The IPI global network welcomes the action taken by Georgian authorities in the case of a verbal and physical attack on TV Pirveli journalist Nini Elikashvili and cameraman Papuna Khachidze. The TV crew was attacked in Tsalka Municipality, located in southern Georgia, on June 30 while covering local discontent with the use of a municipality building. One person has been arrested in relation to the incident.

According to TV Pirveli, local residents of the village of Tsintskaro were protesting the so-called “ruling” family of the village, who had allegedly misappropriated the municipality building by using it as a living space. Journalists Elikashvili and Khachidze were on the scene to confirm the story and interview the parties involved.

The governor of Tsalka himself was present at the time of the incident. The governor’s uncle, Giorgi Afrasidze, who is an informal leader of the village of Tsintskaro, attempted to prevent the journalists from covering the story. He attacked the TV crew physically and verbally as well as damaged their equipment. Footage released by TV Pirveli shows Aprasidze verbally abusing the journalists and grabbing their microphone before tearing the microphone cover off and throwing it back and them.

“Local elections are coming up, so it is very crucial to have journalistic coverage of the issues of the smaller, more rural regions as well. We hope that the court proceedings and sentencing will be open to the public for setting an example that it is not acceptable to harass journalists doing their job”, the executive director of TV Pirveli, Nana Aburjanidze, told IPI.

“We condemn this unacceptable verbal and physical harassment of the TV Pirveli crew in Tsintskaro and welcome action taken thus far by the Georgian authorities, who must hold those responsible to account”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “Officials must ensure that journalists are able to cover Georgia’s upcoming municipal elections safely and freely.”

The local self-government elections will be held in October 2021. According to Agenda, early parliamentary elections may be held in 2022 if the ruling party Georgian Dream gets less than 43 percent of the votes in the local elections. The agreement is part of ongoing discussions with the EU to end Georgia’s current political crisis.