International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today supported calls for the
release of four photojournalists who were arrested in Tbilisi on 7 July on
allegations of "spying on behalf of foreign intelligence services or organisations".
The reporters are to stand trial in September.
of spying against journalists should not be made lightly," said Jim Boumelha,
IFJ President. "We are concerned that our colleagues' case has been classified
top secret which limits their ability to properly answer charges brought
the Independent Association of Georgian Journalists (IAGJ), an IFJ affiliate,
Georgian security forces arrested in the
early hours of 7 July Zurab Kurtsikidze, a photographer for the European
Pressphoto Agency, Shakh Aivazov of the Associated Press, freelance Giorgi
Abdaladze and presidential photographer Irakli Gedenidze together with his wife
Natia Gedenidze, also a photographer. The police released later on the same day
Shakh Aivazov and Natia Gedenidze.
say that the remaining photojournalists were remanded in custody on 9 July by a
court in the capital, Tbilisi, pending their trial which is scheduled to begin
on 1 September 2011. The reporters who are charged with "espionage, gathering
information or transfer on behalf of foreign intelligence service or foreign
organization to the detriment of interests of Georgia" were denied bail by the
condemned the arrests and called on Georgian President Michael Saakashvili to
intervene in this case to secure release on bail. The union says the arrests may be related to the photographers' work, quoting Giorgi
Abdaladze who reportedly said his arrest was linked to some photos he took on
26 May of police using violence against anti-government protesters.
supports the IAGJ' call and says photographers are under stricter scrutiny in
repressive regimes which are desperate to stop images likely to show the
government in poor light from reaching the outside world.
"The Georgian government
has made a great deal of his democratic rule in the region," said Beth Costa,
IFJ General Secretary. "This is a test case to prove its genuine commitment to
the rule of law and tolerance of criticism. The photojournalists are entitled
to the presumption of innocence and should be released to
defend themselves as free men in a public trial."
information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than
600.000 journalists in 131 countries