Georgian TV spreads misinformation about alleged arrest of Spanish journalists in Abkhazia
Several Georgian media outlets have turned the fact that a Spanish journalist had his bag stolen in a Sokhumi coffee shop into an anti-Russian/anti-Abkhaz propaganda exercise. Imedi TV, the Georgian Public Broadcaster and other TV channels reported that two journalists from Spain (or: one Spanish and one Italian reporter, depending on the news outlet) had been arrested by the Russian military or Abkhaz authorities and their belongings confiscated close to the Enguri river, at the Georgian-Abkhaz administrative border. Other news outlets like the news agency GHN and media.ge ran similar reports, based on the news aired on national TV. In fact, Francisco Martinez, a freelancer for the Spanish daily El Mundo who also contributes to the Dutch TV journalism portal VJ Movement, had his bag stolen in a coffee shop in Sokhumi on February 11. "This could have happened anywhere in the world", Martinez told TI Georgia in Tbilisi. The bag contained a laptop, his travel documents and cash worth about 300 Euros. Martinez told TI Georgia that he had no contact with members of the Russian military at all. "The Abkhaz police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to help me", he said. Five days later, on February 16, around 1pm, Martinez, together with a Spanish writer, Mark Morte, crossed the administrative border back to Georgian government-controlled territory. Equipped with a letter from the Spanish honorary consul in Georgia, Abkhaz de-facto authorities let him pass without problems, Martinez told TI Georgia; Georgian police, too, let the two men pass after a short interrogation. However, according to Martinez, it seemed that police had phoned a local TV station and informed reporters about the journalists' crossing. The two Spaniards were asked by police to wait a few minutes. A reporter arrived, and, without asking questions or writing down their names, recorded a statement from Morte who stated that the bag with Martinez' passport had been stolen and that the two were on their way to Tbilisi. Based on this statement, the TV reporter fabricated a report, claiming that the two Europeans had been detained. The piece then was spread via national television.