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Mtavari Arkhi TV Crew Attacked in Zugdidi

Ema Gogokhia, a reporter of government-critical Mtavari Arkhi TV, said early on March 18 she and a cameraman were attacked in western town of Zugdidi outside the office of anti-liberal, Russia-friendly Conservative Movement.

Gogokhia said about eight persons, armed with brass knuckles “mercilessly beat” the cameraman, destroyed the crew’s equipment and attacked her as well.

The incident began as Mtavari Arkhi TV Crew came upon some six employees of a Zugididi City Hall-funded nonprofit, trying to remove graffiti writings and a drawing of the Ukrainian flag on the facade of the Russia-friendly party’s office, according to the reporter.

“We asked why they were cleaning the office door and who had tasked them to do so,” Gogokhia recalled, adding that instead of responding “they ran away from the site of the incident, and then [the attackers] arrived in several minutes.”

The assailant’s key target was the camera and they were instructing each other to “smash the equipment,” according to Gogokhia, who reckoned the persons were trying to prevent the story from coming out.

Police were meanwhile watching the incident “from afar,” as per the journalist’s account, and only got involved after citizens “tried to help” the TV crew. Gogokhia claimed however that the police officers did not detain all the suspects.

A fragment from the incident, aired by Mtavari Arkhi TV later in the day, showed a man chasing down and insulting the crew, and seemingly attacking the cameraman. He can be seen later being detained by the police.

The Special Investigation Service has launched an investigation under Article 154 (2) of the Criminal Code, involving interference with the professional duty of journalists using violence. The crime carries a maximum prison term of two years.

The Media Advocacy Coalition, uniting over a dozen watchdogs, stated today the “attack was the result of a hostile environment for the media, and was encouraged by inadequate response [by the authorities] to multiple crimes committed against journalists.”

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