TBILISI, DFWatch–The public defender and several major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Georgia condemn Rustavi 2 TV for airing the footage of the 2004 police raid which killed a teenager.
The Robakidze incident has been in the focus of the public interest ever since, and one of the most vivid accusation against President Saakashvili’s government.
“We believe that by releasing the report, Rustavi 2 violated stipulations of the Code of Broadcasters. In particular, it promotes positions of an interested party by not taking into account the possible interest of the source or trying to verify the facts and obtain additional material,” the statement says.
It is signed by the Public Defender of Georgia, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) and Transparency International – Georgia (TIG).
The signatories assert that although the footage is related to a well-known case, revealing the identity of persons recorded in the video was a violation of their rights.
The non-governmental organizations called on media outlets to not release unverified, degrading material that violates the rights to privacy and may promote positions of interested parties.
A police raid and search of the car with six youngsters ended with the killing of 19-year old Buta Robakidze on November 24, 2004. Others where arrested on suspicion of being members of a criminal gang and spent up to several months in prison.
Soon after the incident, different version was brought by the media and some activist groups. They argue that all the youngsters were innocent, and that the police and the judiciary arrested and charged them because they didn’t want to mar the image of the newly introduced American-style Patrol Police.
The “Robakidze case” for years was a major PR problem for Saakashvili, along with the “Girgvliani case”, which also involved the police.
The footage shows arrested suspects lying on the ground, their car and firearms, that, as policemen claim, belongs to the “criminals”.
A small civil group organized a meeting in front of the studio building of Rustavi 2, the TV company that first aired the footage. The participants at the meeting claimed that the footage was manipulated and there is one moment, where one policemen says “they have nothing” which may prove that youth did not have weapons, but this moment has been cut.
Ia Metreveli, mother of Buta Robakidze, demanded to investigate the case of her son’s death and added: “Don’t let me judge the victims myself”.
The citizens who had gathered accused Rustavi 2 of attempting to cover up the former government’s guilt in the case of the death of Buta Robakidze.
Rustavi 2 was the most important media which supported the Rose Revolution in 2003, which brought Saakashvili to power, and after that has been considered obedient to his government.
Rustavi 2 has already apologized for airing the footage, saying that they aired it only because of the great public interest.