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Patrol Police Harasses Press Distributors in Kakheti

08.05.2007
presab_1.gifAfter newspaper booths were dismantled in Kkaheti by local authority, patrol police started to harass press distributors in the region. Law enforcers have already warned distributors not to sell out newspapers from the stands placed in the streets. If they do not obey they will be fined. Besides that if any of them dares to resist the police, they will be detained under the law on disobedience.

Press distribution has been hindered in various ways in the region for the last week.  Initially booths were removed from Gurjaani and other districts; then they started to remove stands too. Before that the whole editions of newspapers that were delivered in Kakheti region was withdrawn and annihilated. It happened on May 5. Representatives of the NGO, Human Rights Center said, that representatives of the local authority annihilated all copies of the newspaper Resonance that was delivered in Gurjaani. There was an article in the newspaper revealing the restriction of press distribution in Kakheti. Sellers of the newspapers say that the officials purchased the whole edition of the newspaper and burnt it.

On that same day, patrol policemen visited the press distributors. “It was 11:00 AM when a patrol car pulled down and a policeman in it asked my name. He wrote down something on a paper and ordered me to remove newspapers from the stand. I refused and he got angry. He asked his colleague to pass him a file. The offended policeman said I seemed to be a disobedient person and prepared summon on me. I asked him to explain what kind of crime I had committed he was going to punish me for. He did not reply and wrote something. I did not sign summon. He threatened me to take to the court as a law offender unless I removed the stand and newspapers from the place. He also added that if I resisted them and went on selling the newspapers, they would detain me. I am selling newspapers because I think it is safe job. As for material interests in it, there is nothing to fancy on. I earn one or two lari a day. However, it is enough to buy bread,” said Simon Dolenjashvili, newspaper distributor.

Press distributors do not know the reason why patrol police demands to remove newspaper stands. “They do not tell us why we should go and remove the sands…they told us they were ordered to act so…I personally sell newspapers near the agricultural market. I have rented the place. The person, who rents it out, had leased it earlier and I do not know why they are arguing with me now because everything is legal. It seems it is their strategy to prevent people to buy newspapers and assist to subdue the society. It is helpful for the government to avoid problems but similar situation will lead the society to degradation,” said a worried woman.

Representatives of the Kakheti regional Administration categorically deny the fact of harassment the press distributors. “Nobody restricts to distribute newspapers. As for patrol police and their demands we do not have any information about that. If you think that they are ordered to harass press distributors from the Administration you are wrong. Patrol police fights against street trading. That’s why newspaper distributors have had problems. As for the administration, we are eager to develop press in Kakheti,” said Mari Shavshiashvili, a press-secretary for the Kakheti Regional Governor’s office.

“The Administration for the Governor never assists us, just the opposite-they hinder us to act. Petre Tsiskarishvili former Governor of the regions did not give comments to those journalists who had written something negative about his activities. Consequently, his administration was blocking the information for those newspapers we worked for. After Gia Natsvlishvili was appointed as a governor, situation had a bit changed. However, the facts of harassment have increased in number,” said journalist Tamar Makharashvili.

How local government is eager to develop the press in the region?-we asked that question to Ramaz Kerechashvili, Gurjaani Municipality Governor. “We are trying to assist the development of press in many ways. Regional newspapers are printed in Kakheti and all of them are based in Gurjaani. You can write as much critical articles as you want. As for the press distributors, patrol police have really warned them but law enforcers did not violate any law when doing that.

-So you state that press is distributed through street trading? You should offer the distributors special place to go on with their activities. They might lease it or won’t they have any problems if they apply you?

R. K. They will not have any problems.

Representatives of the Internal Ministry’s Kakheti Patrol Police Department said that the police try to stop street trading. “If newspaper distributor is standing in the street and carries out commercial activities, s/he is considered a street trader. We receive information from local self-governmental institutions. Then patrol police is obliged to use his rights envisaged under the law. Initially they accuse the trader for breaching the administrative law and then introduce him/her to the court,” officials said that Patrol Police Department.
 
Human rights organizations are deeply concerned regarding the restriction of the press in Kakheti and call upon the corresponding bodies to react on it immediately.

Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

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