Mtavari Arkhi TV has addressed the Prosecutor’s Office after Culture Minister and Deputy PM Tea Tsulukiani on July 22 grabbed the microphone off its reporter Ema Gogokhia.
Nika Gvaramia, the director of the channel critical to the government, claimed today Minister Tsulukiani’s actions constitute two crimes – robbery and interference with journalist’s duties. He also called for the microphone to be returned to the channel.
Gvaramia argued the incident “is dangerous” and also “an inspiration for another attack on journalists and encourages another wave of violence.”
Footage aired by Mtavari Arkhi TV shows Minister Tsulukiani saying “Ms. Ema is no longer a journalist, I am … the microphone is mine,” immediately after taking away the equipment piece.
The incident took place at an opening ceremony of the Senaki town theater rehabilitated by Cartu Foundation, founded by Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Ridiculing Gogokhia, Minister Tsulukiani also called on those attending the event to clap for the journalist, and some of them did. The Mtavari Arkhi reporter called the police, who she said told her they couldn’t approach the Minister.
Addressing the event after the incident, the Culture Minister continued ridiculing the journalist and said “they have called some people in vain,” alluding to Gogokhia’s call to the police.
Minister Tsulukiani added she will return the microphone on October 3, the day after local elections, after “they are forever put to the place they belong.” GD government officials are accusing Mtavari Arkhi of “being run” by the United National Movement, the largest opposition party.
The Deputy PM also posted a selfie, and said the channel will have “to appoint a journalist in the regions that will be able not to allow being disarmed so easily when attacking a respondent.”
The development followed allegations of “psychological violence” being mounted recently by Georgian Dream officials and the Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarchate against the government-critical TV networks. The latter are on their part accusing the former of “encouraging” the homophobic pogroms that ended in attacks on 53 journalists on July 5.
Media Advocacy Coalition joins calls for a probe
The Media Advocacy Coalition, which unites over a dozen civil society outfits, called on the law enforcement agencies to probe into “the seizure of Mtavari Arkhi TV’s property and unlawful interference with journalist’s activities.”
Citing recent statements by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, and the Orthodox Church Patriarchate, the Coalition on all public figures and the Church to stop “sowing hostile attitudes among the public and discrediting the media.”
The Coalition also urged the authorities to “stop encouraging violence against journalists.”
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