TV channel asks Prosecutor's Office to investigate after video of culture minister taking microphone from reporter goes viral

  • Culture minister Thea Tsulukiani speaking into the Mtavari Arkhi channel microphone after snatching it away from reporter in Senaki on Thursday. Screenshot from Mtavari Arkhi video.

Agenda.ge, 23 Jul 2021 - 18:49, Tbilisi,Georgia

Mtavari Arkhi TV has asked the Prosecutor's Office to launch an investigation into an incident that involved Thea Tsulukiani, the Minister of Culture, Sport and Youth of Georgia, taking a microphone away from the channel's reporter on Thursday, with a video of the incident going viral on local social media channels.

The channel's founder and director Nika Gvaramia was seen personally delivering the formal papers required for submission of his outlet's request at the Prosecutor's Office on Friday, with the live broadcast from Mtavari Arkhi making two allegations against the minister surrounding the circumstances in the western town of Senaki the day before.

The opposition-minded TV outlet said Tsuluiani had violated the law by forcefully appropriating belongings - a microphone used by the channel's crew - and by interfering with a lawful operation of media professionals. Gvaramia had earlier called the incident "unprecedented throughout the world".

The channel's address to state prosecutors follows the brief incident where Tsulukiani, who was attending the opening show of the recently rehabilitated and renovated theatre venue in Senaki, took away the microphone used by a Mtavari Arkhi reporter in her attempt to pose questions to the minister about incidents involving MPs at the Georgian parliament earlier during the day.

The brief video of the culture minister snatching a microphone away from Mtavari Arkhi reporter went viral on local social media channels on Thursday:

 

While being asked to condemn ruling party deputies' use of physical force to remove two female opposition MPs - who were demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Garibashvili - from the area of the seat of the parliament speaker, the culture minister snatched the microphone away from the journalist.

Tsulukiani later used the microphone to ask the reporter to publicly thank former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili for the financing of the Senaki theatre rehabilitation by the latter's fund, before she kept the microphone as the Mtavari Arkhi crew were escorted out of the audience hall.

In her address following the performance, the minister told the audience she had spent 10 minutes answering the TV channel crew's questions before the show in the theatre foyer, and accused them of becoming the reason for a late start of the play due to their attempt of challenging her with questions again while she was sat in the audience hall.

On their part, reporters of the channel made stark criticisms of Tsulukiani's actions while speaking outside the Prosecutor's Office on Friday. Anchor and journalist Mikheil Sesiashvili told the channel the act amounted to a "direct encouragement" of violence against reporters.

The comments follow weeks of accusations from various news outlets against the government - ranging from a neglect of the latter's duty to protect media professionals to involvement in intimidation efforts against free media - following incidents in Tbilisi on July 5 where around 50 reporters were left injured by violent right-wing groups protesting against plans for the subsequently cancelled Tbilisi Pride queer march.

Major TV channels, who saw their crews and journalists injured in the incidents, have since alleged the ruling party used the opportunity on that day to "punish" media that had been critical towards its policies, by intentionally failing to provide security on the occasion of the conservative groups demonstrating against the queer event.

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