Church Says TV Channels ‘Extremely Aggressive’

The Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarchate claimed today the church has been “under a serious attack by certain forces for a long time” and accused government-critical TV networks – Mtavari Arkhi, Formula, and TV Pirveli of addressing “hate speech” against Patriarch Ilia II, clergy and parish.

“Instead of doing objective coverage, journalists of these TV channels (we think, acting on their supervisors’ orders) often voice subjective assessments and groundless accusations, deliberately distort facts and try to make respondents lose control with provocative questions; and afterwards, air stories with taken out of context [pieces] so that viewers perceive clergy as being violent,” the Patriarchate claimed.

The Church statement comes as Georgian journalists have increasingly accused the Orthodox Patriarchate and clergy of inciting homophobic pogroms, which ended with attacks against 53 journalists on July 5 by far-right mobs. Tensions sharpened after one of those 53 journalists, TV Pirveli cameraman Aleksandre Lashkarava died under unclear circumstances few days after the assault.

The Orthodox Church Patriarchate noted that “while a certain transgression took place by individual clergymen, [TV channels] are deliberately generalizing individual cases,” and accused broadcasters of ignoring instances of priests saving journalists from July 5-6 violence.

The Patriarchate also lashed out at foreign embassies and civil society outfits, noting that “norms of journalist ethics are severely violated, psychological violence and obstructing civil peace are done openly, that for whatever reason remain unnoticed by the embassies and non-governmental sector.”

It also said members of certain political parties are no less insulting the Church and striving for disturbances.

The Patriarchate recommended priests they could address TV leaderships over their unwillingness to communicate with journalists, and that they could put up relevant statements at church-yard entrances. If journalists fail to comply with the request, “police is obliged to limit the movement of these journalists in your space,” the Patriarchate addressed the clergy.

Accusations against the Government-critical media about psychological violence are being ramped up by Georgian Dream officials also. Mayor Kakha Kaladze kicked off his reelection run announcement by denouncing the attacks on journalists, but highlighting that TV broadcasters “often” engage in “humiliation, defamation and bullying against people.”

“No less evil is the psychological violence that has been taking place all these years in our society,” said the Tbilisi Mayor on July 20.

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