Monday, August 16, 2010

A thorn in the side of Georgia’s Rose Revolution

A thorn in the side of Georgia's Rose Revolution

Robin Llewellyn
Vakhtang Komakhidze was an investigative journalist in Georgia with a nose for a story and a record of annoying the authorities. His revelations of official corruption ended in the death threats which forced him to seek asylum in Switzerland. Robin Oisín Llewellyn talked to him about the limits of media freedom in Georgia.

Having described the brutality reporters faced under Eduard Shevardnadze's [1] presidency, Georgian investigative journalist Vakhtang Komakhidze added despondently "but in the past they couldn't stop us, now they can." That was before the Swiss granted him asylum on 26 July. We had met at a café in the Swiss town where he shared a room with eight other refugees, still unable to work on the material he collected for a film on the South Ossetian conflict. 

He has fled a country where, according to the US State Department, "respect for media freedom declined [2]" throughout 2009, with intimidation and violence against journalists widespread.  Although the small pro-opposition TV station Maestro started broadcasting via satellite on May 27 this year, the TV sector is dominated by the channels Imedi and Rustavi 2 (61% share in November 2009 – Transparency International) which seldom air views challenging the government.  Transparency International drew attention [3] to an instance on October 7, when Imedi, Rustavi 2, and the National Public Broadcaster's Channel 1 "simultaneously accused a German law professor, Otto Luchterhandt, a member of the EU-funded fact finding commission on the Russia-Georgia war, of being sponsored by Russian company Gazprom and having influenced the report's findings in Moscow's favour. Similarly, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, at the time Germany's outgoing minister of foreign affairs, was falsely accused of having secured a job with Gazprom – again, an allegation based on no evidence."

See link for complete story, and stories like this will never be published in Georgia.


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