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Media Killers

March 26, 2009

It is bad that journalists have to write complaints about our own colleagues but it is fact that journalists corps willy-nilly has been divided into journalists and governmental journalists. This problem can be resolved but recent facts have exceeded all limits of journalistic ethic.

Two days ago, life of our regional journalist, Nana Pazhava, was in danger with the effort of Ema Gogokhia, regional journalist for TV Company “Rustavi 2”. The reason for the incident was reportages of Pazhava that contradicted the information reported in the reportages of Gogokhia.

Controversy between two journalists might be less interesting for the society; however, there are some threats that can be viewed behind this controversy.

Nana Pazhava considers that it is time to speak about every fact loudly in order to inform the society about the activities of Ema Gogokhia and Nato Berulava, journalist for the 1st Channel; how they cooperate with Special Forces and how much the state spends for their service.

-Two days ago, I was waiting for my child in front of the public school. Accidentally, I met former cameraman of the TV Company “Odishi” and we started conversation. Soon, we noticed jeep “Mazda” driving out of the school territory. Generally, traffic movement is forbidden in the area and we paid attention to that car. Initially the driver was moving in the middle of the street but as soon as it approached us, the driver turned the car in our direction and drove directly towards me.

My colleague suddenly grabbed me by arm to protect me from the car. I managed to jump on the street bar. I looked back and saw Ema Gogokhia was driving the car and woman with fair hair was sitting next to her. Gogokhia mumbled something but I heard only one phrase “I will drive over you”.

It is serious accusation. Are you sure that she did it on purpose?

-I am sure in it. I cannot claim that Gogokhia was waiting for me in the area but it is fact that when she noticed me, she drove the car towards me. I called patrol police and reported them about the incident. When the patrol policemen arrived at the place I told them what had happened. I reported that the car did not have number plate and Gogokhia obviously had attempted to crash into me. However, patrol policemen did not record this fact in the protocol.

One hour later I saw Gogokhia’s car with number-plate; however, I doubt those numbers were valid. The point is that I saw a patrol police car which did not have number plates and I doubt Ema Gogokhia had used that number plates for her car and then dove round the city to show to everybody she had number plates on.

I requested the patrol policemen to explain to me who had warned Ema Gogokhia that I had reported to the patrol police about the incident; however, they did not reply to my question. This fact was recorded by video-camera. So I visited the patrol station and asked them to withdraw video-recording where they could see Ema Gogokhia driving without number plates.

Maybe, it was just a joke; how could she dare to kill you?

-On March 18, 2009 political scientists, Mamuka Areshidze and Koba Liklikadze were invited to the radio program of Irina Tevdoradze at “Radio Palitra”. They were speaking about the situation in conflict zones.

I had first phone-call in the program and I stated that TV companies report false information from conflict zones. I also mentioned Khurcha incident. When this incident happened I worked for the Human Rights Center and represented Radio “Imedi” in Samegrelo Region. 15 minutes after the incident I had a telecast where I stated that this incident had been provoked by the Government of Georgia, Georgian Special Forces and TV journalists.

I mentioned Ganmukhuri incidents and stated that because of those TV-reportages that are broadcasted by “Rustavi 2”, residents of Gali district and villages located close to administrative border are in danger.

During the occupation, when Abkhazians were controlling villages of Ganmukhuri and Khurcha for several weeks, the situation got very tense. Then, one lady hardly escaped the attack when her house was burnt because of reportage prepared by “Rustavi 2”; Abkhazians were looking for her. In fact, this woman was resident of the village of Anaklia and not Ganmukhuri as it was reported by “Rustavi 2”.

I mentioned this fact in my interview with the radio but I did not mention the name of Gogokhia. I simply spoke about violations.

