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05.05.2012 20:07

Exiled from TV Air

David Mchedlidze
Media Discusions

While on May 3 a part of media and NGOs, together with students, were rallying to celebrate World Press Freedom Day in Tbilisi the professional activities of journalists were restricted in Kutaisi. On May 3 journalist Irakli Vachiberidze of the local newspaper P.S. having arrived at Kutaisi Opera and Ballet Theatre to cover the closed meeting being on between the United National Movement activists and government representatives was physically and verbally abused and seized his equipments. Other journalists too having arrived on the scene were deprived of a possibility to do their job.

A day earlier, on May 2, some of the journalists and media outlets were denied entry into Lado Meskhishvili Theatre hosting the event to celebrate the Day of Kutaisi being attended by President Saakashvili. An incident took place in Zugdidi too. On May 4 the Netgazeti.ge and Livepress.ge reporters having arrived at the Prosecutor’s Office to verify reports on an explosive were seized the equipments and the footage made was deleted. Pressure was exercised on the tspress.ge reporter Iza Salakaia too. The latter alleges that on May 4 attending the opening of the hospital in Poti by President Saakashvili she was seized the video recorder and the handbag and driven out of the building by some individuals dressed in civilian clothing.

The aforementioned developments – rallies in Tbilisi and violence against journalists - somehow failed to attract national broadcasters’ attention.

On May 3, for instance, the Georgian Public Broadcasting dedicated a lengthy TV story to the robbery in the Netherlands, INTERPOL-led operation Maya and the IRI survey according to which the ruling United National Movement is leading. GPB provided no coverage either of the rallies organized in Tbilisi or the physical abuse of Irakli Vachiberidze. Rustavi 2 and Imedi too kept silent over the topics.

On May 4 GPB dedicated the longest story to President Saakashvili’s visit to Poti, for approximately three minutes within the story President was delivering a speech. While no coverage of the pressure upon the Tspress.ge journalist was provided.

Imedi TV allocated considerably more airtime to President Saakashvili’s visit to Poti. Within a 10-minute story of the news program Kronika President was being heard for 4 minutes. Kronika also covered Parliamentary Chairman David Bakradze’s visit to Racha, Georgian First Lady’s visit to the Hague. Another TV story was dedicated to the preparation of anti-Putin rally in Russia and denial of entry of some of the citizens into a Russian church and again no word mentioned about Tspress.ge journalist-related incident.

In the May 4 21:00-hour Kurieri on Rustavi 2 the deactivation of the bomb found at Prosecutor’s Office in Zugdidi was dedicated 13 minutes in total, but the story included no coverage of pressure exerted upon the Netgazeti.ge and Livepress.ge reporters having arrived on the scene to cover the deactivation process.

The picture looked totally different in case of Maestro and Channel 9. Both of the channels, in their evening news outlets of May 3, dedicated approximately 3-minute TV stories to the rallies to mark World Press Freedom Day and pressure upon journalists. These events were covered in the daytime news outlets too. The aforementioned two TV companies also focused their attention on the May 4 incident related to the Netgazeti.ge and Livepress.ge reporters in Zugdidi.

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