On October 11, Epress.am’s journalists were forced to wait for 4 hours at the Georgia-Armenia border’s “Ninotsminda-Bavra” checkpoint to be told that they are forbidden to enter Georgia.
For four hours, the journalists were giving explanations to various staff of the Georgian checkpoint that they were on a business trip to Akhalkalaki, Akhaltskha and Tbilisi to work with their Georgian counterparts from Newcaucasus.com over a joint project and to conduct interviews with local journalists, human rights defenders and other civil society representatives.
Checkpoint officers did not provide any official explanation. First, they said that a “certification is needed” and a “permission for interviews” without specifying which body was in charge of providing these permissions and where it was stipulated that such “permissions” were needed.
After checking the baggage, they said that transfer of a video camera, two microphones for video recording, a tripod and a computer was forbidden. These are professional devices carrying which Epress.am journalists have numerous times crossed the Georgian border.
Later, another checkpoint officer approached the journalists and said that the journalists needed to get a certificate and receive a permission. In response to that argument that never in the past had the journalists been told that a permission was needed to cross the border and do journalistic work, that the last time they crossed the same Georgian checkpoint in August 2019 and that they often visit Georgia for joint regional projects, the checkpoint officer said: “The situation has changed.”
Another checkpoint officer said that the journalists could go back to the Armenian checkpoint and leave the equipment and attempt to cross the border again. The officer refused to return two of our passports and insisted that another officer, the one in charge of stamping exit would return it. And so it happened.
At the Armenian checkpoint, an officer told us that this was the first time in their practice that an entry is denied to Georgia without a written explanation. Epress.am’s journalists crossed back to the Armenian side, left the equipment and returned to the Georgian checkpoint. Entry was denied again. The border guard who had earlier said that “the situation has changed” turned into a more aggressive tone and said: “Don’t you understand that you are not allowed to enter Georgia?”
– But we have left the equipment behind.
– But I do know that you are journalists and do not have a certificate.
– On what basis are you forbidding entry?
– Don’t you get it? You are not going to be allowed in. The supervisor who had decided not to allow you in hasn’t changed their mind.
– What kind of a supervisor?
– Your work is not desirable, you are forbidden to do journalism in the territory of Georgia, you are not allowed to enter.
The journalists of Epress.am concerned are Yuri Manvelyan, Tigran Khachatryan, and Tigran Hakobyan.