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Tuesday, June 21
Fistfight in Tbilisi Airport after Man Insults Rustavi 2 TV Crew

A fistfight erupted in Tbilisi International Airport in the early hours of Sunday morning after a Rustavi 2 TV crew was verbally assaulted by a man.

Rustavi 2 TV’s reporter Elene Pirtskhalaishvili and cameraman Giorgi Tsanava were in the airport to record comments from Georgian lawmakers, who were departing for participation in the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe’s (PACE) session in Strasbourg.

According to Elene Pirtskhalaishvili, she was speaking with Chiora Taktakishvili, an MP from the UNM opposition party, when an unknown young man approached and verbally insulted them; she said that when cameraman Giorgi Tsanava reacted by asking him why he was insulting them, the man became even more aggressive, which grew into a physical confrontation between the man and the cameraman; the Rustavi 2 TV reporter also said that several others who were accompanying the assailant were also involved in the beating of the cameraman.

UNM MP Taktakishvili said that the man insulted the TV crew solely because the journalist and the cameraman were working for Rustavi 2 TV. She also said that she tried to capture the incident on mobile phone but was confronted by several people accompanying the man.

Later on Sunday afternoon, the Interior Ministry released a written statement accompanied by silent CCTV footage from the airport showing part of the incident.

The ministry said that the cameraman was insulted by the man, whose full name was not released, who then walked away. “The investigation has found that [the cameraman] chased him and physically insulted him, followed by a verbal and physical confrontation between them,” the Interior Ministry said, adding that the both of them have been interviewed by the police and as of now they “have no complaints against each other.”

The one minute and 14 second-long video footage from CCTV camera released by the Interior Ministry starts from the moment the man walks away from the Rustavi 2 TV journalist, the cameraman and MP Taktakishvili; however, he then stops, and turns back in direction of the TV crew. His gestures then suggest that he was apparently again shouting insults. The cameraman unslung his tripod and TV camera from his shoulder, placed them on the floor and went in the direction of the man, which resulted in a fight. Meanwhile, a woman was seen confronting MP Taktakishvili as she was trying to capture the incident on her mobile phone.

After the footage was released, Rustavi 2 TV’s journalist Elene Pirtskhalaishvili said that this fragment of video did not give a full picture and in combination with its statement the Interior Ministry was trying to shift blame on the TV crew itself for the incident.

“It is regrettable that the Interior Ministry points the finger at journalists – the ones who were the victims of aggressive behaviour,” she said.

The Interior Ministry launched an investigation under the clause of the criminal code which deals with cases of assault. The director of Rustavi 2 TV Nika Gvaramia said that the incident should also be treated under the article of the criminal code which deals with cases of obstruction to journalists’ professional activities. However, the Interior Ministry said that the incident occurred after the TV crew had finished its professional activities in the airport.

Mayor Narmania: Tbilisi sidewalks may be free of parked cars from September

City authorities in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi are considering removing parking spaces that were allocated on the city’s sidewalks a few years ago.

Pedestrians may look forward to having the sidewalks cleared of cars already from September.

Sidewalks blocked by parked cars is a common view in the capital. The former government gave City Park – the company responsible for parking in Tbilisi streets – permission to use certain allocated spaces on sidewalks for parking.

But people are having problems walking in the streets because there are cars parked everywhere, Mayor Davit Narmania told Radio Commersant on Thursday.

“When we came into the city government, there were more than 2,000 such locations. We appropriated 500 locations from City Park and returned them to pedestrians,” Narmania said, and added that this summer, city authorities are planning to buy the remaining 1,500 locations that are still used for parking and free up the sidewalks for pedestrians by September.

“I call on City Park to find alternative parking spaces,” Narmania added.

About 20-25 million lari will be allocated from the budget to help City Park solve the problem.

Spokesperson for City Park told DFWatch that the company cannot decide on the location of parking lots; only City Hall can make such a decision.

“City Park will obey City Hall’s decision,” company spokesperson Levan Tabidze said.

DFWatch asked City Hall for more details about the plans, but they turned down our request.
(DF watch)