Door of Kutaisi City Council Closed for Journalists
Shorena Kakabadze, Kutaisi
“You are breaching the law that is punishable!” representatives of Kutaisi media organization often use this phrase when applying to local government for the last year, particularly during pre-election period.
“Initially, heads of every service agency at the City Hall requested us to send them questions in advance as it was directed by the Kutaisi City Hall. But now it is not enough for them either and they refused us to let us into the City Hall building at all. It is impossible to work in similar conditions; the local government is breaching the law that is punished under the Georgian legislation,” journalists allege.
Facts of intimidation against media became basis for the protest rally in front of the Kutaisi City Hall several days before. Journalists from the local newspaper P.S, radio-station Dzveli Kalaki, INFO 9 and news agency NewsPress were not allowed to attend the session of the city council.
“Local authority breaches the law when they do not allow journalists to attend the sessions of the city council; then they justify themselves by lack of places in the session hall. Generally, City Hall administration has changed its attitude towards us for worse. It is almost impossible to work in similar conditions,” journalist Nino Chitiashvili of the newspaper P.S. said.
Representatives of the printed media and television state local government intensified assault with elements of oppression and control on journalists particularly before elections: “Representatives of the ruling party try to hide those facts whose publishing is not within their interest. Last session of the city council is one example of it when security officers did not allow journalists into the hall. The city council was discussing the issue of 2 million lari which was requested by the local self-government for the implementation of the program Korpusi and which is opposed by the oppositionist members of the council. Representatives of the opposition parties believe it is nothing more than bribery of citizens by the ruling party. It is natural that local government does not need “unpleasant witness” in similar situations. So, they decided there was no place for media in the session hall.”
Press-service of the City Hall alleges there is no oppression on journalists. “Simply, it is impossible to allow them to enter working rooms by cameras. It hinders working process. Similar facts often occur. Moreover, there is 2010 resolution of the city council “About Issuing Permits” based on what bureau for issuing permits is functioning at the City Hall. So, any citizen, including journalists, can get permits and move about the City Hall building without any problems.”
Kutaisi based media representatives appealed to the Legal Aid Center for Georgian Media within the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association for help.
Giorgi Chikaberidze, lawyer of the GYLA’s Kutaisi office: In accordance to the Organic Law of Georgia about Local Self-Government and Georgian Administrative Code, the sessions of the city council are public. So, journalists as well as ordinary citizens shall not face any problems in attending the sessions. We petitioned to the Kutaisi City Hall and City Council and requested copies of administrative-legal acts which regulate entrance, movement or presence of journalists in the city council. So, we also inquired about the issue of journalists’ accreditation. We have not received replies from the City Hall yet.”
Representatives of the GYLA’s Kutaisi office state they are waiting for future developments and afterwards we will make legal analyze of the situation and take relevant measures.
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