A group of eleven watchdog and media organizations, Coalition for Media Advocacy, said lack of public information into the case of arrested photojournalists and a failure by the authorities so far to put credible evidence was triggering “sense of insecurity” in the Georgian media.
“’Case of photographers’ has triggered unprecedented high public interest, because its consequences and proceeding will directly affect prospects of free media development in Georgia. Nevertheless, as it seems, the Ministry of Internal Affairs is not intending to make the case fully public,” the group said in a statement on July 10.
It also said that not a single evidence, put forth by the Interior Ministry on July 9, helped to add credibility to the charges brought against the photojournalists. The group said that a videotaped confession statement by President Saakashvili’s personal photographer Irakli Gedenidze failed to serve as “incontrovertible proof” that two other photographers – Zurab Kurtsikidze and Gia Abdaladze – worked for one of the spying networks.
“Because of lack of information, the society has no possibility to comprehensively assess [substance of the matter] and to make proper conclusions. Information available is fragmented and not credible. It makes us think, that the authorities deliberately hide details of the matter from the public eye and exert pressure on the media representatives,” the Coalition for Media Advocacy said.
The group also said that absence of transparency into the case was causing “sense of insecurity” among media community in Georgia, because “such methods can be applied by the state to punish any free journalistic activity.”
Declassifying of the case and its fully transparent investigation would be “a right decision” from the authorities, the coalition said.
“We want to stress, that ignoring public interest is unacceptable. If the details of the matter continue to be unknown in the nearest future, such action will be considered as the authorities’ direct pressure on media and journalism in Georgia and arrested persons will be considered as prisoners of conscience and we will resort to various civil activities and use all the methods of public pressure with the purpose to secure detained journalists’ release,” the statement reads.