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Police Physically Assault Journalists During Eviction Standoff, Detain One

During a dramatic eviction of a family on Kekelidze Street in the capital Tbilisi, the police physically assaulted journalists covering the events says the statement by the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics which, condemns the fact of physical assaults on journalists and calls on the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs to immediately launch an investigation and punish the guilty police officers.

The Charter cites the physical assault on Rati Ratiani, a journalist with the local news agency “Mautskebeli” [Broadcaster]. While he was covering the eviction “a policeman brutally threw him down [from the car roof] and seriously threatened his health and life,” – reads the statement which is based on a video of the incident. The statement adds that police officers physically assaulted three other journalists from the same agency, Natia Karchiladze, Ani Giorgadze and Giorgi Arobelidze.

“The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics strongly condemns the facts of physical attacks on journalists. Such acts of the police encourage violence against journalists in the country, where dozens of crimes committed against journalists are still not investigated,” – reads the statement, adding that such incidents undermine Georgia’s aspirations to the European and Euro-Atlantic structures.

The statement emphasizes that unlawful interference in the professional activities of journalists is a criminal offense in Georgia and “calls on the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other relevant agencies to give a proper qualification to these violent acts and immediately launch an investigation to hold the offending policemen accountable to the full extent of the law,” – the statement says.

In addition to the physical assaults, one journalist was reportedly arrested during the events. According to local media reports, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Georgian news agency “Mtis Ambebi” [Mountain Stories], Gela Mtivlishvili, was arrested while covering the events at the site [The Georgian MIA reported the arrests, but the information does not specify whether the aforementioned journalist was among those detained.]

The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics has issued a separate statement, condemning Mtivlishvili’s arrest. The Charter strongly condemns the fact of illegal arrest of the journalist and physical violence used against him. It calls on the law enforcement agencies “to immediately release the detained journalist and to immediately investigate the fact of excessive use of force by the policemen during his arrest”.

UPDATE:

The arrested journalist Gela Mtivlishvili of Mtis Ambebi has been released on parole. Commenting on his arrest with the journalists, he said that he had nothing to do with the rally and had gone there to carry out his professional duties. According to him, two to three minutes after arriving at Kekelidze Street, while observing the violent behavior of the police towards the gathered youth, he saw one of the gathered youth being arrested and followed him to the police car.

According to the journalist, at this point, a policeman pushed him. Mtivlishvili told him that he was a journalist, and immediately a group of policemen surrounded him and threw him into the car. The journalist asked why he was being detained, repeating that he was a journalist, but received no answer from the police. Mtivlishvili said that there were five policemen in the car with him who were “aggressive” and that three of them “tried to choke” him.

Mtivlishvili said he had lodged a complaint but had ‘no illusions’ that the incident would be investigated.

This news was updated at 18:40 to include the information on the release of Gela Mtivlishvili.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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