The Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based watchdog, expresses its concern about “under pressure” resignation of Natia Zoidze, deputy director of Batumi-based public broadcaster Adjara TV. RSF said Zoidze’s resignation is “the latest example of political pressure undermining media pluralism and free speech in Georgia.”
In a statement released on February 5, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, Jeanne Cavelier, said Zoidze’s resignation “is indicative of the growing political pressure on state-owned media in Georgia.”
Cavelier considers that “government allies are increasingly getting control of critical or independent media, such as Rustavi 2.” “In the run-up to next October’s parliamentary elections, we ask the Georgian authorities to guarantee media independence and pluralism, which are essential for a democratic debate,” Cavelier noted.
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According to the RSF, “Georgia’s TV channels suffer from politically-biased government measures.” While the government “agreed to postpone collection of the 15 million euros owed by leading commercial channels Imedi TV and Rustavi 2,” it has “stepped up the pressure on small, critical TV channels such as TV Kavkasia and TV Pirveli.”
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The RSF considers that “dramatic changes” at Rustavi 2 “have transformed the Georgian media landscape,” and that “previously Georgia’s most popular TV channel and champion of the opposition, Rustavi 2 turned into the government’s mouthpiece” after its ownership reverted to previous owner Kibar Khalvashi, following the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in July 2019.
“The change in ownership led to the departure of most of the staff [of Rustavi 2 TV] including director-general Nika Gvaramia, who was fired and who has since been prosecuted by the Georgian authorities on a charge of “abuse of power,” RSF further adds, noting that “the authorities have also prosecuted Avtandil Tsereteli, the father of TV Pirveli’s founder.”
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