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CSOs Say Adjara TV ‘Persecutes’ Critical Journalists

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On March 24, the Media Advocacy Coalition, uniting over ten local watchdog and media organizations, released a statement calling attention to the recent decisions made by Giorgi Kokhreidze, the director of Adjara TV and Radio Company, a Batumi-based public broadcaster, which “raise doubts that journalists holding different views [from the management] are being persecuted and oppressed.” This, the statement reads, confirms that the broadcaster avoids fulfill its functions prescribed by the Law on Broadcasting.

The Coalition referred to Kokhreidze’s decision to dispatch journalist Teona Kharabadze for reporting in Kutaisi, western Georgia, without a cameraman to assist her. “Kharabadzehas been impeded to work as a TV journalist and had to carry on reporting only for the [Adjara Broadcater’s] radio and webpage,” the CSOs noted. Kharabadze considers that with this move, she is being forced to quit, as she cannot thoroughly fulfill her professional duty, concluded the Coalition. 

According to the statement, Teona Kharabadze is “one of the outstanding journalists” at Adjara TV’s news service, highly qualified in political, economic and social issues. “We suppose that her critical questions caused discomfort to authorities,” the Coalition stated. It also noted that the broadcaster had suspended TV program Hashtag, which covered mostly social issues, for “unspecified term,” as the team of producers was comprised of journalists “with critical and distinct views”.

The Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics has also released a statement, condemning  Adjara TV’s policy with regard to its personnel, which had created “unbearable working conditions, oppressed professional news staff and undermined the principle of public broadcasting.” “Considering the current state of emergency [amid the COVID-19 pandemic], when the role of a public broadcaster gains special significance, the implementation of such a policy will further exacerbate the situation,” the Charter stated.

The team of Hashtag also announced yesterday that the management of Adjara TV’s decision to suspend the program amid the coronavirus crisis could be used as a reason to shut down the critical TV program.

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