A few hundred activists and journalists from Adjara TV and Radio Company, a publicly-funded broadcaster based in the city of Batumi, rallied outside the television premises on June 26 to protest the pressure exerted on journalists and the policies pursued by Giorgi Kokhreidze, director of the TV channel.
The protest, organized by the Alternative Trade Union of Adjara TV, demanded the reinstatement of dismissed journalists to their jobs, protection of their labor rights, and changing the rules of the election of the broadcaster’s Board of Advisors.
Addressing the rally, Giorgi Arobelidze, one of the organizers of the demonstration, called on the broadcaster’s management to immediately stop “blackmailing” and “intimidation” of members of the alternative trade union. Arobelidze stated that the TV management backed by the ruling Georgian Dream party hinders journalists from maintaining the broadcaster as the space for discussing various problems.
“Regrettably, we are still fighting for the freedom of speech here. Regrettably, the Georgian Dream moved to destroy the idea of the public broadcaster, doing it through [the policies of] Adjara TV director Giorgi Kokhreidze and Chairman of the Board of Advisors, Giga Chkhartishvili,” Arobelidze said.
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Natia Karchiladze, a journalist of Adjara TV who co-organized the rally, told Civil.ge that the protesters also demanded amendments to the Law on Broadcasting.
Maintaining that the rule of composing the Board of Advisors (which then elects the director) should be changed, Karchiladze said the Board should not be composed of the advisors appointed by the political parties.
Karchiladze said that the organizers intend to hold more rallies in a bid to prevent the broadcaster’s management from exerting pressure on the journalists.
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Recurrent protest wave at Adjara TV started shortly after appointing Giorgi Kokhreidze as the new director on November 22. Kokhreidze was elected by three out of four members of the Board of Advisors – all of the three supporters entered the Board through Georgian Dream’s quota. A part of journalists at Adjara TV, as well as Georgian civil society outfits, accuse Kokhreidze of pursuing the ruling party’s interests and changing the broadcaster’s independent editorial policy.
Since assuming the office, Kokhreidze has either dismissed or demoted a number of critical journalists, including those responsible for the broadcaster’s editorial policy. Some of the employees have already filed lawsuits in court against the director.
Follow our tag for more background about developments in Adjara TV.