A Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman explained to reporters that Epress.am’s access to Georgia was banned under Article 11 (1) (i) of the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens and Stateless Persons.
It is not clear what the events were about. According to Epress, citing lawyer Tamta Mikeladze, the same approach applies to political activists and journalists who criticize authorities in other Caucasus countries.
On October 11, Epress.am journalists were banned from entering Georgia at the Ninotsminda-Bavra checkpoint at the Georgian-Armenian border.
Journalists were to visit Akhalkalaki, Akhaltsikhe and Tbilisi for interviews with local journalists, human rights defenders and civil society representatives in the framework of a joint project with Georgian Newcaucasus.com.
At the checkpoint, they were banned from entering Georgia without explanation. According to Yuri Manvelyan, editor of Epress.am, at first they thought they would check, look at what they had written, and would let them go, but then it turned out, no.
“One of the staff told us to go back to the Armenian side and leave the equipment there, but that didn’t work. When we left the equipment to come back, we were told rudely, “Didn’t you understand that you cannot pass?”
The editor says they were not given any written explanation, only a verbal statement that “credentials are required” and “interview permission,” and as to who should provide those things, it is unclear.
Yuri Manvelyan has written a letter to the Georgian Foreign Ministry, but so far no response. Armenian journalists had earlier applied to the Foreign Ministry of Armenia. “The Foreign Ministry has said they have been contacted and are awaiting an official response,” he said.
Yuri Manvelyan told Media.am that they do not know the reason for their ban and do not even know what the reason might be. “One thing is clear, we have been banned because we are journalists and we do not know why. At the end of August, we went to the same checkpoint with almost the same team and equipment, without any obstacles.”
Now their only concern is what will happen next. “We do not know the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia’s answer. We still don’t know what will happen when we go to Georgia again,” the editor concludes.