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Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics: Pressure put on media platforms is alarming

By Levan Abramishvili
Tuesday, September 24
The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics issued a statement regarding the incident concerning the publisher and director of the Batumelebi and Netgazeti media platforms Mzia Amaghlobeli.

The Charter considers the actions taken by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) against Amaghlobeli and her relatives put pressure on the independent media.

The case is related to the incident that took place in Batumi on September 16 between the relatives of Amaghlobeli and the head of the second division of the Central Criminal Police Department of the MIA Roin Kochalidze.

In his testimony, Kochalidze explains that he called on those involved to stop swearing and insulting the police, during which he was met with resistance. According to the defendants, a man dressed in civilian attire threatened them with a firearm and inflicted physical damage on one of them.

The police began investigating the case under Article 126 of the Georgian Criminal Code (physical violence). The director of Batumelebi went with a lawyer to the police station to find out the details of the case involving her relatives. After her visit, the investigation was changed to Article 353, which entails a group assault on a police officer. This article provides for imprisonment from 4 to 7 years. According to the defendants ' lawyers, there was no reason for the prosecutor's office to enhance the charges.

A few days after the incident, with the intention of arresting one of the defendants, law enforcement officers entered and took investigative actions in Mzia Amaghlobeli's house, where the accused had not been registered and had never lived, without first going to the defendant's house.

The defendants, who are nephews and sons-in-law of Amaghlobeli were imposed bail of GEL 25 thousand each on September 21 by the Batumi City Court Judge Tamar Bezhanishvili.

Eter Turadze, editor-in-chief of Batumelebi, calls the accusations ‘absurd’. According to her, the high-ranking police official could be using his influence to send a message to Netgazeti and Batumelebi.

The Prosecutor's Office demanded detention of the accused and plans to appeal the bail ruling.

According to the Charter, the pressure put on Amaglobeli is due to the activities of her publications, which include critical material and journalistic investigations.

“The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics considers pressure put on the director and publisher of Batumelebi and Netgazeti to be alarming. Batumelebi and Netgazeti are distinguished by critical material and journalistic investigations. It should also be emphasized that it regularly covers the activities of the law enforcement agencies,” reads the statement of the Charter.

The Charter calls on the Prosecutor’s Office to carry out a transparent investigation and for the Ombudsman, NGOs and diplomatic corps to closely monitor the case.

“The charter calls on the Prosecutor’s Office to conduct a transparent investigation. We appeal to the Public Defender, human rights and international organizations, as well as the diplomatic corps to conduct effective monitoring of the case,” says the statement.