Malkhaz Basilaia, correspondent for “Mzera”, news program for TV Company “Mze”, was rebuked by the producer because the reportage of “Rustavi 2” was not broadcasted on their company too. In fact, this reportage was staged by Gogokhia. Basilaia was in the car of Ema Gogokhia and he had personally heard how Gogokhia ordered officer of Georgian Special Forces three uniforms of Russian soldiers and one Russian tank.

Then, the reportage was prepared where drunken Russian soldiers had raided residents of the village of Chitatskari and Onari. I mentioned this incident in my interview with Radio Palitra but did not mention Gogokhia.

When the author of the radio-program asked me what were the aims of these reportages and who could benefit from them, I said they were mostly journalists who are authors of these reportages but they work in cooperation with the government and Special Forces.

One more statement of mine dealt with five armed attacks that occurred within one week where our Special Forces took part and they were robbing mini-buses in Gali district and village of Otobaia.
I said that very often, people who make comments on TV are residents of Zugdidi, Tsalenjikha and Chkhorotsku and not Gali district; these people are ordered to speak as residents of Gali district. Of course, all my complaints were unacceptable for Gogokhia.

Evidently, the relationship between you and Gogokhia has been tense for a long time, has not it?

-When I worked for TV Company “Imedi”, Radio “Imedi” and “Iberia”, I used to call Security Service Department for comments. Very often they denied the information that were reported about the conflict zone but then all information that was gathered by me was also reported by TV Company “Rustavi 2”.

When these information was reported by “Rustavi 2” in wrong way I tried to annul them and report the facts correctly; consequently, Gogokhia used to get irritated on that situation and we often had problems. Ema Gogokhia used to insult me both verbally and physically. It looked like professional controversy between me and her but some criminal incidents also occurred and most important fact is that similar situation was dangerous for Georgia.

Once, an employee of Enguri Hydro Electro Station Urotadze was taken hostage by Georgian guerillas who took him towards small town of Java, in South Ossetia. I said it was done by Georgian guerillas. Abkhazian side called me on the phone and asked whether I was not afraid of Georgian security service, or prosecutor’s office or the government?

When Urotadze was set free Abkhazian side allowed me to record the transfer of the hostage on the Bridge of Enguri River. When we approached Abkhazian Checkpoint, Ruslan Kishmaria, de-facto Defense Minister of Abkhazia, Sabekia, de-facto head of Abkhazian militia, Narmania from de-facto security service department and de-facto deputy of Kishmaria were there. Urotadze was brought to the place. At that moment, Ema Gogokhia called me on the mobile phone. I gave the telephone to Kishmaria and asked him to tell Gogokhia as if I had left for Saberio and had left my mobile phone for charging.

The telephone was on speaker-phone and I heard Gogokhia’s words. She told Kishmaria that I knew about the kidnapping and that I was spy of the security department, prosecutor’s office and the government; she suggested him to kill me on the place. Kishmaria replied to her: “Gogokhia do not forget who you are and what you have done.”

-What did he mean?

-Kishmaria mentioned some cassette and it was strange for me. Then I personally witnessed argument of Gogokhia with the officials from security department. I learned that Gogokhia had sold the cassettes to Abkhazians where members of legitimate government of Abkhazia and guerillas were recorded. So, she had problems with the security.

-Nana, you said that Gogokhia ordered your murder in the past too. What kind of influence does she have that people obey her orders?

-she has information about many high-ranking officials and she seems to blackmail them. As for the attempt of my murder, I learned about it after 6 Abkhazian custom-officials were murdered. When I heard shooting I decided to go directly to the Enguri Bridge. I met Abkhazian custom-officials though it was too risky but tried to get as much information as possible.
When I approached Russian checkpoint the bridge was blocked. They did not allow people to go to Abkhazian side and people were gathered there. I decided to interview people and as soon as I switched on the microphone nearly 30 Abkhazians charged automatic guns and pointed at me.

I thought they would shoot me but luckily they just warned me to leave the place in ten minutes. I said I could disappear in two minutes.

