Journalist Teona Tskhomelidze has become the second anchor in a week to leave Rustavi 2 TV, one of the largest Georgian TV stations, citing significant changes to the channel’s editorial policy.
“I quit Rustavi 2 TV because I no longer see myself on this channel,” said Tskhomelidze today, anchor of news program “Dgis Kurieri,” who returned to the channel after it changed hands in 2019 after the ECHR ruling.
“When you choose this profession, you should be right with your viewers, respondents and yourself,” she added, adding that “I don’t agree with the editorial policy, that has been significantly changed recently.”
The allegations come less than seven weeks before crucial local elections, slated for October 2.
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Earlier on August 11, Guram Rogava, host of Rustavi 2 TV’s P.S. program, also quit the channel and moved to Formula TV, a government-critical channel.
In a lengthy interview with Radio Liberty, coming soon after his brief Facebook announcement about quitting the channel, Rogava said in Rustavi 2 he would not have “the quality of independence” he once enjoyed. “I could have stayed to do journalistic work that I do not like.”
Rogava said the Georgian Dream government reacted harshly after he ripped up empty papers while on air symbolically noting the government “tore the Georgian constitution over our heads” by enabling homophobic violence against journalists in Tbilisi on July 5.
“Some political leaders demanded my dismissal and I received certain messages that this would end badly for me,” the journalist asserted.
Rogava stressed that after Varlam (Vako) Avaliani, former Maestro TV journalist joined Rustavi 2 TV management, he was offered to change the format of his program and transform it into a talk show covering pre-election campaign, but that was not an interesting offer for him.
Vako Avaliani, one of the directors of JSC Media Holding that runs Rustavi 2 TV, told Media Checker today that “the channel continues the same editorial policy. It has moved to the election mode and campaign activities of all political parties are being covered.”
According to the National Public Registry, 60% of Rustavi 2 TV channel’s shares are owned by Kibar Khalvashi and the remaining 40% belong to a limited liability company “Panorama” whose 100% shares are also owned by Khalvashi. In March 2021, Rustavi 2 TV and Prime Time outlet merged under JSC Media Holding with 90% of its shares belonging to Prime Time and 10% – to Rustavi 2 TV.
Avaliani was appointed as one of the directors on July 20. Previously, he served as an executive director of Maestro TV, pro-government channel. He quit the TV channel on July 15 citing its new priorities that were “unacceptable” for him. Noteworthy, in February – November, 2014, Avaliani worked as Deputy Defense Minister. He was dismissed along with Defense Minister Irakli Alasania by current PM Irakli Garibashvili, who then served his first tenure as Prime Minister.