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Georgian Newspaper Says Its Journalists Are Being Threatened

Editor Eter Turadze

Editor Eter Turadze

"Batumelebi," a weekly independent newspaper published in Georgia's autonomous republic of Ajara, says its reporters have been receiving death threats.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Georgian Service, the newspaper's editor in chief, Eter Turadze, said that she, as well as one of her colleagues, were followed by unknown cars on the streets of Batumi, on two separate occasions.

In a separate incident, on July 18, the newspaper says it received an anonymous e-mail that said one of its journalists -- whose name the paper does not reveal -- would soon be found dead "with the newspaper in the mouth." Another reporter, and Turadze herself, were threatened in the same letter.

The newspaper says it received another threatening e-mail on July 24 after RFE/RL's Georgian Service broadcast a report about the case.

The editorial board of "Batumelebi" is calling on regional and state prosecutors to investigate the incidents and take measures to ensure the safety of its reporters. The call was published on the front page of the July 23 issue.

The first issue of "Batumelebi," known for its critical reporting, was published in May 2001. The newspaper was frequently subjected to pressure and threats prior to the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, when Ajara was ruled by authoritarian leader Aslan Abashidze.

Rights activists and local and international organizations and agencies -- Georgia's Public Defender, Freedom House, and the U.S. State Department among them -- note a decline in media freedom in Georgia since last year's political crisis, when police used water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets to disperse thousands of antigovernment protesters. Hundreds were injured.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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