The Media Advocacy Coalition, uniting local media watchdogs, released a statement on September 2 in response to public threats against Pankisi-based Radio Way and its founder Gela Mtivlishvili and urged the Ministry of Interior to take an immediate action to prevent interference in journalists’ professional activities.
The statement comes after the Radio Way aired a video showing a rally of dozens on August 29 in Pankisi Gorge, where protesters voiced threats of violence against the radio and its founder. Tamaz Margoshvili, one of the protesters, allegedly stated that Mtivlishvili will be given a period of “five days or a week” to empty the radio office and cease broadcasting. “He will leave by himself, or we will force him to leave,” Margoshvili warned.
“We reckon that the video content illustrated signs of violating the Georgian Criminal Code, specifically Article 154, involving the unlawful interference with the journalist’s professional activities,” the Media Coalition said.
Radio Says Georgian Dream, State Security behind Protest
The Pankisi Radio alleged that the governing Georgian Dream party and the State Security Service were pulling the strings behind the protest, which was allegedly organized by Lia Margoshvili, the ruling party activist who also serves as the head of Roddy Scott Foundation.
The Radio said that other members of the Georgian Dream party, namely Deputy Chairman of Akhmeta Municipality City Council (Sakrebulo) Ramaz Baghakashvili, Akhmeta Sakrebulo members Tamaz Borchashvili and Rostom Alkhanashvili were also spotted at the protest.
Luiza Mutoshvili of Pankisi Radio told Civil.ge that the protest is connected to the Radio’s critical coverage of the government actions in the northeastern Pankisi Gorge. “The Radio objectively covers and exposes state policy in Pankisi; it is no surprise that our existence is against the interests of the government and the State Security Service,” Mutoshvili said.
The Radio said a few weeks before the rally it discovered that the Roddy Scott Foundation was interested in privatizing the two-story building where the Radio office is located. It noted that the Radio has a rental agreement with the local municipality granting it access to part of the building through 2021.
Civil.ge approached both the State Security Service and the Georgian Dream to comment on the allegations. SSG on September 4 declined to comment on the matter, while the ruling party did not respond to the calls.
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