August 7, 2000
His Excellency Eduard Shevardnadze
President of Georgia
Via Fax: 011-99532-99-74-75
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is outraged by the recent assault on Vasil Silagadze, a Georgian journalist who was apparently beaten up by local police officers after he published an article alleging corruption among high-ranking law enforcement officials, including the interior minister.
On the night of July 24, Silagadze, a reporter with the independent Tbilisi daily Eko Digest, was driving in Tbilisi when his car was stopped by two plainclothes officers. Both men displayed police badges and asked Silagadze for his identification papers. They then recognized the journalist as the author of the article “Police officers live very well without salaries,” which had appeared in Eko Digest on June 18.
The officers forced Silagadze into their car and drove him to a local park, where they demanded that he disclose his sources for the article. When the journalist refused to comply, they beat him severely, according to CPJ sources and international press reports.
One of the attackers slashed the fingers on Silagadze’s right hand, so that he “wouldn’t be able to write for a while.” The officers also threatened that Silagadze could get into real trouble if he persisted in covering the issue of police corruption.
In the piece that apparently prompted the attack, Silagadze condemned high-ranking police officials, including the interior minister, for their “luxurious lifestyle” in a country where lower-ranking police officers are poorly paid and must wait for months to receive their salaries.
Two days after the attack, Georgian ombudsman Nana Devdariani sent an official letter to Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze, requesting an investigation. On July 28, the Prosecutor’s Office began the investigation. That same day, Silagadze received a phone call from, he believes, one of the attackers.
“We should have killed you then like a pig,” said the caller. He then demanded that Silagadze help stop the police investigation of the assault.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending the rights of our colleagues around the world, we urge Your Excellency to ensure that the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice, and that Silagadze is protected against any future threats to his security.
Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters. We await your comments.
Ann K. Cooper