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Journalists of TV3 released

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, April 18
Georgian Journalists detained at the administrative border with de-facto South Ossetia were released on Wednesday evening. Journalist Bela Zakaidze, cameraman Vakhtang Lekiashvili, and a broadcast technician, Mikheil Mikhoev, were held in a detention center in Tskhinvali for two days. They were detained at the administrative boundary line on April 15.

The breakaway region’s leadership claimed that the Georgian journalists were detained for a violating the South Ossetian border. The statement was preceded by an assessment from the Russian Foreign Ministry. The federation’s MFA stressed that the journalists’ action was a provocation and they closed the border deliberately to get a response.

Russian deputy Foreign Minister Gregory Karasin stated during his meeting with Georgia’s Special Envoy to Russia Zurab Abashidze that “there are some provocateur groups in Georgia, aiming to create obstacles for the normalization of relations between Georgia and Russia.”

In his turn, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said that “similar facts from the Federation side hurt the process that is called normalization of relations with Russia.”

Released TV3 journalist Bela Zakaidze said no physical or verbal insult had taken place against the detainees in Tskhinvali. However, in a telephone conversation with TV3 she spoke about the psychological pressure.

“We were in the detention center for two days and the situation was quite critical there. Psychological pressure had been exerted on us. Conditions there were inhuman and unhygienic. They gave us food just at the end of the day. We had only tea and bread. We were interrogated several times. I was under pressure as they had been asking if I had arrived in South Ossetia for the first time. Despite the fact that I told them I was there for the first time, they told me that according to their data I had been there earlier too,” Zakaidze said.

Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze was “happy” as the action of the Ministry turned fruitful. She especially thanked the European Union Monitoring Mission to Georgia.

The Security Committee of the breakaway region released a statement, saying that the Georgian Journalists “were expelled from the Ossetian Republic for violation of the border line without a fine. This is a goodwill act shown from our side,” the statement reads.

The European Union Monitoring Mission welcomed the release, stressing that the mission immediately activated the Hotline and was in frequent contact with all sides until the journalists were released.

The U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Richard Norland said, “The occupation of Georgian territory and the creation of artificial borders create serious problems for people. Detention of journalists is one of the signs of that fact.”

The opposition United National Movement (UNM) member Goka Gabashvili said, “The Federation occupies our territory, makes barbed wires there and states that Georgian journalists are making prevocational steps…this is one more sign of imprudence.” He stressed that the Georgian government does not use a main its main lever against Russia which is permanent international pressure on the Federation.

Co-founder of Georgian Reforms Associates states that the Georgian side is in a defensive position when Russians make loud statements. According to her, the situation indicates the poor functioning of Georgia’s foreign policy.