Journalists and camera operators of two Georgian TV channels – Mtavari Arkhi TV and Georgian Public Broadcaster – were physically assaulted on the evening of September 29 in the town of Marneuli, Georgia’s southern Kvemo Kartli region, while covering election campaign developments.
As reported by pro-opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV, two of their television crews, including two journalists and two camera operators, were physically assaulted, with one of them ending up in a hospital with a head injury as a result. A camera and microphone belonging to the crew were also damaged. According to the same reports, the confrontation erupted “without any reason”, after a journalist tried to record the ruling Georgian Dream party members.
According to the GPB, one of their operators was also assaulted in Marneuli, leaving a camera belonging to their crew broken. The incident followed after a clash between the activists of the Georgian Dream and the United National Movement parties, GPB reported.
Giorgi Mumladze, observer from the non-governmental organization “Civil Platform 20/20”, reportedly became another target of the attack. Mumladze said he was beaten by Amiran Giorgadze, Marneuli Sakrebulo (city assembly) Chair and Head of Georgian Dream’s campaign office.
Georgian Interior Ministry said police are leading an investigation under Articles 126 and 154, involving unlawful interference with the journalist’s professional activities.
The incident was widely condemned by local civil society outlets and watchdogs, including Transparency International Georgia, Coalition for Media Advocacy, ISFED’s Head Elene Nizharadze, as well as the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, calling on authorities to protect journalists and to open prompt and thorough investigations into the incident.
The Office of Public Defender of Georgia also reacted to the reports, expressing hopes for prompt investigations and rapid identification of those responsible.
Tamar Zhvania, Chairwoman of the Central Election Commission of Georgia, denounced the September 29 incidents in Marneuli, including attacks on media workers as well as on the member of the district election commission earlier on the same day. Authorities and relevant bodies should immediately take responsive and preventive measures, Zhvania noted.
The ruling Georgian Dream released a statement on the Marneuli incidents, which although did not refer to the acts of physical violence against journalists, put the blame on the United National Movement for the developments. According to the ruling party, drunk UNM activists approached the party office, assaulting their (GD) supporters both verbally and physically, which led to a confrontation.
A chain of violent confrontations erupted in Marneuli earlier in the day, after the UNM has organized a protest in front of the Marneuli District Election Commission (DEC), alleging that the Marneuli DEC did not notify UNM precinct election commission (PEC) members about holding initial sessions. According to a statement released by the Georgian Central Election Commission (CEC) later, one of the Marneuli DEC employees was attacked and injured as a result of the clash.