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Georgian Public Broadcaster Accused of Pro-Russian Censorship

Former anchor Imeda Darsalia and journalists – Tamta Janadze and Sopo Zedelashvili – have accused the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) of interfering and censoring their work at the weekly analytical TV show “Akhali Kvira” (New Week), which has been off-air since December 2021.

At press briefing today, Darsalia claimed the network’s management tried to pull the plug on reports that were critical of Russia and the Soviet Union and tried to blacklist pundits from the show, among others.

‘Censored’ Topics

The former anchor said an unnamed journalist in his team, covering international stories, was barred by the GPB leadership from writing anything negative about Russia.

“Just as we should not write anything bad about the U.S., so we should not write anything bad about Russia, because part of our audience is pro-Russian,” Darsalia claimed the journalist was told.

The network management, per his account, also prohibited analytical coverage of anti-government demonstrations in Belarus.

“The management did not want the report to be critical of [Alexander] Lukashenko’s regime,” Darsalia claimed. “This is a catastrophe.”

“A story on Soviet Union’s war crimes was directly blocked, which led to a conflict in the team,” Darsalia cited another example.

Besides, the former anchor claimed that for two years, the show was not allowed to cover politics, before finally receiving permission.

But even after greenlighting political coverage, the management tried to have government-critical comments removed from the stories or did away with entire reports, according to the journalists.

Tamta Janadze, who covered politics, said for example that her producer decided to leave her report on the opposition’s shadow cabinet for the 2021 local on the cutting room floor.

Janadze also said that in her report on Salome Zurabishvili’s victory in the presidential runoffs of 2018, the chief producer at the last minute cut pundits’ comments that were critical to the ruling Georgian Dream party.

‘Blacklisted’ Pundits

As for “blacklisted” pundits, the former anchor said the alleged list included most experts from Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation), including Zurab Batiashvili, IR specialist and lecturer at the University of Georgia, and Alex (Buka) Petriashvili, former State Minister for Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic Integration.

Former Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli, historian Lasha Bakradze, Dean of the Caucasus University’s School of Governance Eka Akobia, and Tbilisi State University Professor Lela Jejelava were also blacklisted, according to Darsalia’s account.

He said employees of the Atlantic Council Georgia were also not welcome for interviews.

Public Broadcaster’s Stance

Former anchor Darsalia said that General Director of GPB, Tinatin Berdzenishvili will carry out an internal examination of the allegations.

He pointed accusatory fingers at Eka Shonia, the producer of the show and several unnamed higher-ups, and expressed his hope that “they will be held accountable for gross interference with editorial policy.”

In the meantime, Darsalia, Janadze and Zedelashvili are also appealing to the Public Defender to examine potential discrimination and interference with professional activities at the GPB.

The journalists said they are also under the impression that the management is trying to “punish” them for speaking out about alleged censorship back in February.

Back then, the GPB issued a statement calling out “the slanderous, deliberate campaign [against the broadcaster]” and arguing the allegations were “completely baseless and alarming.”

Civil.ge has reached out to the Public Broadcaster for additional comments, and will update the article if provided.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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