“I will be done with Miranda” _ why was the partner of the Russian ПРАВФОНД in Georgia menacing the editor-in-chief of the newspaper? – ჯეო დაიჯესტი
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“I will be done with Miranda” _ why was the partner of the Russian ПРАВФОНД in Georgia menacing the editor-in-chief of the newspaper?

Miranda Oganezova, former editor-in-chief of the edition "Соотечественник" (Compatriot) provides the Prosecutor’s Office with new materials, which are connected with her working period in the aforementioned newspaper.

Miranda Oganezova, former editor-in-chief of the edition “Соотечественник” (Compatriot) provides the Prosecutor’s Office with new materials, which are connected with her working period in the aforementioned newspaper.

How does ПРАВФОНД protect its compatriots?

The organization ПРАВФОНД-Foundation for Supporting and Protecting the Rights of the [Russian] compatriots was founded in 2012 in Moscow. Its founders are Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the agency Россотрудничество. The aforementioned foundation was started to protect the human rights of Russian citizens and Russian-speaking communities scattered throughout the world.In order to achieve these goals, it funds a number of organizations operating in tens of different countries. Unlike in the big states, the foundation decided to fund not one but two centers for legal protection in Georgia. Both of them are located in Tbilisi. Alexander Bezhentsev, who is a Deputy Chairman of Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots Organizations (КСОРСГ) in Georgia too, happens to be a director of one of those centers.

According to Oganezova, but she has found herself in need of being protected from this defender of human rights, as a journalist. “Bezhentsev demanded from me to write a libelous, discreditable article abouthis former colleague, Mikhail Tatevosov. The latter had blamed Bezhentsevfor being involved in financial machinations, as well as for using aweapon illegally, because of which, in the words of Tatevosov, Bezhentsev was given a suspended sentence.

“Bezhentsev not responded to these accusations himself and demanded from me to write an unethical article about Mikhail Tatevosov instead. According to his demand, I was to name Tatevosov as a psychically ill person, and furthermore, mention him as a representative of a sexual minority, namely, I was to say he was gay.

He would compel me to leave the newspaper unless I fulfilled this demand,” _the journalist tells. Oganezova advised Bezhentsnev to address the lawyer of his own center for help. However, in the words of the latter, he needed “a professional like Miranda”. He clarified to the journalist Oganezova that he does not want to respond to Tatevosov himself, as he has no wish to “go to jail.”

Nino Lomjaria,  Public Defender of Georgia, who has discussed Oganezova’s statement, has emphasized that Alexander Bezhentsev’s request towards Miranda Oganezova to write a these article about Mikhail Tatevosov is unacceptable. She has also noted that not a single material existing in this case proves that the abovementioned request was included among Oganezova’s duties and obligations.

War instead of professional activities?

As the journalist Miranda Oganezova tells, Bejhentsev was applying different methods of pressure, including psychological pressing, discreditation, and non-motivated claims to force the editor-in-chief to leave the work place. Oganezova states that Bejhentsev was creating a hostile, humiliating environment while compelling her to work for the website of КСОРСГ too: either she had to leave the work place or obey his illegal demands. “For example, Bezhentsev was responsible for the working process of the council’s webpage himself, but he was compelling me to work free of charge instead. In the beginning, he promised me to pay extra salary for that, however, after I refused to work for the website, he began to blackmail me, saying that either I would write for the website, or I would have to leave the newspaper. At the same time, Bezhentsev, together with Sventitsky, was requesting from the Swiss Embassy’s Russian Interests’ Section funds for the web page,”_Oganezova explains to us.

Besides, Miranda notes that Bezhentsev was rudely interfering in her journalistic activities and thus, was creating conflict situations. “For example, he was saying like: “We have an enormous ongoing war, so, you should knowwhom to write about and whom not to write about”. For example, reportedly, initially he was demanding from her to write reportage about ”immortal regiment” or reportage covering the meeting of veterans, however, once the respective articles were published, he was menacing to dismiss her.

The journalist Oganezova addressed Sventitsky, Head of the Council several times, but in vain.That is why, she decided to notify the Executive Committee of the Council about the aforementioned problems. Oganezova clarifies that later on, Bejhentsev was menacing in talks with Larisa Agabalaeva, his compatriot from Senaki, Samegrelo region of Georgia, that he would deal with Miranda soon: “I will be through with Miranda soon,” which translates in Russian: Скоро я покончу с Мирандой”.

