Regional broadcaster TV Monitoring alleged that its journalist Shotiko Sadagashvili and cameraman Tornike Gelitashvili were verbally and physically assaulted on July 5 for their activities as media workers by “inebriated” members of the far-right, Russia-friendly Conservative Movement in Kareli Municipality, east-central Georgia.
Sadagashvili reported that one of the men approached them with a demand not to film at a swimming pool area, despite the crew having permission to do so. According to Sadagashvili, the men then “tried to snatch my cameraman’s camera and damage the equipment owned by the TV channel, and also tried to damage my microphone.”
The visibly drunken suspects can be seen in the video making anti-European statements and swearing at the crew.
The Special Investigative Services of Georgia (SIS), an independent agency dealing with crimes against media, launched an investigation under Article 154(1) of the Criminal Code of Georgia which refers to the unlawful interference in a journalist’s professional activities. The crime is punishable by a fine or community service of 120-140 hours or with corrective labor for up to two years.
The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics condemned the violence against the TV Monitoring crew and noted the “absence of a safe environment for media representatives in the country is caused by the government’s aggressive rhetoric and the inappropriate response of law enforcement agencies.” It urged the SIS to carry out a “quick and effective” investigation of the incident.
The incident took place on the one-year anniversary of July 5, 2021, homophobic pogroms in which far-right groups led by Alt-Info assaulted over 50 journalists and activists in Tbilisi ahead of the planned LGBT pride parade.
It is also the latest in a string of similar incidents that have taken place against journalists in the last few months in Tbilisi and other regional locations.