The alternative trade union of Adjara TV and Radio company, a publicly-funded broadcaster based in Batumi, Georgia’s port city located on the Black Sea coast, responded to the yesterday’s resignation statement of the broadcaster’s deputy director, Natia Zoidze, saying that it is nothing but the fact of “interference in editorial independence.”
In a statement released on February 3, the alternative trade union noted that Natia Zoidze’s resignation is not an isolated case and that “the outflow of professional and principled staff from the broadcaster has already acquired a permanent nature.”
The alternative trade union lay entire responsibility for the ongoing processes on the broadcaster’s Director and its Board of Advisers, saying that the TV staff will continue “fight for maintaining the independence,” because “power [in the channel] remains in the hands of those people, who find the broadcaster’s values and mission unacceptable.”
Under conditions, when not a single reputable watchdog organization asks questions about the broadcaster’s editorial policy and when the television faces a lot of challenges, the Director and the Board of Advisers speak not about solving these problems, but they further weaken the broadcaster’s independence and fight against free editorial board. The ongoing unhealthy processes prevent the employees from perform their duties comprehensively,” the statement reads.
The trade union also noted that such instability in the channel ahead of October’s parliamentary polls further raise questions about possible political underpinnings of the process.
Why did Natia Zoidze resign?
Natia Zoidze said that she was forced to resign, because her new contract “did not enable her to work.” She noted that the reason behind her decision to remain on the position until very recently is that there “still are honest employees” at the broadcaster and that “it was principally important [for her] to see whether labor contracts with these people were prolonged from the next year.”
Natia Zoidze said that she is not happy with her decision, but claimed that “it was unavoidable.” “I cannot assume responsibility for what they do not allow me to do,” she said, adding that Kokhreidze will dismiss undesirable employees through reorganization, [and will] weaken the channel’s [existing independent] editorial policy.”
Last December, a couple of days after the new director was elected, a group of the channel’s journalists held a protest rally, demanding him to stop “attacks on employees, their discrediting and groundless accusations.”
Natia Zoidze condemned recent developments at the broadcaster as “political process,” saying that “the system, which fights against us, controls us and carries out surveillance, will definitely be defeated.”
Zoidze added that she will continue her career at TV Pirveli.
The Board of Advisors of Adjara TV and Radio company elected Giorgi Kokhreidze as the new director of the broadcaster for a term of three years on November 22. He was supported by three out of four members of the board. All the three members were nominated by the ruling Georgian Dream party.
The post of Adjara TV’s director became vacant in April 2019 after the Board of Advisers impeached Natia Kapanadze that triggered strong criticism from local non-governmental organizations. They claimed that the ruling party was against the broadcaster’s critical editorial policy and that it tried to change this editorial line.
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. Earlier, Parliament’s ex-Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze also called on Adjara TV journalist for “distancing” from the National Movement.