Statement on the Large-Scale Violence against Journalists9 July, 2021
Violation of journalists' rights in Georgia has reached a critical point. Hereby, we reiterate that the government has failed so far to guarantee the safety and security of media representatives as earlier attacks on journalists went largely unpunished.
On July 5 - 6, 2021, large-scale violence targeted journalists and cameramen. On a day when the March for Dignity organized by Tbilisi Pride was supposed to take place in Tbilisi, violent groups targeted media representatives, inflicted physical injuries and verbal abuse, and deliberately smashed their equipment to obstruct coverage.
Despite earlier warnings from the civil sector, the state did not adopt measures to safeguard Dignity March campaigners and the media. The acts of violence were broadcast live. Insufficient police forces were acting passively and failed to restore order in the streets.
On July 5th, prior to the cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, put the responsibility for possible aggravation not on the counter-protesters, but the Tbilisi Pride, and advised against marching on Rustaveli Avenue. During violent attacks the only protection mechanism that the Ministry of Interior used, was to withdraw journalists from the coverage scene.
The attacks against media continued on July 6, 2021, in the course of the solidarity rally in Tbilisi, when violent groups tried to disrupt the live broadcast of Formula TV.
According to official information, a total of 53 representatives of more than 10 media outlets were injured. Some of them were taken to hospitals with severe injuries and are under medical care up to date.
In response to the multiple acts of violence, even though the journalists themselves were able to identify many attackers in the available video footage, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia (MIA) has detained only 12 persons under charges of illegal interference in journalistic activities.
In the light of the unprecedented scale of violence against media and in order to protect freedom of speech and expression and other fundamental rights in the country,
We appeal to the Government of Georgia to:
- Conduct a prompt and efficient investigation into the cases of media representatives injured on July 5 - 6, 2021; to impose appropriate responsibility on the perpetrators
- Discontinue practicing hate speech against media and openly support the freedom of journalists to carry out professional duties
We appeal to the Parliament of Georgia to:
- Hold an ad-hock hearing of July 5-6 events in the Parliament and evaluate the efficiency of the measures taken by the government for the protection of the citizens
- Condemn acts of violence
- Make statements conducive to freedom of expression and openly support the freedom of journalists to carry out professional duties
Alliance of Regional Broadcasters - AB
Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics
Georgian Democracy Initiative - GDI
Georgian Regional Media Association - GRMA
Georgian Young Lawyers` Association - GYLA
Institute for Development of Freedom of Information -IDFI
Liberal Academy Tbilisi
Media Development Foundation
Open Society Foundation OSGF
Small and Medium Telecommunication Operators Association of Georgia
Transparency International Georgia
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)