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MEPs Say ‘Ungrounded’ TV Boss Verdict Seriously Endangers Georgia’s European Future

Eight key MEPs on EU-Georgia affairs said today that “ungrounded” guilty verdict by the Tbilisi City Court against Mtavari Arkhi TV chief Nika Gvaramia “seriously endangers Georgia’s European future which demands commitments to democratic values, among others to freedom of media and the rule of law.”

The multipartisan, starkly-worded statement asserted that the ruling by the Tbilisi City Court, delivered “without persuasive evidence represents a continuation of the deteriorating rule of law in Georgia.”

“Unfortunately, the questionable decision of the court resonates with the widespread general pattern of persecution, intimidation, and physical attacks against the representatives of critical media,” the MEPs noted.

The lawmakers said the court’s decision was a “result of the long-overdue judicial reform, an obligation taken by the Georgian Government through the [EU-mediated] April 19 agreement but never delivered.”

“Selective justice and further deterioration of democratic institutions irreparably harm Georgia’s reputation and jeopardizes its European choice to become a candidate and eventually a member of the European Union,” the signatories asserted.

“This is in stark contrast with what the people of Georgia want and deserve.”

The signatories also recalled that some of the MEPs’ concerns in 2021 over an earlier “unethical attack” on Nika Gvaramia, “were met with ‘whataboutery’ arguments by the representatives of the ruling [Georgian Dream] party.”

The statement was signed by MEPs Michael Gahler (EPP, Germany), Andrius Kubilius (EPP, Lithuania), Sven Mikser (S&D, Estonia), EP Rapporteur for Georgia, Raphaël Glucksmann (S&D, France), Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland), Markéta Gregorová (Greens/EFA, Czech Republic), Viola von Cramon (Greens/EFA, Germany), and Petras Auštrevičius (RE, Lithuania).

Ahead of the multipartisan missive, two other MEPs — Rasa Juknevičienė, Vice-Chair of the EPP Group and Miriam Lexmann (EPP, Slovakia) — yesterday took to Twitter to voice their concern over Gvaramia’s jailing.

“Does this mean that Georgia, even in the face of Russia’s war against Ukraine, is not choosing democracy but a Putin-type path to maintaining [Georgian Dream founder, billionaire] Bidzina Ivanishvili’s rule at all costs?” MEP Juknevičienė tweeted. “Does this mean that he wants to sabotage with such actions Georgia’s candidacy for EU membership?”

MEP Lexmann meanwhile said that Gvaramia’s sentencing is “a serious attack on media freedom, [and] part of the continued attempts to undermine fundamental freedoms, democracy [and] rule of law in Georgia.”

The Mtavari Arkhi TV chief was sent to prison for three and half years on May 16, after the Tbilisi City Court found him guilty of abuse of power in his previous post as the general director of Rustavi 2 TV.

In the court case, Kakha Damenia, former financial director of the TV station, was also found guilty of the same charge but received a fine of GEL 50 thousand (USD 16.7 thousand). Another suspect in the case, Zurab Iashvili, was cleared of all charges.

Gvaramia, a fierce critic of the Georgian Dream Government and former UNM official, denies chaarges as politically motivated.

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