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Media Climate Assessment: Second Round of Local Regional Elections


 

The Coalition for Media Advocacy strongly believes that professional activities of journalists and cameramen during the coverage of the second round of local elections on October 30, 2021, were hindered. In some cases, they have been denied the right to execute professional duties freely.

In almost all constituencies, media representatives had to work in an aggressive environment. The risk of verbal and physical abuse and / or assaults was very high.  Law enforcement officials have failed to ensure media representatives' physical safety and effective elimination of obstructive circumstances.

From the very beginning of election day, the public speeches of high-ranking officials traditionally included the expression of cynical and dismissive attitudes towards journalists. For example, the Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili labelled the journalist of opposition broadcasting Mtavari Arkhi  a "provocateur". Dachi Beraia, a member of parliament, referred to Formula TV as a "criminal thug of the National Movement".

 

The aggressive rhetoric of high-ranking officials persistently and instantly has translated into the behavior of ruling party supporters. During the election day, media representatives became the target of attacks in almost all constituencies. Georgian Dream coordinators physically assaulted journalists on the outer perimeter of polling stations and tried to prevent them from carrying out their professional activities. Amongst many other things, they have called the journalists "activists", "criminal thugs", "misleaders" and "representatives of the opposition".

It should be noted how the media representatives were harassed both - within and outside perimeters of the polling stations. In some cases, the so-called coordinators tried to cover up their identities and conceal facts of vote-bribing. Moreover, frequently enough the members of the election commission showed insufficient knowledge of the duties assigned to them.

Factual Accounting of Journalists’ Rights Violations at the Polling Stations:

  1. Nanuka Kajaia, a journalist of TV Pirveli, was verbally insulted at the Gldani polling stations in Tbilisi. Her journalistic activities were illegally hindered. 
  1. "Throw it away, or I will break your head!" - In Martvili, at the 31st polling station, a stranger physically confronted Formula journalist Nano Chakvetadze while she was asking questions; 
  1. The film crew of TV Pirveli was verbally abused by a person near the polling station in Rustavi, allegedly a supporter of the Georgian Dream; 
  1. Georgian Dream coordinators verbally and physically confronted  a Formula TV journalist near the polling station in Zugdidi; 
  1. Formula TV journalist Nino Chakvetadze was attacked at the 2nd polling station in Martvili; 
  1. According to TV Pirveli, a Georgian Dream supporter stole a microphone from the journalist. An investigation over the incident has been launched;
  1. According to TV Media Center journalist Giga Gelkhviidze, he was verbally and physically confronted at the 14th polling station in Kutaisi; 
  1. According to Formula TV, their film crew in Kutaisi was confronted by aggressive individuals and verbally abused; 
  1. In one of the polling stations, a TV Pirveli journalist was verbally confronted by an election observer; 
  1. According to TV Pirveli, an aggressive Georgian Dream observer verbally and physically abused their journalist; 
  1. In one of the polling stations in Batumi, they tried to damage the camera of the TV 25 film crew and interfered with their journalistic activities. An investigation over the incident has been launched; 
  1. Also, in Batumi, journalist Teo Putkaradze was verbally and physically assaulted. An investigation has been launched into the incident; 
  1. In Kutaisi, On.ge journalist Izabela Modebadze was aggressively disturbed during her work by an aggressive individual  at the 15th polling station. He also  tried to damage her equipment and verbally and physically abused her; 
  1. Formula TV and Mtavari Arkhi crews were attacked, verbally and physically assaulted in Gonio. At the same time, the man grabbed the hair of the "Formula" journalist and cursed him. An investigation has been launched into the incident. The journalist will be provided with legal assistance by the Coalition for Media Advocacy; 
  1. In Poti, aggressive Georgian Dream activists attacked a Mtavari Arkhi journalist and physically and verbally abused her; 
  1. In the village of Zemo Meskheti, a Formula TV journalist got attacked by stones  and verbally abused; 
  1. Mtavari Arkhi journalist Emma Gogokhia was confronted and verbally abused in one of the polling stations in Senaki after a journalist from the Post TV station deliberately prevented her from working; 
  1. "Our time has come, ours!" - The allegedly aggressive supporter of the "Georgian Dream" verbally and physically assaulted Formula journalist Marta Kurasbediani.

Journalists’ Rights Violation at the Polling Stations:

  1.  In Kareli municipality, in the 2nd polling station, a United National Movement observer attacked and physically assaulted a TV Monitoring journalist. Soon enough the opposition party made a statement and suspended the observer's representational rightAn investigation over the incident has been launched;
  1. According to GuriaNews, their journalist Jemal Gambashidze was expelled from the first polling station in Senaki for violating the law. The journalist was not allowed to return to the polling station and resume his journalistic activities. Transparency International - one of the coalition members - has filed a complaint over the incident;  

It is particularly relevant for law enforcement agencies to take measures against the interference in journalistic activities. At the same time, the cases of attacks on the media representatives must be investigated promptly and effectively.

In light of the revealed violations, the coalition once again calls on the ruling party to make open statements in support of free media. We consider it vital that the Prime Minister and the President of Georgia express their views openly on the importance of the safety of journalists and cameramen.

We call on the Central Election Commission to assess the quality of compliance between on the one hand - district and regional officials, and on the other - the document on the conduct of election administration officials. Moreover, we urge it to take appropriate measures for election administration officials behavioral practice improvement.

The Coalition for Media Advocacy continues to protect media representatives. Journalists and cameramen continue to have access to the hotline 555 795 776 for legal advice on election coverage and protection of their rights.