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Journalists request free access to the villages close to the occupation line

30.06.2020

 
Lado Bitchashvili, Shida Kartli

The villages located alongside the occupation line are still closed for the Georgian media. Journalists were deprived of the right to freely move and report from the villages for several months already. The police officers standing at the blockposts in the entrances to the villages ban the journalists to enter there. “Your visit must be agreed with the MIA,” they clarify to the journalists. 

It is not easy for the journalists to get permission to enter the villages and report about the situation there. They need to call the MIA and the State Security Service several days before the scheduled visit though it is not a guarantee that the state authorities will give them permission to enter the villages close to the occupation line. 

“There were cases, when we called the law enforcement bodies to inform them about our planned visits in concrete villages but we had to wait at the entrance of the villages several hours. The police officers were saying they were negotiating with the senior officials to allow us to enter the village or not. These restrictions are illogical and I think media representatives must enjoy right of free movement because people living close to the occupation line have serious problems and we need to report about them in order to attract the attention of the Government of Georgia. Considering the mentioned restrictions, the problems of these villages are not adequately covered by media,” journalist of the TV-Company Trialeti Shorena Bitchikashvili said. 

Journalist of the Radio Liberty Goga Aptsiauri informed the US Ambassador and the EU Monitoring Mission about the restrictions established by the law enforcement bodies in the villages. Aptsiauri hopes their engagement will have positive impact and the restrictions will be lifted for media.

“Our constitutional right to free movement is restricted by the MIA and the State Security Service. They state that it is done because of our safety but it is not logical because people live in those villages and their statement means that those people are living in danger. We used to enter the villages close to the occupation line almost every day without any problem. I have a feeling that sometimes they act in accordance to the so-called “black list” and we are all on that list. As soon as they hear our surname or recognize us, the officers immediately refuse us to enter the villages. We face problems to enter the villages even when we want to visit our relatives there. I had similar incident. I informed the US Ambassador and the EUMM about the problem. We request not to restrict our constitutional rights and agree to restore old regulations when police officers used to accompany us into the villages,” Goga Aptsiauri said. 

Journalist of the TV-Company Pirveli Malkhaz Mikeladze said the Government of Georgia assists the occupants with its action because media is disabled to actively report about the facts of creeping occupation in those village, like it happened in the past when journalists’ free movement was not restricted. 

“The State Security Service refuses us to enter the villages close to the occupation line based on unclear reasons for more than one year. I think the government wants to hide what is happening there. They violate our constitutional rights and rights of local people. Representatives of the State Security Service clarify that these restrictions aim to protect our safety but I wonder who is responsible for the safety of the local people. Therefore, the restrictions established by the Government of Georgia are inadmissible for us and they are illegal and immoral,” Malkhaz Mikeladze said.

Representatives of the both local and central media operating in Shida Kartli region hope the government will soon lift the restrictions. Otherwise, they do not exclude possibility to start protest actions. 

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