Georgia: media under pressure after protests

Mikheil Saakashvili

Journalists in Georgia have felt the heat during recent upheaval in the former soviet state. Here, Winston Bean tells of the conditions he and his colleagues have faced in recent days

Earlier this week, Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili decreed a state of emergency after the violent dispersal of anti-government protests, ordering the shutdown of independent media outlets and deploying troops throughout the capital.

While the government’s crackdown succeeded in restoring order in a country still recovering from years of civil conflict, the ruling administration’s reputation for liberal reform has been irreparably damaged, as it enforces emergency rule and a news blackout at the same time a snap election campaign gets under way.

The anti-government rallies, organised by a tenuous coalition of 10 political opposition parties, began on 2 November with tens of thousands of Georgians calling for earlier parliamentary elections. They soon progressed to angry but peaceful demands for Saakashvili’s resignation.

The protests unravelled into bloody street battles across the capital’s centre on 7 November, as riot police moved in to break up the crowds with tear gas, rubber bullets and batons.