Rustavi 2's General Director apologized for the indignation felt by believers" />

Georgia: Ultranationalists attack journalist for joke about Jesus Christ

Rustavi 2's General Director apologized for the indignation felt by believers

Police have arrested six protesters during a demonstration which was organised by the ultranationalist group Georgian March. The demonstration took place in Tbilisi next to the building of TV channel Rustavi-2.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs the six people have been accused of petty hooliganism and disobeying a police officer’s orders.

Georgian March representatives gathered next to the offices of the television company on 19 March in order to express their anger at a comment made by TV anchor Giorgi Gabunia who made a joke about Jesus Christ.

During the ‘Post Scripture’ show, Gabunia spoke about the removal of trees from Adjara and Guria for replanting in the dendrological park of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. He then said that “Jesus Christ made a mistake when he went to preach in Israel two thousand years ago; he should have come to Adjara as they wouldn’t have been able to crucify Him because there wouldn’t have been any trees left in the region to build a cross with.”

Georgian March members said that the joke was an ‘infringement on the feelings of believers’. They blocked the building’s exit so that a vehicle which was carrying Gabunia and Rustavi 2 lawyer Tamta Muradashvili was unable to leave the area.

A scuffle broke out afterwards among the journalists and Georgian March: the latter damaged the vehicle in which Muradashvili and Gabunia were sitting and they broke the nose of sports journalist Davide Eradze.

 

•  Georgian March is an organisation that propagates xenophobia and homophobia. They hold demonstrations in Tbilisi and in other cities of Georgia. In the autumn of last year they held a large demonstration on David Aghmashenebeli Avenue in Tbilisi during which they demanded that the migration legislation of the country be tightened and ‘illegal and criminal foreigners’ be expelled from Georgia.
•  Members of the organisation also held a demonstration in front of the Georgian Football Federation during which they burnt an LGBT movement flag. They demanded that Guram Kashia be expelled from the national Georgian team after he played with a rainbow-coloured armband. During yet another demonstration, also in front of Rustavi 2, they threw live chickens at the building.

The general director of Rustavi 2 Nika Gvaramia held a special briefing to address the issue. He stated that the actions by Georgian March was a crime and demanded that the authorities severely punish those responsible.

However, he also said that the leadership of the company was deeply dissatisfied with Gabunia’s words and that he had been reprimanded by the TV channel’s ethics committee.

“I want to apologize to all believers whose feelings were hurt – Giorgi Gabunia has been reprimanded for his actions,” stated Gvaramia. He added that he was, however, not addressing those who had attacked the journalists and that they were not good examples of Christ’s followers.

After Gvaramia’s apology his comments were actively discussed on social media, with many stating that it was unacceptable for him to be apologizing, in a secular state, for jokes about Christ as it infringes on the freedom of free speech.

“There is no such thing as religious feelings. This term was thought up by the KGB and is often used these days in Russia as an instrument of repression. For that reason to use this term means to play by the same rules as dictated by Russia,” wrote philosopher Levan Gambashidze on his Facebook page.

“After the aggressive behavior of the pro-Russian ultranationalists, Rustavi 2 has created a dangerous precedent by apologizing for jokes about Christ for all journalists who work in religion. This apology may become a limitation to their work and activity,” wrote Levan Sutidze, a journalist who writes about religion.

A criminal case has been opened in connection with the incident. Those involved have been accused of ‘violence’ and ‘causing damage or destruction to property’, which is punishable by a fine or community service of 100 to 180 hours, a correctional work sentence [such as a rehabilitation programme] for one year, or a one to three year prison sentence.

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