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Public Defender urges political official to refrain from obstruction of journalistic activities

By Khatia Bzhalava
Thursday, July 29
Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria has responded to frequent attacks on journalists in recent weeks, stating that there has been an increase in the number of cases of physical and verbal abuse of journalists and obstruction of their activities after the violent events of July 5.

According to the Public Defender, in a situation where society has become highly polarized and increasingly intolerant of a different opinion, instead of political officials condemning such actions, they often show disrespectful attitudes towards journalists, which according to the ombudsman, encourages violence against media representatives.

“Unfortunately, law enforcement agencies do not respond to all similar cases in a timely, strict, or effective manner. Organizers of the violence committed against journalists on July 5-6 have not been identified and appropriate measures have been taken to bring them to justice, which creates a syndrome of impunity,” reads the statement published by the Public Defender.

According to the statement, these circumstances endanger journalistic activities and may lead to self-censorship, ‘which will ultimately undermine media freedom’.

The Public Defender emphasizes the vital role of a free, pluralistic and critical media environment for a democratic society as well as its special function in terms of the protection of human rights and the rule of law in the country. It is noted that the state is obliged to protect the rights of journalists as persons with special status and to take appropriate measures to prevent such incidents.

The Public Defender urges the Prosecutor General’s Office of Georgia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to respond promptly to criminal acts against journalists on or after 5–6 July and make public the results of identification and prosecution of offenders, including the organizers of actions of violent groups on July 5–6. The Public Defender urges political officials not to allow the obstruction of journalistic activities and violence against media representatives, not to discredit journalists regarding their critical views, and to publicly condemn such cases committed against them.

A total of 53 journalists were injured at the rally of right-wing activists against the Tbilisi Pride march on July 5. Even though dozens of individuals have been detained in connection with attacks on media representatives, police have not detained the right-wing rally organizers yet.