Thursday, 26 November 2009

Police in Georgia targets Batumi-based newspaper journalist using KGB-style gay blackmail

Civil.ge reports: The Batumi-based weekly newspaper, Batumelebi, said law enforcement officers attempted to “blackmail” and “intimidate” its journalist, including through use of “stigma persisting in Georgia” towards homosexuality.

It said in a statement on Thursday, that on November 25 head of the newspaper’s journalistic investigations unit, Tedo Jorbenadze, was summoned by Interior Ministry’s Special Operations Department’s (SOD) local division in Adjara Autonomous Republic to talk about “some personal matters” and “about his sexual partner.”

Before going to the SOD’s Adjara headquarters in Batumi, Jorbenadze informed about the summoning newspaper’s director and editor-in-chief, Mzia Amaglobeli and Eter Turadze, respectively, who decided to accompany colleague at a meeting with the law enforcement officers. However, according to the statement, the editor and director were not allowed to attend a conversation between Jorbenadze and the officers.

The Batumelebi said that during the meeting Tedo Jorbenadze was shown what seemed to be cropped black-and-white photos of near-naked men also featuring the journalist himself.

“Tedo Japaridze was told [by law enforcement officers] that there was an interest towards the Batumelebi newspaper by special services of foreign countries, in particular Turkey and Russia and they needed his assistance and cooperation,” the Batumelebi said. “After receiving a refusal [from the journalist], Jorbenadze was warned that these photos would have been sent to his ailing father, as well as to his colleagues and disseminated through internet. But Jorbenadze told [the law enforcement officers] that they would not intimidate him with cropped photos and left.”

The newspaper said it intended to request the prosecutor’s office to open investigation into the case, which it described as “Soviet KGB-style method of recruitment.”
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For Russian version of this report - see Gay Caucasus.
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It's not the first time that the journalists of this Batumi-based publication face intimidation.
31 July 2008 - Civil.ge - Public Defender Sozar Subari has requested the prosecutor’s office in Batumi to probe into the alleged “intimidation” of journalists at the local weekly newspaper Batumelebi.

The newspaper, published in Batumi, Adjaran Autonomous Republic, said in a statement last week that it had received an e-mail, which said: “you will find him [one of the newspaper’s journalists] dead with the newspaper stuck in his mouth.”

Prior to the anonymous e-mail, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Eter Turadze, and another journalist were, they say, followed by unknown people. They say the surveillance was deliberately noticable, presumably so as to intimidate them.

The Public Defender’s Office said in a statement on July 31 that the incidents should be investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office as it believed they constituted intimidation.

5 comments:

artmika said...

Follow-up developments, via Civil.ge

Batumi-Based Newspaper Alerts Int'l Organizations over its Journalist Blackmail
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 30 Nov.'09 / 16:30

Following an attempted “blackmailing” and “intimidation” of its journalist last week by the law enforce officers, the Batumi-based weekly newspaper Batumelebi said it has appealed the international organizations for support.

The award-winning newspaper said on November 26 that officers from local unit of Interior Ministry’s Special Operations Department tried to persuade its journalist, Tedo Jorbenadze, who coordinates the paper’s investigative reporting team, on cooperation otherwise threatened, including through use of “stigma persisting in Georgia” towards homosexuality.

“We have been forced to appeal for support to you, the international community, because our security is no longer guaranteed,” the newspaper’s appeal made on November 30 reads. “The Batumelebi and the independent media in Georgia in general have always greatly appreciated support from international media organizations and human rights organizations. We hope that you will support us once again and that you will help us to defend the rights and freedoms that we have as human beings and professionals.”

The newspaper’s publisher, Mzia Amaglobeli, said that Tedo Jorbenadze had already appealed the local prosecutor’s office in Batumi with a request to open an investigation into his case.

A legal advocacy and human rights group, Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), which provides legal assistance to the newspaper over this matter, said that the case represented “a rough violation” of the journalist’s rights and the investigation should be immediately launched to hold perpetrators responsible.

artmika said...

Media Helping Media also reflected this case:

Georgian newspaper resists "blackmail" threat

and

Georgian newspaper seeks international support

artmika said...

Police Probe into Journalist Blackmail Claims (Civil.ge)

The Interior Ministry’s internal investigations unit has launched a probe into claims by the Batumi-based weekly newspaper, Batumelebi, that its journalist was blackmailed by the law enforcement officers, a senior official from the Interior Ministry said.

Shota Utiashvili, head of the information and analysis department at the Interior ministry, said in brief interview with the public TV’s program, Dialogue with Davit Paichadze, on December 1, that the case “contains clear sings of blackmailing”. He also said that the probe currently focused on efforts to identify those police officers who were, as claimed by the newspaper, attempting to blackmail and intimidate the journalist.

The case has been mainly ignored by the national television station’s news programs, but it was picked up by a newly launched program on the public TV, hosted by journalist Davit Paichadze, which is aired twice in a week.

Paco said...

we've participated in protest action yesterday at the entrance of Amirani cinema, where Tbilisi International Film Festival was opened and were able to atrackt the national TVs attention despite the fact that they did not pick up the case immediately. Journlaist David Paitchadze took up the issue for his talk show the same evening.

artmika said...

Thanks for updates, Paco. Well done.

This case is attracting international attention now. Here is posting from today's Telegraph:

A revealing case about the freedom of the Georgian media

[...] The case will be investigated not by the prosecutor’s office but by the interior ministry in an internal probe and the results will be watched with interest by all those who have expressed concern about the freedom of the Georgian media.