A group of twelve local civil society organizations, including Transparency International Georgia, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy and Media Development Foundation, expressed concern over the staff changes in Rustavi 2 TV, one of Georgia’s most-watched television broadcasters.
Following Salia’s decision to dismiss some of the employees earlier on August 20, the anchors of 9pm “Kurieri” Diana Jojua and Mikheil Sesiashvili announced that they quit. “Kurieri” was not aired in the morning of August 21 as well.
Instead, just a couple of minutes before 12pm “Kurieri” today, an announcement was placed on the channel’s official webpage, saying that no news program would have been aired this noon and the audience would receive more information from the webpage.
In a statement released late on August 20, CSOs said that local and international organizations “have numerously called on the new management of Rustavi 2 TV to avoid interfering in the channel’s critical editorial policy. The management, in turn, promised that the critical editorial policy would be preserved.”
CSOs said, although the new management of Rustavi 2 TV has made “repeated statements about the dire financial situation of the channel, which has contributed to the fostering of an unsustainable environment for the company and journalists,” they decided “to fire TV anchors that are highly popular in the Georgian media landscape.
This further intensifies suspicions about the political motivations of the actions of the new management. Moreover, the critical editorial policy of Rustavi 2 might have served as an additional reason for the management to make such an abrupt decision,” they stated.
CSOs find it undoubted that “the dismissal of leading journalists at Rustavi 2 on vague grounds is actually a change of the editorial policy of the channel.” “It is clear that the developments around Rustavi 2 have a negative effect on the media environment in Georgia and that it will also negatively impact the freedom of the press, as well as the democratic development of the country,” CSOs noted.
About dozen of civil society and media organizations, united in Coalition for Media Advocacy, also condemned the staff changes in Rustavi 2 TV in a separate statement. The Coalition considers that “the change of editorial policy starts from dismissing journalists” and notes importance of protecting the journalists’ labor rights.
Public Defender Nino Lomjaria also released a statement, saying the dismissal of the head of News department and anchors of leading talk shows “will naturally cause changes of the channel’s editorial policy.”
With the background that the dismissal of journalists might be caused by their different opinions, the public defender expressed her readiness to study individual cases “within the mandate to fight against discrimination,” as well as to familiarize and assess any case-related material, including contracts.