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Government Keeps Secret Blacklist of ‘Unacceptable’ Journalists

01.05.2006
Government Keeps Secret Blacklist of ‘Unacceptable’ Journalists


It has been a while since the media found out about the so called ‘blacklist’ of journalists who the government finds ‘unacceptable’. In the past journalists did not dare speak out about the existence of such a list but now the issue is being widely discussed. Journalists believe that those members of the press who are critical of the government are more likely to be blacklisted.  Blacklisted journalists are in turn more likely to suffer intimidation through a variety of shameful methods.

A journalist with the Human Rights Information and Documentation Center managed to obtain the aforementioned blacklist from a person with close links to the government. The source also said that the process of ‘harassing’ journalists has already begun - although the acts of intimidation have only been relatively mild so far. Different methods and approaches to intimidate or influence journalists are to be staged by the government. Firstly, journalists are to be interviewed and made a seductive offer, such as good amount of money or some other deal. If the journalist agrees to work for the government they are no longer spied upon. The interview is also taped, so if necessary it can be used against the journalist by the government at any time.

The second method used is as follows; a person attempts to win the trust of a journalist by means of supplying them with a variety of exclusive and scandalous (though false) material. If the false information is then publicized by the journalist, the media is then attacked and discredited.

Another target is the private life of journalists. Compromising material regarding a journalist’s private life is taped - telephone calls can be listened to and taped as well. Compromising information about a journalist’s relative may also be disseminated.

Ucha Nanuashvili, the Director of the Human Rights Information and Documentation Center, confirmed the existence of the blacklist. “I have received information from different sources. When you are provided with the same information from different competent sources, the facts cannot be regarded as groundless. As an example, I can name Gela Mtivlishvili, who is himself experiencing such persecution. The government used the help of the Media Council and those journalists who work for the government. This policy is supported by the Liberty Institute, which itself tries to discredit journalists. These discrediting facts were also stated in a report by the Public Defender, which has not been yet published, however, I think it is disgraceful”, says Nanuashvili.

 “As far as I am concerned, different forms of intimidation will be made against journalists. That could be offering the journalist some money, in order to gather another piece compromising material on them, to later use against them - to pressurize or intimidate them. It should also be mentioned that NGOs are included on the list”, added Nanuashvili.

The journalists themselves talk about harassment and intimidation as well. One of the journalists who dares to speak out about intimidation is Ia Danelia, a representative of the ‘Obiektivi’ TV program - despite being threatened with rape. “We prepared an investigatory film for our program. However, it disappeared from the table before it could be broadcast. It is obvious that the government uses the help of some of our colleagues, because a stranger could not enter the building. It seems that the film reached the right person because later a mediator came to me, issuing threats.  I was not frightened because I was confident of my clean and spotless reputation. However, they later threatened to rape me and tape it and show it to my husband. If they dare to say such a thing to a mother of four children, there is a high possibility they might actually do it”, says Ia Danelia.

There are a number of other similar incidents: Gela Mtivlishvili, a journalist in the Kakheti region, was the victim of an attempted bombing of his home. Tinatin Vachadze, the editor of the ‘Trialeti’ newspaper, suffered a rape attempt by the Regional Prosecutor. Eka Gulua, a journalist with the ‘Rezonansi’ newspaper, was threatened several times and eventually her brother was fired from his job. Journalist Luba Eliashvili’s house was riddled with bullets; the list goes on.
   
Representatives of the government deny the existence of the blacklist. The opposition however states that it is no surprise if such a blacklist exists. One of the MPs from an opposition party says that if there is a blacklist of MPs, there is a good chance that the government has also drawn up a black list of journalists as well. “It is good if journalists also feel the existence of the blacklist. The same list has existed in the political sphere for a long time now. I reckon you bothered the government to such an extent, that they decided to draw up a blacklist”, says Mamuka Katsitadze.

Sozar Subari, the Public Defender and Levan Ramishvili, the Head of the Liberty Institute, have no information about the blacklist.

Gela Mtivlishvili awaits new acts of intimidation and is sure that the names of other journalists in the Kakheti region are also included on the blacklist.  “A trustworthy source informed me that further intimidation of journalists, who are on this blacklist, is planned for the very near future. I was also told that I will be offered a great amount of money and then immediately arrested”, states Mtivlishvili.

Eka Gulua

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