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No Assault on Journalists in the Kakheti Region on May 21, 2008 has been Investigated

Gela Mtivlishvili, Kakheti

One year has passed since the snap parliamentary elections on May 21, 2008. The facts of five assaults on journalists in five election districts in Kakheti region have not investigated. Eliso Chapidze, an editor of the newspaper “Resonance” was attacked in polling station N 26 in the Sighnaghi Election District N 13 by Nodar Kapanadze and Otar Lamazoshvili who had no right to be in the polling station. The attackers twisted the hands of the journalist, seized her video-camera and physically assaulted her. Konstantine Stalinski, representative of the news website “pressa.ge”, cameramen Malkhaz Varshanidze and Irakli Goguadze were beaten in the polling station in Iormughanlo village in the Sagarejo Election District. Journalists were beaten in the Lagodekhi district too. The Chairperson of the election commission first hit the journalist with a chair and then armed people kicked him out of the polling station by a threat of using a weapon against him..

Eliso Chapidze recalled that: “I was observing the parliamentary elections in the Sighbaghi election district. We observed the violation from the very beginning. We applied to the chairpersons of the district election commissions with appropriate complaints but they did not respond.  At about 12:00 pm drunken young people were allowed into the polling station. My colleague called me from the polling station in the village of Kvemo Magharo and told me about ten riot policemen had come to their polling station dressed in civilian clothes. I went to that village together with cameramen. After the cameraman was kicked out of the PS I entered there with a camera. I introduced myself to the commission members. I explained to them that I was a journalist, showed them my accreditation document and told them I intended to record riot policemen because neither the chairman of the commission nor the policeman had been dismissed from the PS despite my urgent demands. At that moment, unknown people approached me, twisted my hands, seized my video-camera and physically assaulted me. I was crying and calling for help to policeman Mamuka Dekanoidze, who was in the PS.  However he did not pay attention to me. After one-hour the trouble making attackers Kapanadze, Lamazoshvili and many others left the PS by the cars of the Special Operative Department within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The state number of one of the cars was SOD – 445.”

Journalists were beaten in the polling stations of the Sagarejo election district. Konstantine Stalinski from pressa.ge was beaten in polling station N 37 in the village of Kvemo Lambalo when he was recording the incident in the PS by video-camera.

“Koba Kupatadze, an observer at the PS, tried to prevent certain people from pushing ballot papers in the ballot box. Consequently, he was beaten by the chairperson of the district election commission. An observer from the Union “Ratsio-Legi”, Konstantine Stalinsky said: “. I was recording this incident when one of drunken men who rushed into the PS noticed me and ran towards me. Those people, who were raiding the PS and pushing extra ballot papers in the box, were assisted by the deputy chairperson of the commission and tried to seize the camera from me. I resisted them and they beat me,” I remembered this village because two camera-men were beaten there within one hour. One of them is film-director Malkhaz Varshanidze. He was left without cassettes, mobile phone and personal things like clothes among them. Camera-man Irakli Goguadze was another victim of the polling stations.”

A correspondent of the Human Rights Center was assaulted at the Polling Station in the village of Kabali in the Lagodekhi election district. The journalist requested the head of the election commission, Adalat Sardarov, to give him the record book in which to write complaint.  However Sardarov refused.  After that the correspondent tried to explain to Sardarov the requirements of the Election Code when the latter took an iron chair in his hand and threw it directly at the journalist. The journalist asked the policeman standing in the PS for help but instead of assistance unknown armed people dragged the journalist out of the PS. Regarding the incident, the correspondent called the head of the Lagodekhi district police department and demanded that he take action regarding the incident, nut he did not.

According to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia criminal investigations of each fact of assault on journalists were initiated on the same day but none of them has investigated yet. The officials from the Prosecutor’s Office just state that the investigation is going on. Victimized journalist Elizo Chapidze stated that the ruling party had brought armed people to the polling stations and the prosecutor’s office will never investigate these incidents while the National Movement is the ruling party.

The Deputy Regional Governor of the Kakheti region, Giorgi Sibashvili, said the local authority will not interfere in the investigation.

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