In a joint statement about four dozen of Georgian media outlets and organizations cast doubt over official version of investigation into the arrested photojournalists’ case, saying that no evidence to substantiate espionage charges have yet been presented by the authorities.
“Although factual evidence to substantiate charges against them have not yet been presented, Georgian photojournalists Giorgi Abdaladze, Irakli Gedenidze and Zurab Kurtsikidze still remain in detention. Extracting confessions in dubious circumstances through coercion fail to convince us that the photojournalists were spies,” reads the statement signed by over forty newspapers, magazines, news agencies and several media unions.
The statement was accompanied by a campaign on July 18 in which newspapers and several news websites instead of carrying photos on their front pages placed either sign reading “Protest” or an image of cross barred photo camera in a red circle.
“Night-time arrest of [these photographers], procedural actions undertaken against them, classifying of the case as secret, cynical stance of the authorities towards questions asked and protest rallies held by journalists and televised insinuations have triggered indignation of a significant part of the society,” reads the statement, which was spearheaded by the Georgian Press Association.
“We perceive [the arrest of photojournalists] as a retaliation and persecution for documenting the truth, which actually means saying no to the democratic development by the authorities.”
“We believe that such actions – for which first and foremost the President and leaders of law enforcement structures bear the responsibility – infringe rights of media representatives and damage our country’s international reputation.”
“We appeal to the international community, diplomatic corps accredited in Georgia, international journalistic organizations not to ease attention towards this case,” reads the statement.
The statement calls on the authorities to release arrested photographers on personal guarantee from police custody; to make case files publicly available and “to stop persecution of journalists on the grounds of their professional activities”.