The Board of Advisors of Adjara TV and Radio company, a publicly-funded broadcaster based in Batumi, elected Giorgi Kokhreidze as the new director of the broadcaster for a term of three years. He was supported by three out of four members of the board – Giga Chkhartishvili, Tamila Dolidze and Soso Sturua. The fourth member, Tamar Tsilosani abstained.
The post of Adjara TV’s director became vacant in April 2019 after the Board of Advisers impeached Natia Kapanadze. Four competitions were held since then to elect a new director. The most recent one was held in November among nine candidates.
Following the two days of interviews with candidates, the Board of Advisers failed to elect the director during the voting held on November 22. Only two members supported Giorgi Kokhreidze.
The repeated voting was held later on the same day, where three members, all of whom entered the Board of Advisers through Georgian Dream’s quota, voted in favor of Kokhreidze that proved enough to elect the new director.
Giorgi Kokhreidze participated in all the four competitions to fill the vacant position of the director of Adjara TV and Radio Company. He gained no support during the two rounds of voting, garnering only two votes during the third round.
CSO, Opposition assessments
Kokhreidze’s election as the new director triggered critical remarks from civil society organizations and opposition parties. To demonstrate that “freedom of speech and freedom of opinion has ended” in Adjara TV, civil rights activists and opposition parties laid a wreath at the TV building.
Asmat Diasamidze, Adjara’s Supreme Council lawmaker from the United National Movement, said that “the government has again gained a victory over the people and media.”
Irakli Chavleishvili of the Republic Party noted that “the goal has been achieved” and “following a multi-month attack, the flag of the Georgian Dream party is flying over the Adjara Public Broadcaster.”
Georgian Dream lawmaker Akaki Zoidze expressed full support to Adjara TV’s journalists, saying that “any dictate on media is unacceptable.” “Editorial independence, impartial coverage of developments is a precondition for democratic development in the country,” he said.
Malkhaz Chkadua, head of Transparency International Georgia’s Adjara Office, said that the government seized another TV channel that “is actually a collapse for our media environment, especially in the region.”
Ana Mdinaradze, head of Georgian Young Lawyers Association’s Adjara Office, expressed support to Adjara TV journalists and offered legal aid to them.
Unlike CSOs and opposition, the members of the Board of Advisers were satisfied with their decision. Giga Chkhartishvili, chairman of the board, said that the new director “is aware about the idea and functions of the public broadcaster.” Soso Sturua, member of the board, said that Giorgi Kokhreidze will guarantee the independence of the broadcaster’s editorial policy.
The newsroom staff read out a statement during the live broadcast on November 22, noting that “Giorgi Kokhreidze’s election is an attempt to move the editorial policy to the pro-government vertical.”
“We urge the new manager to find all resources of cooperation and not to arouse new questions. We, the journalists of Adjara TV, categorically distance ourselves from Kokhreidze’s views that our fears about changing the editorial policy have been imposed by certain persons. We have our own opinion and will to continue our professional activities at high journalism standards,” the statement reads.
The Board of Advisors of Adjara TV and Radio Company decided at its session on April 19 to dismiss Natia Kapanadze as the broadcaster’s director.
Four out of five members of the board voted in favor of Kapanadze’s dismissal through a secret ballot, and the remaining one voted against. Two board members – Giga Chkhartishvili and Irakli Dartsmelidze – who lodged a complaint requesting Kapanadze’s impeachment, accused her of mismanagement of public funds, neglecting program priorities, shortcomings in organizational and human resource management, and closure of highly rated programs.
The board’s decision was slammed by a group of CSOs, who said that Kapanadze’s dismissal “strengthens doubts about possible political interference.”
The ruling party members have openly expressed discontent with Adjara TV’s editorial policy on various occasions. Tornike Rizhvadze, head of government of Autonomous Republic of Adjara, and Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of the ruling party, were among them. Several days ago, Parliament’s ex-Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze also called on Adjara TV journalist for “distancing” from the National Movement.