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Protest Demonstration in Support of “Batumelebi”

Gela Mtivlishvili

On December 1, in front of the Cinema “Amirani” in Tbilisi journalists and human rights defenders organized a protest rally in support of newspaper “Batumelebi”. Demonstrators attended presentation of the film in the cinema and then joined the demonstration; they requested the representatives of the government and international organizations to react on the oppression and blackmailing of the newspaper.

Reportedly, the editorial board of the “Batumlebi” petitioned to the international organizations for help.

Journalists working in the regions of Georgia arrived in Tbilisi to participate in the demonstration to support the newspaper “Batumelebi”. Members of the Republic Party also participated in the rally. The Human Rights Center interviewed several participants.

Ia Antadze, journalist for the Radio “Liberty”: “The Batumelebi” were not scared in the country where everybody has been scared for so long time. So, if we are not afraid, there are other methods too. Officials from the SOD met the head of the investigative group of the newspaper Tedo Jorbenadze and told him they would send very unpleasant photos to his sick father; then they would upload the photos in internet and nobody will give interview to him. It was serious threat. The newspaper is oppressed because of the articles they have published. I can recall some of them. They wrote about an official of the Special Forces Chikovani (with nickname Maimuna) who crapped into the house of a young girl, abused and raped her; the newspaper published photos of the girl. Then, the court released Chikovani from the courtroom under bail of 50 000 GEL. Second - tortured body of a sergeant from Batumi Roin Shavadze was found in the road and law enforcement officers claimed he was killed when he tried to escape them. In fact, his fingers, arms and legs were broken before he was killed – the newspaper described this terrible accident in details. Later, they did not hide that the same “Maimuna” was involved in Shavadze’s torture too because he is apparently a good specialist of torture.

During the war in August of 2008 they published plenty of information which was unpleasant for the Special Operative Department and Constitutional Security Department: the information was about deserting from the military base of Kodori, about sinking ships in Poti Port and the stories of the witnesses about tragic results of Ugulava’s three-hour moratorium. The newspaper investigated the topic of tabooed topic - “deserting from the army” – how deserter commanders were promoted and soldiers, left without commanders on the front, were arrested and fined with 14 000 GEL by the state.

The newspaper also wrote about the previous day of the elections of Batumi University Rector, when Levan Varshalomidze (head of government of Adjara Autonomous Republic) called the candidates and next day, the rector elected five days ago resigned because by mistake the wrong person had been elected and Varshalomidze did not want him to be a rector. Repeated polls succeeded without “mistakes”.

The newspaper “Batumelebi” told us a story about the criminal investigation against Malkhaz Kalandadze – member of the Supreme Council of Adjara Autonomous Republic from National Movement; the investigation was launched by the prosecutor’s office on abusing and raping of the woman, who had arrived from Ukraine as a guest. The article also described how the prosecutor’s office was hiding this accident from the society.

The story about chairman of Batumi municipality board Badri Kajaia is particularly extraordinary. His monthly salary was about 6 000 GEL while the president of Georgia had salary of 4 720 GEL only. When well-paid chairperson of the municipality board resigned, he could not recall any activity he had done for the sake of the city - apparently he had not done anything. Furthermore, several days later, Badri Kajaia was detained for purchase and storage of particularly large amount of narcotics. He was beaten in the street and three days later he was released based on the bail.

These are the stories told by the newspaper “Batumelebi”.

The government apparently did not like the article about expenditure of 973 000 GEL from the budget of Adjara Autonomous Republic on healthcare programs in 2008 (election year); while only 273 000 GEL was spent on healthcare programs in 2009 (non-election year).

And finally, I will tell the story of Levan Varshalomidze’s project – “12 Boys with Flute”. The law required to announce international competition for the project with the budget of 2 200 000 GEL. However, according to the newspaper “Batumelebi”, “Texun Ltd” was selected without competition. The explanation of the decision was original: there was no other company in Georgia who could implement the project and it was not necessary to announce competition. Varshalomidze selected the company for his project. However, the money was not his property.”

Eliso Chapidze, journalist for the newspaper “Resonance”: Editorial board of the Resonance supports the newspaper “Batumelebi”. We request the prosecutor’s office to investigate the oppression and blackmailing of the newspaper and punish those responsible for the intimidation of journalists in accordance to the law.”

Maia Metskhvarishvili, editor of the Imereti regional newspaper - “Akhali Gazeti”: “Prosecutor’s office and other law enforcement bodies shall react on oppression and blackmailing of the journalists adequately. However, it does not happen in Georgia. Regional media supports the newspaper “Batumelebi” and will always stand beside them.”

Beka Mindiashvili, head of center for tolerance at the Public Defender’s Office: “I protest oppression on “Batumelebi”. Some time before, traditionally religious, sexual and other minorities were discriminated in Georgia and same methods are rehabilitated now. We are concerned about it. Law enforcement bodies shall investigate this fact. Public Defender’s Office works on this fact and will prepare a report about it.”  

See photo-reportage on the topic on the following


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