Media representatives held separate solidarity rallies in Tbilisi and regions on June 21 to protest against recent developments in Tbilisi, when peaceful protesters, including over 30 journalists – among them Civil.ge-s Guram Muradov – sustained injuries after riot police dispersed protesters who gathered outside the Parliament building through massive use of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Journalists gathered under the banner “Don’t Shoot!” outside the Interior Ministry in Tbilisi at 3pm and read out an appeal to the Ministry, the Georgian government and foreign diplomats accredited in Tbilisi.
“We hereby demand that the law enforcement officers who were deliberately targeting the journalists, even though these were clearly identifiable, who physically assaulted them and hampered them in fulfillment of professional duties, are identified and brought to criminal justice, in the shortest time possible”, reads the appeal.
“We urge diplomatic corps and international organizations accredited in Georgia to respond to the cases of targeting, infliction of physical harm, detention of journalists and hindering them in fulfillment of professional duties by the Ministry of Interior,” it adds.
The Coalition for Media Advocacy, a platform of ten Georgian rights watchdogs, also released a statement on June 21, condemning the last night developments as illegal interference with journalists’ professional activities. It called on the government to immediately launch investigation and identify all perpetrators, as well as to compensate the damages inflicted to journalists.
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir condemned “all cases of violence and attacks on media workers during last night’s demonstrations in Tbilisi, as serious obstacles to pluralism and media freedom.”
In a statement released on June 21, Désir said “the media has the right to cover public events, and law enforcement must respect journalists’ right to report in a free and safe manner at all times.”
“I call on the Georgian authorities to promptly investigate all incidents involving journalists and bring all those responsible to account under the law,” Désir said.
He also called for “urgent measures to prevent similar incidents in the future, by the authorities engaging with media organizations on best practices to ensure journalists’ safety during demonstrations.”
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović also expressed “deep concern” for the recent developments in Tbilisi, and noted with regret that “dozens of demonstrators, journalists and police officers have sustained injuries, in some cases very severe.”
Mijatović then called on all sides “to exercise restraint and to resolve any controversies through peaceful dialogue.” “I also urge the Georgian authorities to carry out prompt and effective investigations into the events in order to ensure accountability for violence and to give clear instructions to the police to guarantee that operations to maintain public order are carried out with due respect of human rights,” Mijatović stated.