Attacks on Journalists Major Setback for Georgia’s Press Freedom, RSF Says

“The brutal attacks against journalists in Tbilisi represent a major setback for press freedom in Georgia,” said Jeanne Cavelier of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in response to attacks on 53 journalists during the July 5 homophobic violence spree.

Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, stressed that “the intensity and coordination of the violence were unprecedented.” Condemning “culpable passivity shown by the Georgian authorities” during the developments, the RSF statement called on the government to “prosecute all those responsible for acts of violence against news professionals.”

The Reporters Without Borders mentioned several incidents from July 5, including an assault on Ilia Tvaliashvili, a Georgian Public Broadcaster cameraman, who sustained burns to his eyes after a chemical attack. It cited also online media outlet Tabula’s journalist Mako Jabua being hit in the head with a stick, and Interpressnews agency’s photojournalist Giorgi Nikolishvili receiving a concussion.

“Journalistic equipment was also targeted. Cameras, microphones and smartphones were snatched and smashed,” added the RSF, adding that TV channel crews had to resort to fleeing the demonstration or concealing their press accreditation to avoid being attacked.

As of July 8, the police have already arrested twelve persons for violence against journalists and interference with their professional activities.

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