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Reporter Georgy Chanya killed in May clashes in breakaway Abkhazia



(CPJ/IFEX) - Georgy Chanya, a reporter for the independent Georgian daily
"Rezonants", was killed on 27 May 1998 while covering renewed fighting
between Abkhaz rebels and Georgian guerrillas near Gali in the separatist
region of Abkhazia, CPJ is now able to confirm.




According to Amiran Dzotsenidze, deputy editor of "Rezonants", the
25-year-old Chanya and two other Georgian journalists crossed into Abkhazia
on 20 May to cover reports of ethnic cleansing of Georgians by Abkhaz
rebels. The two reporters travelling with him left Abkhazia as the violence
escalated, but Chanya stayed behind, choosing to follow a band of Georgian
guerrillas to file reports from the front-line. He was killed during a raid
on the guerrillas’ camp. Chanya’s body was mutilated beyond recognition and
identifiable only through personal documents found on his corpse. It was
returned to Georgia along with the bodies of ten fighters in return for the
release of two jailed Abkhaz rebels held by Georgian police.

Chanya was an ethnic Georgian refugee who fled the Abkhaz region of Gali
with his family at the height of the 1992-93 conflict, which has seen
occasional flare-ups despite a 1994 cease-fire. He settled in the
neighbouring Zugdidi region and worked as a special correspondent covering
Abkhazia for the independent "Rezonants". Chanya has been described by his
colleagues as an able and prolific reporter who had risked his life many
times while on assignment in the secessionist region.

Chanya’s death raises to four the number of journalists CPJ has recorded as
killed in the line of duty in Abkhazia since 1992. Despite a formal
cease-fire and the deployment of a Russian-led CIS peacekeeping force to the
area, fighting has occasionally broken out between the Abkhaz separatists
and Georgian paramilitary formations, such as the White Legion, seeking to
restore Abkhazia to Georgian control. Journalists have reported incidents of
harassment by both
sides.

The recent round of fighting was sparked by a raid on 18 May by the White
Legion, a Georgian paramilitary group, on an Abkhaz police post in Gali. The
Abkhaz leadership sent reinforcements into the area, who then proceeded to
attack Georgian-populated villages, driving out the population. The CIS
peacekeeping unit deployed in the area since July 1994 reportedly failed to
intervene.



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