The Public Defender notes that such actions are unacceptable and confirms that the relationship between the two had been strained.

At one of the regular events of КСОРСГ, Sventitsky and Bezhentsev did not let the editor-in-chief in, after which the latter wrote a statement announcing about her decision to leave the work place, noting that she could not continue working under such conditions any longer.

As stated in the announcement of the Public Defender’s apparatus, Bezhentsev and Nikolay Sventitskydid not present any convincing argumentation with regard to why Oganezova did not have a right to attend the sitting: “Besides, Oganezova, the author of the statement, was elected as a member of the work group on September 18, 2019, who was to work on the new project of the statute at theNovember 13 sitting. Under such circumstances, a fortiori, it is unknown why she was not admitted to the meeting. Consequently, Public Defender thinks that Oganezova was unlawfully deprived of the right to attend thesitting of November 13. “

The lawyer Marine Babunashvili, Chairwoman of the Revision Commission of the Council, declares that organizations enlisted in КСОРСГ mention the great job done by Oganezovafor the newspaper Соотечественник» and for creating the positive image for all the member organizations of the council and the council itself. In 2018, the chairwoman personally presented Oganezova with a certificate of gratitude.

“All the members of the council realized well the essence of the problem, which arose following the rude interference of the unauthorized person into the editing policy,” Babunashvili asserts.

Miranda Oganezova also states that Bezhentsev tried to escape from responsibility in an unsophisticated way by saying that “Compatriot” is not a newspaper and therefore, does not comprise pieces of journalistic work.The newspaper “Compatriot” was conferred a barcode by the National Library of Georgia in 2017 and anybody can either subscribe or buy it.

As Mr. Lamberto Zannier, the High Commissioner of OSCE on national minorities commented:  “the newspaper is important for the integration of ethnic minorities into society.”

Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, stated: “It is important to ensure that journalists’ associations develop media councils, which can provide support when journalists are confronted with such pressure. It is also important that you are backed by your colleagues and associations. It is also important that state institutions and law enforcements and judiciary respond to the pressure of the attacks.”

“Too many non-Slav people?”

The lawyer Larisa Agabalaeva states that after Oganezova left the newspaper, Bezhentsev occupied her post himself. In her words, she has also fell victim of Bejhentsev’s oppression. At the meeting that took place at Russia’s Interests Section, she was brought to the pre-infarct state. Before that, Bezhentsev wrote a letter to his opponent Tatevosov with the name of Larisa Agabalaeva, clandestinely from the latter, who happens to be an IDP from Sokhumi, naming Tatevosov as a cancer patient, as a handicapped person and so on, and claiming that she (Larisa- alleged author of the email) would sue him in court. On learning this, the lady from Senaki protested against this fact.

After that, according to Agabalaeva, Bezhentsev was forcing her via one of their compatriots to impose the authorship of the abovementioned letter on herself, threatening that otherwise КСОРСГ and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs would block all the projects to her and expelher from the council. Agabalaeva notes that he did his best for her discreditation in Senaki. She confirms that the projects in which she was involved, have all been paused. The members of the Russian-speaking society КСОРСГ also protest the below-mentioned xenophobic statement made by Bejhentsev. Agabalaeva explains that when people started talking about the infringement of their rights, Bejhentsev wrote a letter to them, in which he was mentioning_ “are not there too many people over there, and furthermore, they are not even Slavs…” By saying so, he was highlighting the fact that he is Russian from his “mother’s, father’s and grandfather’s part.” In the same letter, he also writes that “Oganezova must be shut the door on in our movement.” (in Russian like: поставить крест на Оганезовой).

Agabalaeva believes that the mere fact that Bezhentsev infringes human rights and at the same time, is the head of the human rights protection center of his compatriots is totally unacceptable.

We have contacted Alexander Bezhentsev and asked him to make comments about this matter, but he has rejected this request. Later on, a woman contacted us, saying that she was Bezhentsev’s representative, although, she chose to stay incognito. In her words, Bezhentsev’s answer is published on the webpage of the charter, where he states, that “Compatriot” is not a newspaper, that it is just an informative bulletin.

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