JAILED PRESS
28 June, 2012
JAILED PRESS

‘Prisoners are taken for animals’

The administration is selflessly trying to control media. It knows enough about the strength of objective information and thus, seemingly, especially before the elections, an urgent matter for the authorities is to close all the information gaps.

 

According to the Georgian legislation, the prisoners have the right to vote; for this reason, the prisoners who are in unbearable conditions in Georgian prisons and moreover, the informed ones, pose double threat for the administration during the election period.

Some time ago sending in of newspapers and magazines in prisons was unofficially but categorically forbidden. The prisoners complain that if several months ago it was possible to buy different magazines and newspapers in the prison stores, now even their friends and relatives can’t manage to send in popular or political publications. Suffice it to say that when a foreign delegation visits the prison, momentarily, for them to observe, complete assortment of printed press appears in the stores… but of course, the prisoners are not allowed to buy them.

Former prisoner: - Kalmakhelidze’s style is already known to everybody – simply lies and eyewash while actually the prisoners are in dire condition; throughout the entire penitentiary system they are treated as non-human beings, animals…

We got interested in the motif of banning the newspapers and magazines in prison and for the explanation we contacted the press-service of penitentiary system. Tea Sukhishvili, head of press-service, first asked for some time to study the issue. Later she said that press is delivered to prisons without any hindrances.

Tea Sukhishvili: ‘Any book or newspaper or magazine is brought in the prison’ (?!)

Although the Penitentiary Ministry reiterates that press is deliverd to prison without any hindrance, we had different information at our disposal and armed with hidden camera, newspapers and magazines, we came to Gldani prison. We picked out the prison which, compared with other Georgian jails, has the best conditions; namely, we went to the prison located in Ortachala. The inmates there serve their sentences for light offences. Due to better conditions, the prison is called ‘Eden’. We wondered whether the press was allowed in ‘Eden’.

When we came there loaded with our newspapers and magazines, we were told that only sports, religious magazines and crosswords were allowed. One of the staff told us that previously newspapers were sold in prison store but now the press is brought in from outside and besides, they mustn’t be politically oriented.

We found out that the only vent light through which books, newspapers and magazines were delivered to Georgian prison was ‘Georgian Post’ and we went there. As for taking the books, the Post employee consented easily to delver them but when we touched upon the issue of press, she refused categorically, saying that sending press in prison was banned (?!)

I did my best to obtain an official document, forbidding sending in press in prison but in vain, because no such document exists in Georgia.

Vasil Tetruashvili, an employee of one of the press distribution agencies: ‘Earlier the tender on distribution of press in prison was won by ‘Mega food’ company. We had a contract with them and press was distributed throughout prisons without any problem. Later on, at first, they began selective distribution, actually banning so called political press. After the agreement term expired, they broke cooperation on the pretext that allegedly we were unable to supply the stores with press. Of course it’s an absurd. Nowadays the company that supplies the prison stores with different products, has a contract on taking press in prison through ‘Georgian Post’.

Is there a law or enactment banning press in prisons? We asked the question via the ’Georgian Post’ hot line but this organization turned out to be so ‘militarized’ that we couldn’t get a comment. They said they couldn’t answer because it was beyond their competence. We were denied the contact with the press service because they were busy, but later (when we requested to connect  us to their bosses) they replied, it was impossible, because the working hours were over.

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