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Newspaper “Batumelebi” VS Adjara Prosecutor’s Office

23.03.2009
Maka Malakmadze, Batumi

“Hei girl, how do you dare to do that … We will put you in the cell…”

Newspaper “Batumelebi” is going to sue against the reply of the Prosecutor’s Office of Adjara Autonomous Republic. In its reply prosecutor stated that nobody had breached the law in regard with Natia Rokva, correspondent of the newspaper. The Prosecutor’s Office made the statement without having interrogated the journalist.

Special Operative Department within the Ministry of Internal Affairs arrested Natia Rokva, journalist for “Batumelebi” on January 23, 2009. Before detention, she witnessed and took some photos of special operation of the SOD. “I was travelling by public transport along Gorgasali Street (former Era Street) and saw officers of the SOD were conducting special operation. I saw masked people throwing things out of the windows of the residential building. I got off the transport and took some photos. At that moment, officers of the SOD approached me and demanded to erase photos. I did not obey their order; thus they led me towards the head of the department who personally attended the special operation. They ordered me to sit into the car after declaring that I was arrested. When we approached the building of Counter Intelligence Office they set me free,” stated the journalist.

Regarding the incident newspaper “Batumelebi” appealed to Adjara Prosecutor’s Office and requested to start investigation on the harassment of the journalist implemented by law enforcers. “Journalist Natia Rokva had her freedom restricted for 25 minutes against her will and did not have right to move. Her freedom was restricted after she was detained in the entrance of the residential building where special operation was being conducted; she was placed into the car against her will and taken to the building of so called Security Service Department; the intimidation lasted until the journalist was taken back to the place where she was detained. It is still unclear why Natia Rokva was detained; neither law enforcers explained to the journalist the reason for her detention. Based on the abovementioned circumstances we request you to start investigation on illegal restriction of the freedom of Natia Rokva and interference in her professional activities.”

The editorial board holds an audio-recording the journalist managed to make during the detention. 17-minute-long audio-recording demonstrates how law enforcers threatened the journalist with detention. “The recording shows how she was taken upstairs where she met certain high-ranking official. “hei girl, how do you dare to do that…” is very well heard in the  recording; the person threatens her with detention. Then certain Mr. Davit is called and reported that a journalist prevented them from conducting special operation and they are waiting for his order what to do with the girl. We cannot identify who is Mr. Davit but short time after this conversation Natia Rokva was set free,” said the editor.

Eter Turadze, editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Batumelebi”, stated that head of the SOD denied the detention of any journalist in the conversation with her. “Nobody is arrested,” said Gogita Kakhidze to me. However, his voice is heard in the audio-recording. One more voice is also heard who is talking with Mr. Davit.  I do not know exactly who decided to release the journalist.”

Prosecutor’s Office did not start investigation on the incident. Their reply to the editorial board states: “”We estimated that nobody has conducted any illegal activity against the will of Natia Rokva, journalist for the newspaper “Batumelebi”. Consequently, there is no ground for preliminary investigation.”

The Human Rights Center called Prosecutor Davit Charbadze who reported that they have studied case materials. For further details he suggested the center to get in touch with the press-service center of the Main Prosecutor’ Office of Georgia. It must be pointed out that prosecutor’s office does not clarify which materials were studied by them.

Edisher Makharadze, lawyer for the Human Rights Center, stated that in accordance to the Article 8, Part I-“c” of the Law of Georgia on Copyright and Neighboring Rights copyright does not apply to the information of events and facts. Journalist, who records concrete fact or event by video or photo-camera and then publishes the material, acts in accordance to the law. Consequently, detention of the journalist aiming to destroy the recorded materials is illegal activity.

In accordance to the Article 236, Part I of the Criminal Procedural Code of Georgia, information about the crime can act as a ground for preliminary investigation which was provided by legal entity; in this particular case it was editorial board of the newspaper “Batumelebi”. According to Article 24, Part I of the same Code, prosecution shall be launched on any criminal case regardless the position of the victim side. Information about the detention of the journalist (even for short time) demonstrates that crime envisaged under Article 143 of the Criminal Code of Georgia was committed and offender shall be prosecuted.

Refusal of Adjara Prosecutor’s Office on starting investigation on the incident is groundless, and illegal. The fact demonstrates negligence of professional activities.

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