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Law enforcement officials deny harassing, beating journalist

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, May 22
On May 21, the Ministry of Interior Affairs released a special statement concerning the issue pertaining to journalist Gela Mtivlishvili.

Based on the official statement, journalist Gela Mtivlishvili was asked to identify himself as he was photographing police officers and the Tianeti Regional Police building on May 20. After Gela Mtivlishvili refused to provide his identity, he was temporarily detained by the officers and taken inside the Tianeti police station. Once his identity was revealed he was released a few minutes later. However, he refused to leave the building which in turn compelled law officers to force him to leave the building. During the incident Gela Mtivlishvili was not subjected to any physical harm

The Ministry of Internal Affairs reiterated that representatives of the media have the full authority to take pictures of police buildings and officers, although the Ministry avails itself to call on media representatives to act more reasonably.

The information and story told by the journalist, totally differs from that released by the Ministry

Gela Mtivlishvili, who is Head of the Kakheti and Mtskheta Mtianeta Information Centre, was taken to the hospital on May 20. As he had previously stated, he was in Tianeti to video tape a socially unprotected family. During this time he also captured video footage of the Tianeti police station from a distance of 50 meters. According to witnesses, shortly thereafter he was approached by police and forcibly brought into the police station. "They have beaten me severely, took away my camera and deleted everything,” Mtivlishvili said.

The issue has provoked an immediate response from local journalists- most notably statements made from members of the council of Charter of Journalism Ethics (Mtivlishvili, himself is a member of the organization). As of late, the Ministry of Interior Affair has demonstrated a poor record of responding adequately to issues related to the violation of journalists' rights, which has only encouraged such illegal actions on behalf of law enforcement.

Members have also called the attitude of Shota Utiashvili of the Interior Ministry, “irresponsible" in reaction to the comment he made concerning Mtivlishvili. Utiashvili claimed it was the journalist himself who had rushed into the police department prompting policemen to ask him to leave. Journalist Ia Antadze stated, "when such an experienced journalist is treated in such a way, imagine the treatment a less experienced journalist would receive."

The journalists have demanded an immediate investigation into this case and are demanding a quick reaction. A statement concerning the rights violations of journalists was made by Georgian Public Defender, Giorgi Tughushi, on May 21. Tugushi underscored that such occurrences have grown recently and there has been a poor reaction on the part of law enforcement structures. He has once again appealed to the prosecutor to carry out effective and swift measures for investigating such facts.