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Imprisonment – an Award for Providing Objective information

13.09.2004
Imprisonment – an Award for Providing Objective information

 

The problem of restricting liberty of speech still remains the issue of the day for Georgian Media  and nowadays even continues beyond Georgian borders. Georgian journalists had been seriously deprived of their liberty of speech in Beslan and they were not given a chance to provide the public with an account of the real events taking place there. Nana Lezhava and Levan Tetvadze – journalists, who had departed to North Ossetia for fulfilling their professional obligations would have never thought that, like the Ossetian children, they would also have been imprisoned. However, the difference between these two cases was, that they were taken prisoners not by terrorists, but by Russian special teams. After five-days of illegal imprisonmen the journalists of Rustavi-2 are free. Though Russia still continues putting pressure on the Georgian Mass-Media representatives – the police of North Ossetia exiled Zurab Dvali, head of the Moscow office of the TV company ’’Mze” from Beslan without any explanations.

On September 1 of the current year, several hours after the disturbing information about a terrorist act in Beslan had been spread, Georgian journalists left for Beslan in order to provide the public with objective  and timely information. But the federal authourities did not allow them to carry out their professional  obligations to the end. They have been granted imprisonment for impartial information.

The federal authorities of North Ossetia have brought a criminal law case against  the detained members of the TV company Rustavi2,  journalist  Nana Lezhava and cameraman Levan Tetvadze. They were accused of illegally crossing the border. The official accusation was brought against  them on September 6 and  preliminary detention was confirmed. After all, the criminal law case has been terminated in abscence of a crime, but before that the Georgian journalists had spent two days in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Vladikavkaz as well as three  days in the insulator of the federal security agency. It is noteworthy that the trial of Nana Lezhava and Levan Tetvadze took place in uncommon surroundings. Instead of the building of the court itself, the Vladikavkaz department of the Russian federal  security  agency had been chosen. At first, the detained Georgian journalists were refused to have their own advocates and an advocate assigned  by the security agency pleaded for the prisoners’ interests. Also, Russia has seriously violated the 36-th convention of Rome by not allowing the consul of Georgia to meet the Georgian citizens, though the convention grants such right.

The federal security agency has accused the journalists of crossing the border illegally. However, there is a special protocol between Russia and Georgia with regard to crossing the frontier, according to which citizens of the Khazbegi region are entitled  to cross the border without being subjected to any visa regime. To cross the border, a residence permit card  in their passports, issued by the local authority suffices. Furthermore, these citizens have a right to remain on this territory for 10 days. According to the explanations given by the Rustavi2 leadership, Nino Lezhava and Levan Tetvadze had their passports in order, because they  do have a residence permit in Khazbegi. They managed to move freely on the territory of Russia for merely three days. After that it was concluded that the Georgian journalists were on the territory of Russia illegally.

The incommunicado detention of the Georgian journalists was followed by pressure excersised on them. Several hours after the detention, Nana Lezhava had undergone a medical investigation against her will.  Later, she was beaten down by some unknown medication (which had been poured into her coffee). Suffering from this condition she was taken to the insulator of security.

The head of the Moscow Bureau of the TV company “Mze’’ has evaded Russian Special teams more easily. The punishment of this Georgian journalist turned out to be restricted to his deportation from Beslan.

After September 7, since Zurab Dvali had appeared on TV, both local inhabitants and Ossetian lawkeepers got interested in his identity. On finding out his nationality, they had come after him in the hotel and had deprived him of his personal belongings and accreditation. Later the Ossetian lawkeepers took Zurab Dvali to Vladikavkaz, from where he went back to Moscow.

As far as we know, the Rustavi 2 journalists, who have escaped captivity, are not going to leave this violation without response. They are planning to bring an action in the European Court in the nearest future.

 

 

 

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