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Georgia28 February 2008

Georgian TV reporter held by Abkhaz authorities

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the detention of reporter Malkhaz Basilaia of the Georgian television station Mze TV by the authorities of the breakaway republic of Abkhazia on 26 february.

Basilaia is accused of entering Abkhaz territory without permission to do a report on the organisation of Russian presidential election voting for Russian citizens in Abkhazia. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili yesterday threatened to use force to free him.

“We urge the Abkhaz authorities to provide a more detailed explanation of this arrest and we urge the Georgian authorities to try to defuse the situation,” Reporters Without Borders. “It is necessary to maintain a climate that favours negotiations.”

Abkhazia was an autonomous region within Georgia until 1992, when the Georgian army intervened in an unsuccessful bid to suppress a breakaway movement. After the region formally declared independence in 1994, Russia deployed troops along the border between Georgia and Abkhazia as part of a peace-keeping mission. The Georgian authorities regularly accuse Moscow of supporting Abkhazia’s independence.

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