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Security Guard of Shida Kartli Regional Administration Beat Correspondents of the Human Rights Center

Aleksi Bezhanishvili

Security guard of the Shida Kartli Regional Administration physically assaulted correspondent of the Human Rights Center Saba Tsitsikashvili. The incident occurred on January 22 when the journalist visited the regional administration to get the public information he had requested several days before. Before entering the building, the head of the administration Zurab Lomidze saw Saba Tsitsikashvili from the window; the latter was going to meet Lomidze.

Saba Tsitsikashvili, correspondent of the Human Rights Center: “Although it was earlier than 12:00 pm, the bureau for permits was not open yet. Security guard was not standing at the entrance. Thus, I headed directly towards the second floor. Suddenly, security officers went out of one of the corner and blocked my way. They inquired where I was going and I explained I was going to the chancellery; finally I continued my way. In September of 2009 I had incident with one of those policemen; he kicked me out of the building then. The same policeman ordered me to stop and the second grabbed my arm. I tried to remind the policemen their obligations, liberated myself and continued my way. I told the abuser he dared to do the same because nobody had punished him for the old incident. I reminded him that it was his obligation to treat journalist normally. After that, he started to curse me and pushed me against the wall and door; then he pushed me down the stairs and kicked me out of the building with the support of other policemen.”

“By the way, after security police started to guard the administrative building (since autumn of 2008), vice-regional governor Zurab Chinchilakashvili ordered the policemen not to allow me into the building. The policemen implemented this order perfectly and I made many video-recordings to prove those facts. For example, while covering the protest of local people, the policemen tried to break my photo-camera. After Zurab Chinchilakashvili was resigned from the position of vice-regional governor, I did not have any problem to enter the administrative building for a month and half. Security policemen told me in private that I could enter the building even without permit.

“The situation changed since December 15, 2009 when Shida Kartli regional governor presented an annual report to the ambassadors and non-governmental organizations. On the same day, we published an article in the local newspaper “Kartlis Khma” about bonuses and other allowances the regional governor had taken from the district budget illegally. I distributed the newspaper among invited guests 10 minutes before regional governor Lado Vardzelashvili started presentation. This fact, of course, irritated the local officials. After this fact, I faced serious problems in the administrative building where regional and district administrations and municipality board are located. Thus, I visit the building to get or check public information.”

The Human Rights Center condemns the fact and requests law enforcement bodies to punish the offenders. On January 26, at 12:00 pm the Human Rights Center will give a special press-conference in its office.

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