Georgian media workers, activists, and ordinary citizens rallied on May 18 in central Tbilisi to support government-critical Mtavari Arkhi TV and its Director General Nika Gvaramia, who was imprisoned on charges related to abuse of power.
Protesters rallied from the First Republic Square towards the Parliament building through Shota Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare, with protest banners reading “No to Censorship!” and “No Selective Justice.” The rally later moved onto Mtavari Arkhi TV headquarters, on Chubinashvili street.
“We will fight till the end until Nika Gvaramia is released, we have no other choice,” government-critical TV Caucasus director and one of the organizers of the rally Nino Jangirashvili told TV Pirveli.
As many others have since TV chief arrest, Jangirashvili called on President Salome Zurabishvili, who has yet to comment on the sentencing, to use her presidential powers to pardon Gvaramia.
Jangirashvili stressed that while the President’s single action cannot change the fact that Georgia is “in the hands” of ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, the ruling Georgian Dream founder, Zurabishvili can at least soften the effects.
“Nika Gvaramia’s immediate release will soften those results, and she should do this!,” she said, adding “We cannot calm down, this country cannot calm down until there are so many political prisoners and until our colleague, Nika Gvaramia, is in jail.”
Mikheil Sesiashvili, Mtavari Arkhi TV journalist, stressed during the march that the fight for Gvaramia’s release is about more than the fate of one man.
“I do not think that this is just a fight for journalists,” Sesiashvili said, adding that the ruling against his TV chief puts the fate of the country into question.
Mtavari Arkhi TV chief was sentenced to three and half years in prison over abuse of power during his tenure as the director of Rustavi 2 TV, erstwhile major government-critical channel, which changed hands in July 2019 following the ECHR ruling.
Gvaramia, imprisoned since May 16, denies all charges and the sentence as politically motivated.
The ruling marked the first time that an opposition-minded TV boss has been jailed in independent Georgia.
Also Read for Background:
- Critical TV Boss Sent to Prison for 3.5 Years
- CSOs Say TV Chief Jailing ‘Selective Conviction’
- U.S. Questions Georgia’s Commitment to Rule of Law