RAID ON TV STATION SPARKS PROTESTS
IPI notes that this is not the first time that Rustavi-2 has been targeted by the government. The tax audit, which uncovered no wrongdoing, had been intensive, and on 30 October, security ministry officials entered the station's offices and threatened to deploy "special forces" unless staff handed over financial documents. According to INDEX, the government's raid on Rustavi-2 was politically motivated; the station has been an unrelenting critic of President Eduard Shevardnadze's regime, exposing corruption and criticising his government's economic policies.
INDEX adds that most Georgians believe the raid is linked to the murder of Rustavi-2 journalist George Sanaia earlier this year. Before his murder on 26 July, Sanaia had done investigative reports on the Pankisi Gorge, an area near the Chechen border where Chechen rebels with drug smuggling links were reportedly seeking refuge. According to IPI, Sanaia knew of the existence of several videotapes which showed a government official in the Pankisi Gorge on an unknown mission. [See IFEX Communiqué #10-30].">http://communique.ifex.org/articles.cfm?system_id=3419">#10-30].
As a result of the government's latest move against Rustavi-2, large protests have erupted in the capital, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of several government ministers, reports Radio Free Europe (RFE). According to the BBC, on 1 November, president Shevardnadze sacked the entire cabinet and threatened to resign his own post. However, he has since announced that he will not resign, nor will he dissolve parliament and announce new elections, says RFE.
According to Freedom House's 2001 Press Freedom Survey, Georgia's media is considered "partly free." It notes that Akaki Gogichaishvili, host of Rustavi-2's television program Sixty Minutes, claimed that he received a death threat in May from Georgiaâs deputy prosecutor-general after a report on corruption in the state-funded Georgian Writersâ Union.
For more information, see www.freedomhouse.org/ratings/index.htm, www.freemedia.at, www.cpj.org, www.ifj.org, www.juhiaz.org and www.oneworld.org/index_oc/.