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30 Sep, 2009 10:53

Georgian media forgot about objectivity – refugee journalist speaks out

The opposition journalist who fled Georgia in early September gave an interview to the Russian media blaming the media of his native country for losing its objectivity.

Levan Gudadze was forced to flee to South Ossetia after receiving threats for his articles unmasking President Saakashvili’s role in last year’s aggression against the republic.

In his publications, unlike most Georgian media, Gudadze had put the blame for the war on his country’s president.

“My publications were based on the information I had – that on August 7 Saakashvili started a massive shelling of Tskhinval. Needless to say this was 180 degrees different from what Saakashvili’s propaganda told the Georgian people,” Gudadze told the Russian Vesti channel.

Levan was and stays convinced that his duty is to tell the truth:

“Unfortunately, in those days and afterwards, almost all Georgian media forgot about the need to be objective and their duty to society,” he says.

His convictions – and especially the truth itself – are not something the Georgian government wants to be made public. Gudadze was the founder and editor-in-chief of the Georgian news agency ITN Exclusive. There were several attempts to close its website, which finally succeeded. Eventually the agency followed in its steps.

However, it was not just his career that was at stake when he finally decided to flee his home country. Before doing so, Gudadze seven times changed his residence in Georgia. He even moved all his relatives from Tbilisi to Rustavi, but that wasn’t enough to hide.

“I’ve been under constant psychological pressure. And not just me, but my wife too received calls with threats. I had no choice, I feared for my family,” the journalist said, adding that he suspects Georgian secret services to be behind the threats.

In early September Gudadze secretly crossed the border with his wife, mother and a two-year-old daughter. Local villagers on the Georgian-South Ossetian border helped them to get to the nearest check point on the South Ossetian side, where they gave themselves up to the Russian military and asked for political asylum.

Under agreements with South Ossetia, Russian forces are stationed on the republic’s border with Georgia to protect it from possible aggression and provocations.

Later the Gudadze family was transferred to the South Ossetian capital Tskhinval. They have been living there for a week now. They plan on moving to the neighboring Russian republic of North Ossetia shortly.

South Ossetia’s foreign ministry has already filed a request to the Russian Embassy.

Gudadze is planning on continuing his journalistic career in Russia. He intends to publish a series of works about Saakashvili’s aggression and genocide of the Ossetian people.

“I will not stop till the whole truth comes out and Saakashvili with his regime carry the sentence for their deeds,” Gudadze concluded.