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Harassment of opposition media continues

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, July 30
Channel 9 journalist, Nodar Chachua, accused three armed men in civil uniforms of oppression. Having introduced themselves as representatives of an unfamiliar agency, the three men offered money in return for everyday information about the TV station owned by Bidzina Ivanishvili’s wife and the activities of Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream political coalition.

Chachua told Channel 9 on July 27 that the three men explained they were from the agency which can both solve and cause problems to people.

The telephone and car number of one of the above mentioned people are known; Chachua even identified one of them as a law enforcer in video footage of the Minister of Internal Affairs but this information has not been confirmed by the ministry yet.

Discouraging “oppression” against their journalist, Channel 9 called on the General Prosecutor’s Office to immediately investigate the case calling it a “struggle against” the TV station “with dirty methods” and ensure the safety of Channel 9’s journalists. Journalist Lana Beridze said journalists should have the opportunity of doing their job without any pressure.

Expressing their solidarity towards Chachua representatives of various media organizations gathered in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office on July 27. Under the slogans Blackmailing is Crime, Do not fight against us with Soviet Methods, newsmen demanded transparent investigation of the case as it concerns a journalist.

Nodar Chachua did not attend the demonstration for security reasons but his colleagues said if the case is not properly investigated they will hold regular protest rallies. “What is happening in media today did not start yesterday… although the situation has worsened in the recent period,” Kavkasia TV’s Natia Orvelashvili said, stressing that the media should protect the rights which they have been compromised little by little over the previous years.

Ilia Kikabidze General Director of Maestro TV doubted that even in the case of the investigation the “offenders” would be detained. He said blackmailing and oppression should not be practiced especially during the upcoming parliamentary elections. Irakli Managadze editor of Expressnews said blackmailers should always be punished and compared it to the old-fashioned Soviet methods.

The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics expressed their embarrassment with the “constantly increasing facts of pressure and violence against journalists.” The charter recommended the government to take relevant steps concerning the “criminal violation.”

Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) also stressed the necessity for a “timely and rapid reaction” on the case for ensuring the personal safety of media representatives and the prevention of similar cases.