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Georgia12 July 2002

Thugs smash up Tbilisi Press Club and offices of press freedom group

Reporters Without Borders protested today against the ransacking of the Tbilisi Press Club and the offices of the Liberty Institute, a human rights and press freedom NGO, by more than half a dozen men with iron bars on the afternoon of 10 July. Liberty Institute director Levan Ramishvili was badly beaten and the computers of both organisations smashed.

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard urged Georgian President Edvard Shevardnadze to personally ensure that the attackers were hunted down and punished. In a letter, he said it was "feared those behind the attacks will make further threats against Georgian journalists." He asked Shevardnadze to keep him informed of the results of the investigation.

Ménard noted that the two organisations had "played a key role two years ago in winning passage of the country’s new freedom of information law, which protects investigative journalists and disturbs public figures they choose to focus on."

Ramishvili and several other people were at the Liberty Institute offices when the thugs burst in. They were taken to hospital after being beaten up. Two days earlier, on 8 July, a member of parliament, Guram Sharadze, had led a demonstration in front of the Institute to demand that it be closed, accusing it and the Press Club of putting out information about corruption and the Soviet-era past of some local officials.

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