Vato Tsereteli, founder of TV Pirveli, a channel with an editorial line stridently critical to the government, said he was violently assaulted yesterday by several Georgian Dream MPs when attending the American Independence Day celebrations at the U.S. Embassy in Georgia.
Tsereteli named Anri Okhanashvili, Chair of the Legal Committee of the Parliament, as well as Irakli Zarkua, Beka Odisharia, and Levan Mgaloblishvili as assailants. Tsereteli said the group approached him shouting, after which Okhanashvili and another MP slapped him in the face. TV boss called the alleged assailants “scumbags”, asking “when you do this at the U.S. Embassy can you imagine what they are doing to the country?”
He also urged U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan, to publicize the security camera footage.
Okhanashvili decries “filthy provocation”
MP Okhanashvili shifted the blame to Tsereteli, saying he initiated and orchestrated a “filthy provocation.” GD MP claims that Tsereteli approached him whispering “indecent” things into his ear, which led to an altercation, during which the TV chief “got the answer he deserved.”
“We are talking about a filthy provocation, which no Georgian [man] could bear, and this led to a small altercation,” he stressed. “There should be cameras everywhere and I hope that everything can be seen [in footage].”
MP Zarkua also spoke of “provocation” by Tsereteli in a Facebook post yesterday and said “the rest of us who witnessed this incident were trying to separate them.” He criticized opposition media for spreading the “outright lie” that the four deputies had beaten Tsereteli together.
“Naturally, what happened is bad and unacceptable, but when you insult someone else, you should be ready to receive an answer from that person,” MP Zarkua remarked.
U.S. Embassy, media watchdog react
The U.S. Embassy stated last night that it “is aware of reports of an altercation during our Independence Day event on the Embassy compound. We are looking into these reports.”
The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, an organization overseeing journalistic professional norms, condemned the “violent actions” of the GD deputies and called on them to take political responsibility.
The Charter urged the ruling party to disassociate themselves from the actions of their members “so as not to encourage further violence against members of the media.”
“Violence against media representatives is due, on the one hand, to the uninvestigated facts of violence against journalists and, on the other hand, to the aggressive rhetoric of government officials,” it stressed.
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