Georgia’s main newspapers published front pages without any photographs today to make a coordinated protest of the arrests of three photographers accused of espionage, and claimed that their confessions had been coerced by the authorities. According to The Guardian‘s report, one of the accused photographers earlier explained why they had been targeted:
Shortly after his arrest Abdaladze passed a statement to a newspaper denying the accusation and saying he believed he and his colleagues had been targeted on Saakashvili’s orders for photographing the bloody aftermath of an opposition demonstration on 26 May when riot police clashed with protesters.
“Our photos travel around the whole world and the press of many countries where Mikheil Saakashvili proudly presents the image of himself as a champion of democracy,” wrote Abdaladze. “He did not forgive us that we spoiled the image.”
According to Thomas de Waal’s new report on Georgia for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the country’s governing elite brings significant pressure to bear on all journalists:
Bias in news coverage is less evident in Georgia than in other post-Soviet states, but the main news broadcasts nonetheless give strong and mostly favorable coverage to the activities of the president and government. The International Crisis Group writes, “The phrase ‘it came down from above’ has become part of journalists’ private vocabulary. Another major problem is that many journalists consider their job security is dependent upon self-censorship, whether they work for pro- or anti-government outlets.”