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Discussion of a book becomes fistfight

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, May 10
A live televised debate about Erekle Deisadze’s scandalous book Saidumlo Siroba (Holy Crap) between leaders of Orthodox Christian groups and their opponents in the Kavkasia TV studio on May 7 descended into a fistfight in which several programme guests and TV station staff were physically abused.

On the Kavkasia talk show Barieri the discussion between Deisadze’s supporters, mostly from the Ilia Chavchavadze Tbilisi State University where the anti-Orthodox book had been launched, and opponents, who were largely from religious groups, very soon turned into a confrontation. Members of the Union of Orthodox Parents, who were protesting against the book outside the TV station's building, insulted supporters of it who left the studio as a sign of protest. Union members then forced their way into the studio and physically abused journalists, among them the founder of Kavkasia TV, Davit Akubardia, accusing them of conducting anti-Christian and anti-Georgian activities. Eight men were subsequently arrested.

A flurry of comments followed this incident. “The President has instructed law enforcement organs to ascertain all the details of this incident and identify all persons guilty of assaulting journalists and raiding the station and punish them. All citizens are equal before the Constitution; and assaults and any kind of extremism will be responded to accordingly. Democracy is possible in a state where the law is fully respected,” said a special statement by President Mikheil Saakashvili spread by his Press Service on May 8.

The US Ambassador to Georgia, John Bass, stated, "I am really troubled by this incident. There are some elements in Georgia for whom different viewpoints are unacceptable. It is important that all people have an opportunity the express their opinions without fear of violence. I am glad that police involvement in this case has been very temperate.” Public Defender Giorgi Tughushi said, "I would like to call on both sides to release tension by means of a dialogue in order to prevent confrontations and physical as well as verbal assaults taking place.” The Georgian Public Broadcaster also responded to the incident. "Any kind of pressure on journalists is absolutely unacceptable, no matter what the issue is. Such incidents should not be repeated,” its head Giorgi Chanturia said.

Opposition parties blamed the present Government for the incident. "This is an example of extremism and the present Government has been germinating this extremism for six years. The actions of some organisations have not been punished and violation is being legitimised in Georgia,” Tina Khidasheli, from the Alliance for Georgia, stated. “To lengthen his Presidential term Mikheil Saakashvili is trying to create confrontation within the country and uses the Freedom Institute for this purpose. Its anti-Georgian and anti-Christian members are doing their best to create agitation in Georgia and split Georgian society. Members of the Freedom institute should not be allowed to work for the state,” Labour's Kakha Dzagania said. However the Government has called such accusations irresponsible. "It is shameful when political parties make statements against the Government based purely on furthering their own political interests. This is an irresponsible attitude,” MP Pavle Kublashvili said.

The Georgian Patriarchate has not released an official statement on the incident as yet. However Father Davit Isakadze said that the Georgian Church would not be silent concerning anti-Orthodox activities. ”We will act based on Christian doctrine and Georgian law and not in the way the university and Kavkasia TV are acting,” he said. Analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili has called on the Patriarchate to make a statement. "The Patriarchate staying silent in this situation is unimaginable, the rights of Orthodox Christianity should be protected. I hope that the Patriarchate will make very sensible statements. The Georgian Church should express its attitude to the actions taken by the Union of Orthodox Parents and some of the acts of aggression committed by its members."

The Messenger also condemns the incident and appeals to all to refrain from violating media representatives in any way.