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Georgia29 December 2003

Grenade attack on TV station Rustavi 2

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern about a grenade attack early today that shook the Tbilisi headquarters of the TV station Rustavi 2 and damaged its facade but caused no injuries, although 15 journalists were inside at the time.

"We fear that this attack was meant to put pressure on the TV station that was a mouthpiece for the opposition in the 2 November legislative elections and gave the most extensive coverage to the protests that led to Edvard Shevardnadze’s resignation as president at the end of November," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said.

Ménard noted that this was the second attack against a TV station in Georgia in a month. The state TV company building was also damaged by an explosive device on the evening of 3 December.

"It is vital that the press should be able to work freely in the run-up to the presidential election on 4 January, and we call on the authorities to guarantee the safety of the news media and journalists who cover the election, whatever their editorial position," Ménard added.

In a statement, Rustavi 2 said the police found an anti-tank rocket-launcher about 200 metres from the TV station. The police are reportedly treating the attack as act of "sabotage."

Transmission of Rustavi 2 has meanwhile been blocked for several weeks in the Adzhara region, which is an autonomous republic. Adzhara disputes Shevardnadze’s departure and does not accept the legitimacy of Nino Burjanadze, the interim leader who took over on 23 November.

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