Human Rights Center – Photo Reporters' Case Should be Lifted ‘Secret’ Classification
A year has passed since the detention of photo reporters. On July 7, 2011 within the period of 3:00 to 5:00 am Zurab Kurtsikidze of EPA agency and photo correspondent Shakh Aivazov of Associated Press, President's Personal Photo Correspondent Irakli Gedenidze, his Spouse Natia Gedenidze and photo reporter Giorgi Abdaladze of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and concurrently co-cooperating with the Georgian newspaper Alia were detained.
Human Rights Center then assessed the photo reporters’ detention as a flagrant violation of freedom of speech and called upon the President of Georgia as well as the Minister of Internal Affairs to immediately release the detained photo reporters. Nino Andriashvili, the head of the legal team of the Human Rights Center was pleading for one of the detainees, in particular Zurab
The photo reporters’ detention was followed by vigorous protest by human right watchdog organizations and media. As a result of pressure by the civil society and international organizations the Georgian authorities were made to release, in two weeks time, the photo reporters charged with espionage. Shakh Aivazov of the Associated Press was freed within few hours since Associated Press as well as the US Embassy in Georgiaimmediately got interested into the case.
The detained photo reporters provided confession statements under threats and psychological pressure. Irakli Gedenidze as the first one having confessed charges for espionage. His spouse was immediately released from detention. This very fact indicates that Natia Gedenidze had been virtually detained as a hostage. Zurab Kurtsikidze and Giorgi Abdaladze were the last having provided confession statements, consequently they were released, despite heavy charges, through plea deals and suspended sentence.
Currently photo reporters continue their professional activities at different agencies but numerous questions remain unresponded in the photo reporters’ case due to being classified as ‘secret.’
Human Rights Center believes the case virtually never implied the information of State importance and the ‘secret’ classification was applied to conceal the lack of evidence. Innocent photo reporters were actually punished for the dissemination of footage featuring the bloody dispersal of the May 26, 2012 demonstration.
Human Rights Center considers it’s high time the Ministry of Internal Affairs publicized the aforementioned case and presented case-related materials to the society. At the same time an objective investigation needs to be carried out and the MIA officials at the time to be held responsible for the fabrication of the case. Photo reporters, Human Rights Center believes, should be lifted suspended sentence. The most horrifying shots were made and released by President’s personal photographer Irakli Gedenidze since, due to his status, the riot police did not hinder his professional activities.