Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on Georgian authorities to guarantee the safety of journalists covering the parliamentary election campaign in the country after TV crews were attacked during clashes between pro-government and pro-opposition activists.
“We call on the leaders of the two parties to condemn these attacks and we urge the authorities to conduct an exhaustive and transparent investigation in order to identify those responsible,” the Paris-based watchdog said in a statement on October 1, warning that the environment for journalists has “worsened” in the run-up to the October 31 vote.
RSF said at least five journalists covering the campaign were physically attacked in the southern town of Marneuli on September 29 during clashes between members of the ruling Georgian Dream party and the opposition United National Movement.
Jeyhun Muhamedali, one of four journalists with the opposition TV channel Mtavari Arkhi, was hospitalized with a head injury sustained during the violence, in which a camera and microphone were damaged, according to the group.
A camera operator with Georgia’s public broadcaster GPB was also attacked and his camera smashed.
Georgian police have launched an investigation into the violence and into the obstruction of journalists’ work.
“The state has an obligation to guarantee journalists’ safety. With four weeks to go to a high-stakes election, impunity for those responsible for violence must be combatted,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
The South Caucasus country is ranked 60th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.