The Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC), a local watchdog, strongly criticized the decision of Adjara TV and Radio Company to dismiss Malkhaz Rekhviashvili – host of a talk show “Hashtag” and head of Alternative Trade Union of Adjara TV – as an “alarming” development, due to the “continuation of persecuting critical opinion” and “undermining of broadcaster’s independence.”
In a statement released on May 12, the organization said the decision by Giorgi Kokhreidze, Director of Adjara TV, to dismiss Rekhviashvili is “as a clear and dangerous illustration of violation of freedom of speech and expression, as well as persecution of members of trade unions.”
EMC stated that Giorgi Kokhreidze dismissed Rekhviashvili on account of a Facebook post that he had published on April 21, in response to an “unfair and groundless disciplinary persecution” by the director against Teona Turmanidze, anchor of Adjara TV’s newscast.
The Adjara TV director demanded Rekhviashvili to repudiate his line of reasoning, according to which Teona Turmanidze had been suspended from her job on account of her Facebook posts that appeared on April 13-14, based on the Code of Conduct adopted few days later. Alternatively, Kokhreidze allegedly threatened Rekshviashvili with taking “appropriate measures” against him.
EMC noted that Giorgi Kokhreidze grounded his decision to dismiss Rekhviashvili by accusing him of “spreading slanderous and damaging information.”
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The watchdog clarified that Rekhviashvili’s post could not be considered as a libel, as it conveyed only its author’s opinion and did not contain “false facts.” “The director’s accusations on libel are groundless, as any sort of damage [that afflicted the broadcaster due to his statement] cannot be proved,” EMC said.
It is obvious that the director of Adjara TV dismisses employees without any grounds or arbitrarily imposes disciplinary liability on the employees who voice critical opinions against him,” EMC said.
EMC plans to appeal to the court and the Interior Ministry in the near future to defend Rekhviashvili’s interests and request launching an investigation into the case.