Journalistic war breaks out in Georgia?

The public prosecutor’s office in Zugdidi, Samegrelo regioninterrogated Maestro TV journalist Nana Fajava on August 7 regarding an incident which took place earlier between Fajava and representatives of an unknown media organization based in the same region.

According to Fajava, as she was interviewing her subject, representatives of the unknown media organization were recording the process on camera. Fajava asked them to turn off the camera. They refused. Finally, she became upset and used Maestro TV’s microphone to hit their camera. The Zugdidi police department opened a case over the damage of private property.

Those people, Fajava said, while calling themselves reporters, had been following her for some time already and interfering with her work.

In the same day, Maestro TV officials published a statement condemning the reality that the Georgian police have been ignoring the disturbances of Maestro TV journalists by unknown individuals in the regions for a long time. The channel expressed regret regarding the incident and emphasizes that the behavior of their regional correspondent, Nana Fajava deviates from established ethical norms. Consequently, Maestro TV confirmed their readiness to “compensate” the damages caused by the Maestro TV journalist.

This incident once again demonstrated the deepening tensions not only between the political establishment but also between pro-government and pro-opposition media.

The government tends to support so called pro-government newsmakers such as Rustavi 2, Imedi, Samegrelo region media-organization and so on. These media agencies seem to have easy access to all members of the ruling party for comments and opinions and therefore are used as their key mouthpiece.

At the same time, some opposition media outlets like Maestro TV, Channel 9, Kavkasia and Info 9, which are described by anti-government forces as ‘independent’ or ‘objective,’ have a hard time obtaining information. The government vetoed interviews and direct contacts with such media years ago; and it has been PM Vano Merabishvili who broke the barrier between pro-government and opposition channels and gave an interview to Maestro TV. Still, newsmakers with a critical tone have to import a lot of data from pro-government media in order to produce news.

Since the end of June, the regional news agency Info 9 and some other oppositional channel journalists working in Georgia’s regions have been chased and disturbed by unknown individuals. These individuals have been introduced as journalists of different regional media organizations.

Ekaterine Dugladze, a female journalist with the pro-opposition news agency Info 9, noted that “They follow me everywhere by car or on foot, preventing me to move freely; they interfere with filming, come physically very close when making inappropriate remarks about my work and private life and ask questions in a non-stop manner.”

Later prominent international organizations such as Transparency International and Amnesty International called for the government to start an investigation regarding the incidents. This request has fallen on deaf ears thus far.

On August 6, Bidzina Ivanishvili the leader of the Georgian Dream Coalition, in his speech in Poti, called for pro-government media organizations’ journalists to stop “obeying violence”, regain power as the fourth branch of the government and “serve the public.”

“Time is running out,” he said. “We will definitely see the present authorities off on October 1 and the new authorities will definitely come; you [addressing the journalists] have little time left for proving to society that you are resisting lies, planted by one man [President Saakashvili].”

This harsh language also signals that the pre-election period will surely deepen the confrontation between pro-opposition and pro-government newsmakers unless a miraculous dove of peace appears on the horizon.

The original article was published by GeorgiaToday. It is available here. PDF version.

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