Russian officers assault journalist in Georgia

New York, June 29, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalist is concerned about an attack reported by Nukri Kacharava, a camera operator for the independent Georgian television station Mze, who said Russian military officers assaulted him and confiscated his equipment as he was filming their move out of a Russian military base in Batumi, capital of the southwest Georgian republic of Adjara.

Kacharava said he and Mze reporter Natiya Zoidze were covering soldiers as they loaded equipment from the 12th Russian military base onto a train shortly after midnight on Thursday when about 10 officers confronted them and directed them to stop working. Kacharava said he and his colleague objected, prompting the officers to seize his camera, lighting equipment, and videotape, and then push him to the ground and beat him.

“They shouted: Turn off your camera! Go film Saakashvili!’” Kacharava told CPJ, recalling the soldiers’ reference to Georgian president. “I shot this military base many times before, and it always went fine. I even was never asked to present my press ID.”

Kacharava said he was treated at a local hospital for multiple bruises to his neck, knees, and back. Russian officers passed Kacharava’s camera to Georgian military police—who returned it—but the Russians retained the videotape and lighting equipment, according to Kacharava, and the local press reports.

“We condemn the attack on Nukri Kacharava and the confiscation of his news footage and equipment,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “The Russian and Georgian authorities must bring those responsible to justice and ensure that journalists can cover Russia’s military withdrawal from the country freely.”

Russia is moving out of all military bases in Georgia by the end of 2008, according to the agreements between the two nations. Georgian military police in Batumi opened a criminal case on the beating the same night.