Next day, four-side negotiation was organized in Chuburkhinji because of murder of custom-officials. Certain Lora Bedukadze met me there who spoke fluent Georgian. As soon as she saw me, started scolding me. I could not understand why she was insulting me but during our next meeting that woman apologized to me. It turned out that Gogokhia had called at the custom’s house and had said that I had information about this murder and I knew who authors of this murder were. So, she demanded to kill me on the place.

As far as I know you quitted TV Company “Imedi” after a scandal. What happened then?

-Gogokhia had part in this scandal. Gogokhia, Grisha Kobalia, who is considered to be a reliable person of President Saakashvili in Samegrelo region, and his son Levan Kobalia (who was recently killed), spread rumors about me that I was bringing drugs and weapon from Abkhazia and I had connections with Abkhazian criminals.

Then, I informed Giorgi Targamadze, head of news room at TV Company “Imedi” and lawyer about the situation. Giorgi told me not to be afraid of anything and he said he knew what was going on. It dealt with the competition between “Rustavi 2” and “TV Imedi” and Targamadze suggested me to continue my work. He asked me to interview son of Kobalia regarding this entire situation.

When I interviewed Levan Kobalia I found out that he was author of those phone calls I received all day long and tried to oppress me psychologically. During the conversation he slipped some phrases in speaking that assured me that he had called me. After his death nobody has ever called me.

Your story is incredible. How do you think, the government orders to prepare such reportages; or journalist does it deliberately?

-Well, what should I say…? Gogokhia personally has sick imagination. I personally witnessed how she took 15 GEL from one of the organizer of the demonstration and then brought women in black from the villages to the Enguri Bridge. She made a performance and “Rustavi 2” broadcasted it.

As for my controversy with her it is connected with my professional activities only; I had never had any other relationship with Gogokhia. The worst thing in this situation is not our controversy but society who is deceived by Gogokhia’s reporting.

By the way, Nato Berulava, regional journalist for 1st Channel cooperates with her too. I can claim that she has ordered kidnapping of Malkhaz Basilaia. Malkhaz informed Sopo Kvintradze, former head of news room of the 1st Channel, about this fact.

Basilaia mentioned only Nato Berulava, Ema Gogokhia and Koba Chkhetia, officer of intelligence department who informed Lorens Koghonia, head of de-facto Abkhazian militia and Edik Emirzade, head of de-facto security department about the movement of Basilaia. After that Basilaia was arrested. Of course, they did not spread this information like much other information that is either completely cancelled or released in wrong way.

-what is generally going on in Samegrelo region? Why does Nato Berulava need to treat Georgian journalist like that?

-Many people in Samegrelo region blame Gogokhia and Berulava to be companions in some murders. I have information how one Abkhazian custom-official was blown up; his surname was Gablia. I prepared reportage then but unfortunately, I did not have this information then. On the birthday of the late custom-official his old friend from Zugdidi, Nato Berulava, sent him a bottle of Champaign that blew up as soon as the young man opened it; he died on the place.

I know personally from Berulava that Guli Zakaraia, head of Zugdidi security department, called her and ordered to poison Ardzinba, former head of de-facto Abkhazian government. As Berulava said she resisted Zakaraia and could not recall that incident without emotions even several years later. Not every person will be ordered to kill somebody. That’s why I say that these people are dangerous for the society.

You tell unbelievable stories.
-If anybody doubts in my words they can examine the reportages released by “Rustavi 2” and 1st Channel. Lasha Berulava prepares same materials for “Imedi TV” now. We often see relatives of these journalists on TV who are interviewed as residents of Gali district but in fact they live in Zugdidi.

I demand to inform the society how long Nato Berulava and Ema Gogokhia have cooperated with Special Forces. As for threatening me, I am not afraid at all; I am just insulted. When a journalist abuses his/her power, I cannot keep silence because of s/he is my colleague. It is time to provide the society with true information.