Government inaction encourages violence by aggressive groups against the media
On July 5, a number of media representatives were physically assaulted and their journalistic work interrupted by protesters rallying against the "March for Dignity".
Based on the information disseminated by media outlets 15 different media outlets including “Radio Liberty”, TV Pirveli, Public Broadcaster, Tabula, Rustavi 2, Palitra News, Imedi TV, On.ge, TV Formula, Mtavari Arkhi, “Adjara TV”, “Gurianews”, “Interpressnews”, “Newpost” “CNEWS.GE” and more than 50 journalists and cameramen were victims of assault. Technical equipment belonging to media professionals was also damaged. Other media representatives were also obstructed in their journalistic work.
The public is witnessing on live how journalists and cameramen from various media are persecuted and their equipment damaged by aggressive and violent protesters. The state has failed to issue a due response to these acts of violence, and it could be said that their inaction is an encouragement for further violence against the media.
Although there have been a number of threatening statements made recently by members of those violent groups, the measures taken by the authorities have proven ineffective. Prior to the media crackdown, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili stated that he considered the July 5 march unreasonable and that a revanchist radical opposition were behind its organizers. The Prime Minister of Georgia has practically encouraged violence through this statement. This is also a message to the law enforcement officials that may result in undesirable consequences.
The working conditions for journalists have become dangerous, especially for those representing the critical media. The recent physical violence, threats, and insults against them have become alarming. This negative tendency is encouraged by the ineffective response of the government. There is no timely and proper investigation of such incidents and appropriate punishment of perpetrators. It is also alarming that there is continuous aggressive rhetoric against critical opinion.
We call on the authorities to ensure the safety of media representatives in a timely manner, to protect them from physical violence, and to create conditions for the safe conduct of professional activities. It is important for the authorities to investigate each incident effectively and punish all perpetrators with the full force of the law.