heavy work and on the other hand, the fact that they are not given salaries. I turned on the video and photo camera. However, the leaders did not allow me to take video and physically and verbally assaulted me,”– states Gela Mtivlishvili.

Though the fact of physical assault was captured by the video camera, the company denies the beating of journalist and calls it a provocation. “I know for sure that the physical assault of journalist did not take place. I personally witnessed the incident. He broke in the territory of the construction without permission. Despite warning the officials, he took the photos and video and requested explanations regarding the workers who, according to him, were on strike,” – stated the general director of Umut in Georgia Kakhaber Adamia.

As Gela Mtivlishvili states he did not notice any warning sign of barrier while entering the territory of hospital and he never “broke in” the territory.

“When I entered the territory I found the supervisor and tried to talk to him to find out the situation. However, nobody wished to talk. They did not want me to film what they wanted to hide. After telling them that I was a journalist, they got hold of me and tried to take me out of the territory without giving any explanations,” – recalls the journalist.

The leadership of the company denies the fact of non-payment of salaries and employment of juveniles.

“The thing is that we transfer money to our subcontractors. The transfer takes place in a minute. I do not have any obligations connected to the non-payment of salaries. If my subcontractors do not pay money, this is not my problem,” – states the general director of Umut Inshaat Emre Aidin.

However, one of the subcontractors Osman Ozket-Putkaradze made conflicting comment. He told us that Mr. Emre came late from Turkey and that is why he did not pay workers on time. However, he is in the place now and the problems are slowly being taken care of. The salaries will be given in three or four days.

Kakheti Information Center was notified that the workers were given the due salaries after the incident occurred on the territory of hospital.

Gurjaani Office of Prosecutor filed the criminal case according to the offence of bodily injury of the Criminal Code. Gela Mtivlishvili requests the qualification according to the offence of hindering professional activity of journalist. It is unclear whether the Office of Prosecutor satisfies his request.

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