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Batumelebi puts ministry of interior to shame2011-11-30 10:20
Georgian rights defenders plan to reanimate the story of two years ago when security structures attempted to recruit a journalist of a Batumi newspaper.
Batumelebi (translated as residents of Batumi) is one of the most-read newspapers of the town. Two years ago one of its journalists was blackmailed in an attempt to make him work for Ajaria's ministry of interior.
The difficult conversation with the journalist took place in Batumi's department of interior with security officers threatening to publish discrediting photo and video materials unless Tedo Jorbenadze, coordinator of journalist investigation group with Batumelebi, agrees to cooperate.
The public reaction to the story was highly emotional with the editor's office of the newspaper submitting a petition to the prosecutor's office of the Ajarian autonomy and Georgian ministry of interior asking to start a criminal case, find a culprit and punish him. Law-enforcement authorities were ready to pursue long respectful correspondence with the newspaper though the case did not move an inch for a simple reason: it was impossible to identify the blackmailer.
No results were achieved with the law-enforcement authorities, though the case made a great fuss. Journalists turned to international organizations. MDFL, a partner of the newspaper, called to the president of Georgia and US senators including John McCain.
Gavin O'Reilly, President of the World Association of Newspapers and Xavier Vidal-Folch, president of World Editors Forum reacted to the statement of Batumelebi newspaper asking president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili to carry out a thorough investigation of the case and punish the culprits. It all seemed like a successful result.
Yet, any sound-minded person realizes that it is completely impossible to have a police officer or a security service officer pursued in today's Georgia. As a rule, things are opposite: if the repressive machine is on, any who gets under it is ruined. However, in this specific case, Tedo Jorbenadze and his newspaper won the battle with the system. The investigating journalist refused to become an informant, the case was given wide publicity and the president came to learn about that. It's clear that omnipotent special services are not brave enough to counteract mass media.