Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: Georgia
As of December 31, 1998

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A number of politically destabilizing events rocked Georgia during the year. In February, President Eduard Shevardnadze narrowly escaped injury in an assassination attempt that left two of his bodyguards dead. A few weeks later, four members of a United Nations team sent to observe the peace agreement in the separatist region of Abkhazia were abducted. In May, hostilities, which had essentially ended since the 1993 cease-fire, were renewed in Abkhazia's Gali region. In October, supporters of Georgia's late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia attempted to oust Shevardnadze. As the government struggled to maintain political control and rein in the opposition, official harassment of journalists increased.

At least one journalist lost his life reporting on the fighting in Abkhazia, which flared again in May. Georgy Chanya, a reporter for the independent Tbilisi daily Rezonants, was killed on May 27 while covering the conflict between Abkhaz rebels and Georgian guerrillas near Gali. Chanya's death raises to four the number of journalists CPJ has documented as killed in the line of duty in Abkhazia since 1992, when fighting first broke out.

In June, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of State Security of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia in exile filed civil libel suits against the weekly independent newspaper Kavkasioni and against Sozar Subeliani, an editor from the newspaper. A decision in favor of the plaintiffs could set a dangerous precedent, especially since other independent newspapers, such as Rezonants, are also facing libel suits filed by government officials.

Independent journalists were targets of violent attacks. In September, armed assailants beat Lasha Nadareishvili and David Okropiridze, editor in chief and a reporter, respectively, for the independent weekly Asaval-Dasavali.

In an incident of harassment involving the military, Ministry of Defense officials called Amiran Meskheli, a correspondent for the newspaper Orioni, for military service on June 11 following the publication in May of an article that included Meskheli's interview with several soldiers. On August 20, a court ordered his temporary release, ruling that Meskheli had been "called up in violation of the law."

Journalists continued to face other obstacles to their work, such as the denial of access to public information by authorities. And local governments frequently pressured independent newspapers through overzealous tax inspections and other abuses of regulatory procedures.
Attacks on the Press in Georgia in 1998
Date Journalist Incident
09/12/98 Lasha Nadareishvili, Asaval-Dasavali Attacked
09/12/98 David Okropiridze, Asaval-Dasavali Attacked
06/22/98 Sozar Subeliani, Kavkasioni Legal Action
06/22/98 Kavkasioni Legal Action
05/27/98 Georgy Chanya, Rezonants Killed

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