Israeli journalist seriously injured in Gori

New York, August 13, 2008–A veteran reporter with the Tel Aviv-based Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth was severely injured on Tuesday in an attack in the central Georgian city of Gori. It was the same attack that killed Dutch cameraman Stan Storimans and injured his RTL Nieuws colleague Jeroen Akkermans.

Zadok Yehezkeli sustained injuries to the stomach, leg, chest, and shoulder, and underwent two operations in a Tbilisi hospital before being flown to Israel earlier today. His condition is serious but stable, said Gad Lior, Yedioth Ahronoth‘s Jerusalem bureau chief, who met with Yehezkeli at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem today.

Lior told CPJ that Yehezkeli, Storimans, Akkermans, and four other people were in Gori’s town square when they were hit by bullets. Yehezkeli was in the city reporting on the humanitarian crisis, Lior told CPJ. A Russian airstrike had hit the area an hour earlier but there were no planes in sight at the time of the incident, Lior said. Reuters reported Tuesday that Russian Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn said yesterday that Russian forces had not attacked Gori.

Akkermans carried Yehezkeli’s injured body from the Gori town square to a vehicle and, according to Lior, saved his life. Akkermans is now in a Tbilisi hospital.

“The presence of mind of Jeroen Akkermans has probably saved the life of our colleague Zadok Yehezkeli. We wish both journalists a speedy recovery from their injuries,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “The press has suffered a heavy toll in this conflict. We call on both sides to respect the presence of journalists and ensure their safety.”

On Tuesday, CPJ reported possible damage to the ad hoc media center on the top floor of the Trialeti television and radio station in Gori. CPJ sources in Tbilisi said today that the station has stopped broadcasting after the reported bomb attacks on Tuesday. Telephone lines were dead when CPJ repeatedly tried to call Trialeti today, but the station’s Web site was functioning. CPJ was unable to confirm damage to the center today.

Davit Mchedlidze, a reporter with the news Web site who has been reporting on press freedom issues in Georgia, told CPJ that hospital officials in Tbilisi are not allowing reporters access to the wounded. He also said that freedom of movement west of Tbilisi is hampered by Georgian troops.