Popular radio station attacked

New York, April 14, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has recently learned about an attack on Dzveli Kalaki, a popular independent radio station in Kutaisi, a city in eastern Georgia.

On the evening of March 28, four ax-wielding men charged to the roof of the building where Dzveli Kalaki’s office is located and knocked the station’s antenna to the ground. Although no one was injured, more than two weeks later, Dzveli Kalaki remains off the air, while trying to repair its antenna and transmitter.

The police launched an investigation into the incident. The case was originally handled by the military prosecutor’s office because one of the suspected attackers is a military officer, said an official at the City Prosecutor’s Office. The military prosecutor, however, decided that there was insufficient evidence against the officer and handed the case to the City Prosecutor’s Office, which launched an investigation on April 10.

Dzveli Kalaki is known for its independent editorial policy and its willingness to report on politically sensitive issues. During the last several months, station staff have endured verbal and physical harassment by local Georgian Orthodox extremists who oppose the station’s weekly 20-minute program about the country’s local Catholic minority.

“We call on the President Eduard Shevardnadze to do everything within his power to ensure that this attack is thoroughly investigated,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon, “and to see that the individuals responsible for this crime are prosecuted.”