by George Chanturia, Local Correspondent from Georgia.
“As strong supporters of a free and independent media, the U.S. Embassy welcomed recent assessments by both ODIHR and EU-UNDP that Ajara Public Broadcaster is an impartial media source. We are following the developments around the broadcaster and its general director, Natia Kapanadze. We hope the outlet and its leadership will continue to play a positive role in the development of independent media in Georgia.”
This statement by the US Embassy was made on April 19, 2019 a day before Natia Kapanadze was impeached. It was preceded by manipulated formation of the board of trustees consisting of the people affiliated with the ruling party – the Georgian Dream. With that, the political process of taking over Adjara Public Broadcaster started. To be precise, the last part of the plan was initiated.
On November 22, after a long and suspicious election process, Giorgi Kokhreidze was elected as the director. Without further ado, he started sacking important personnel who were responsible for the editorial independence. Here’s the list of people who were fired or who left the television due to unbearable working conditions:
|Journalist||Position||Date of departure|
|1. Zviad Koridze||Consultant||25.11.2019|
|2. Marina Vashakmadze||Consultant||25.11.2019|
|3. Natia Shavadze||News Produced||31.12.2019|
|4. Natia Zoidze||Deputy Director||02.02.2020|
|5. Maia Merkviladze||News Editor (her role was weakened but she remained in the television)||19.02.2020|
|6. Nino Khozrevanidze||Journalist of the Tbilisi Office||25.02.2020|
|7. Shorena Glonti||Head of the News||28.02.2020|
|8. Teona Turmanidze||News Anchor||09.03.2020|
|9. Teona Bakuradze||News Anchor||13.03.2020|
Reporters Without Borders[i] – “Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about the latest example of political pressure undermining media pluralism and free speech in Georgia – Natia Zoidze’s resignation this week as deputy director of Adjara TV, a regional public TV channel based in the coastal city of Batumi.”
The Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center[ii] (EMC) – “…responding to the recent turmoil overtaking the Adjara Public Broadcasting service, including the dismissal, just a few hours ago, of Shorena Ghlonti from her position as Head of the Information Department, and considers that the broadcasting service’s editorial independence faces an alarming threat, and immediate measures should be taken.”
Georgian Young Lawyers Association[iii] – “Processes going in the Adjara Public Broadcaster, including changing staff lists, raise suspicions that individuals are being removed from the information policy, recruiting new employees and changing the editorial policy of the channel.”
US Department of State[iv] – “International monitors, including the ODIHR, had previously considered the APB an impartial media source. On April 13, a group of 13NGOs and media watchdog organizations released a statement criticizing the outlet’s board for dismissing the general director, stating the decision raised concern for “the country’s democratic development and media freedom record.” On April 22, 10organizations released another joint statement alleging that the ongoing process at the APB “strengthened doubts about possible political interference” into the board’s decision making. In December journalists protested against the new director, claiming he was interfering in their work and attempting to influence the station’s editorial policy. The PDO stressed that, as a public broadcaster, developments around its reporting affected the country’s general media environment.”
However, as they say, to every disadvantage there is a corresponding advantage. In this case, the problems and censorship at APB sparked unprecedented consolidation and resistance amongst the personnel including creation of the independent labor union by the staff. Along with that, solidarity movements from media outlets and the general public started. It goes without saying that much more is needed to be decisive.
Obviously, it would be an unfair fight, but we have to fight the good fight to succeed.
[i] Reporters Without Borders. Georgian TV Channel’s Deputy Director Resigns Under Pressure
[ii] EMC. EMC Responds to the Alarming Situation Concerning the Adjara Public Broadcasting Service
[iii] GYLA. Adjara Tv’s Editorial Policy Is Facing to Danger of Change
[iv] United States Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2019
This article was produced by George Chanturia, the Project’s local correspondent and EaP Civil Society Fellow from Georgia in the framework of the EU-funded ‘Eastern Partnership Civil Society Facility – Regional Actions’ Project. Its contents are the sole responsibility of George Chanturia and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or the Project. The photos are provided by the Local Correspondent.
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