IFJ Joins Calls for Release of Photojournalists Detained in Georgia

The

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.

"Accusations

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

against them."

According to

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.

Media reports

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

court.

The IAGJ

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.

The IFJ

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."

For more

information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than

600.000 journalists in 131 countries