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RSF Calls for Transparent Investigation of Attacks on Journalists

On May 15, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based press freedom watchdog, addressed the increasing number of attacks on journalists covering the ongoing protests against the foreign agents law, calling on the Georgian authorities to conduct “transparent” investigations into all these cases and to drop the law, which it says “undermines the right to freedom of information.”

RSF notes that more than a dozen journalists, whose name are listed in the press release, have been subjected to violence and intimidation since April 3, when Georgia’s ruling party reintroduced the notorious law. RSF says that the police, who have since been heavily mobilized in Tbilisi during the protests, have not refrained from “violently suppressing” them.

RSF recalls several cases of attacks on journalists, including on April 17, when riot police chased and beat three journalists from online media and one Azerbaijani blogger. RSF mentions the head of the Special Tasks Department of the MIA, Zviad Kharazishvili, knowns as “Khareba,” saying he is “notorious for his punitive expeditions against political opponents of the Georgian Dream party.”

The international also watchdog stresses the cases pressure and intimidation. In a tense political situation, RSF notes, GD representatives accuse journalists who do not share their views of being paid by foreign governments.

RSF also mentions the cases of police interference in the professional duties of journalists, including the cases of using tear gas against them or preventing them from taking pictures while covering the events on the ground. In addition, RSF mentions the case of an attack on IDFI director Giorgi Kldiashvili, during which a cameraman was also physically assaulted by a violent man in the street.

In addition to the cases of physical attacks, RSF also mentions cases of intimidation of editors-in-chief as part of an orchestrated campaign, saying that posters were put up on their premises accusing them of treason and being foreign agents.

The press release quotes Jeanne Cavelier, the Head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk: “The situation in Georgia is particularly worrying. The government and the ‘Georgian Dream’ party are in force, police violence is intensifying and journalists are becoming scapegoats. RSF calls for an end to this violence, and for investigations into abuses against journalists to be carried out in a transparent and independent manner, as well as for the withdrawal of the law on ‘foreign agents’.”

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