Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Georgian authorities to investigate the violence against journalists during a protest that turned into a riot outside parliament in Tbilisi on the night of 20 June, and urges them to renounce any further use of excessive force against media personnel.
In the course of clashes between police and protesters, many journalists were injured, mostly by rubber bullets fired by police. According to Media Ethics Charter, a local NGO, around 30 reporters and media workers were injured and two of them needed emergency surgery.
The victims included Guram Muradov, a photographer who was hit by rubber bullets about ten times. Some journalists were manhandled by protesters. A flying brick broke one of Reuters reporter Maka Antidze’s ribs.
“The media have been subjected to unacceptable violence,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Full and impartial investigations must be carried out into each of these incidents, and clear instructions must be given to the police to avoid use of such disproportionate force against journalists in the future.”
Chanting “Don’t shoot me,” Georgian journalists demonstrated outside interior ministry headquarters yesterday to demand justice for their injured colleagues.
Thousands of people participated in the protest outside the parliament building on the evening of 20 June, which began when a Russian legislator was allowed to address parliament from the speaker’s chair as part of a forum for parliamentarians from Orthodox Christian countries being held in Tbilisi.
The situation degenerated at around midnight when some of the protesters tried to storm the parliament building and the police responded by firing rubber bullets, teargas and a water cannon against the crowd. According to the health ministry, at least 160 protesters and 80 police were injured in the clashes.
Relations between Georgia and Russia have been tense for years, especially since a war between the two countries in 2008. Georgia is ranked 60th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.