HARSH TREATMENT OF JOURNALISTS, HARSH LAWS
CPJ asserted that Komakhidze had been working on an exposé about allegations of corruption by Ajaria's regional leader, Aslan Abashidze, and his family. When transit police stopped Komikhadze at a check point, several unidentified men in black uniforms beat him severely and confiscated his video camera, tapes, and various documents. He is currently hospitalized in Batumi with serious injuries.
In a letter to President Mikheil Saakashvili dated 9 February 2004, the International Press Institute (IPI) noted that such attacks are frequent in Georgia.
On 16 February 2004, ARTICLE 19 analyzed the country's stringent defamation laws in relation to international standards. ARTICLE 19 recommended the complete repeal of criminal defamation, and thorough revision of the civil defamation laws.
Further, they said, "In Georgia, defamation law is frequently abused to shield those in power from media scrutiny. Both civil and criminal defamation laws provide for harsh sentences, and the government has recently suggested introducing lengthier sentences for defamation of public officials."
On 24 February 2004, Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted that parliamentary elections in Georgia are scheduled for 28 March. The organisation called on the government to issue public statements encouraging a plurality of opinions, critical reporting, and freedom of the media.
For more information, visit:
-ARTICLE 19: http://www.article19.org