Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria – who had completed an examination into the cases of labor rights violation with regard to former head of Adjara TV’s newsroom Shorena Glonti, her deputy Maia Merkviladze, and news anchor Teona Bakuridze – has announced that the said persons were dismissed or reassigned to another positions in violation of the Labor Code of Georgia and Adjara TV’s own internal regulations.
In a statement released on April 27, the Public Defender noted the disciplinary proceedings against Shorena Glonti were conducted in violation of the established term, while disciplinary sanction was imposed on Teona Bakuridze twice for the same violation.
Ombudsperson stressed that the foregone acts contradicted “the principles of the labor law.”
On February 19, the Board of Adjara TV accepted the proposal by Giorgi Kokhreidze, the director, to lay off four deputy heads, among them deputy head of the newsroom. Maia Merkviladze, who held the latter position, and simultaneously served as a news editor, was officially dismissed.
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Merkviladze was offered to be reassigned to the position of a producer of a non-existent talk show or as an editor of the radio newsroom. Although Merkviladze accepted the proposal and did not quit the broadcaster, she slammed Kokhreidze’s decision as an attempt to downgrade her position in the broadcaster.
Teona Bakuridze, anchor of the broadcaster’s main news program and a vocal critic of the channel’s new management, was dismissed on March 13. Kokhreidze accused her of “gravely violating” the broadcaster’s internal regulations, namely of assaulting acting head of newsroom Giorgi Abazadze, and hindering the latter from performing his official duties.
According to Public Defender Nino Lomjaria, the above employees were not involved in the proceedings, therefore “they were not able to properly use their right to express and defend their positions before being dismissed or sanctioned, as they had not been able to respond to the allegations with relevant legal arguments.”
Nino Lomjaria also added that there was “no exigence or proportionality” of the application of the most extreme form of penalty – dismissal – in any of the abovementioned cases.
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Concerning Maia Merkviladze’s case, the Public Defender notes that “following removal of her position from the broadcaster’s staff schedule, she was reassigned to a non-equivalent position, rather than being appointed to a newly created position of an editor with substantially same functions.”
The Public Defender recommended Adjara TV’s director “to annul the orders on the dismissal and reassignment of positions of Shorena Glonti, Maia Merkviladze and Teona Bakuridze” and to ensure “the restoration of their labor rights.”
The identified violations have further strengthened the suspicions about the attempts to change the free and impartial editorial policy of Adjara TV, which jeopardized as a result of the impeachment of Natia Kapanadze, Director of the TV company,” the statement reads.
Nino Lomjaria also noted that Adjara TV is a publicly funded broadcaster, which is bound to provide “influence-free, impartial and diverse programs of public interest,” and that the TV station should “maintain its critical editorial policy and dispel doubts in this regard.”