TBILISI, DFWatch – Amnesty International expresses concern about the recent violence against opposition supporters and journalists in Georgia.
In a new report, the organizations describes cases of verbal and physical abuse against Georgian Dream activists who went to the eastern region of Kakheti on July 12 to meet persons who became refugees after the 2008 Russo-Georgian war.
During the clashes, 13 people were injured and subsequently treated in hospital. One of them was Saba Tsitsikashvili, a journalist, who stated that he recognized local municipality employees among those who beat him.
According to a statement by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, six persons were arrested and given 15 days administrative detention in relation to the incident on July 14. However, a lawyer for the Georgian Dream coalition told Amnesty International that four individuals allegedly connected with the ruling party who directed and participated in the attack, were not among those arrested, despite photo and video evidence that incriminates them.
Ekaterine Dugladze, a female journalist with the pro-opposition news agency info9 in Zestaponi, western Georgia, told Amnesty International that in the last three weeks she has been persistently followed and harassed by a group of seven young men.
“They follow me everywhere by car or on foot, preventing me from moving freely, interfere with filming, come physically very close when making inappropriate remarks about my work and private life and asking questions in an non-stop manner,” Durgladze said.
The reporter said that there has been no reaction from the police or prosecution, so she has had to continue working in these conditions.
Vasil Dabrundashvili, a journalist with production company GNS, was victim of the same group while he was investigating cases of harassment of journalists.
Dabrundashvili visited Dugladze, and while he was trying to record the interview with her, the group began to disturb them. “Seven men surrounded us as I was trying to record the interview; they did not let me question my interviewee, interrupting the conversation with cynical comments and questions and blocking the camera. We tried to walk away and continue recording at some other place but they kept following us. In the end, my interviewee left without us being able to record the interview,” he said,
No-one has been held responsible in connection with the incident.
The organization is calling on the Georgian government to ensure freedom of expression and freedom of association of all persons, regardless of their political views or association and to bring those responsible for the recent incidents to justice, following a thorough, impartial and effective investigation.