Independent Georgian online media outlets Publika and Netgazeti, and the Georgian Alliance of Regional Broadcasters, uniting dozens of regional media outlets, labeled the prison sentence for Nika Gvaramia, government-critical Mtavari Arkhi TV chief, as “a politically motivated” move that threatens independent and critical media.
Netgazeti, alongside their Batumi-based partner Batumelebi, on May 16 dubbed Gvaramia’s imprisonment “particularly alarming” and a threat to every journalist and media that does not “obey the censorship of the government and criticizes its activities…”
Netgazeti said Gvaramia’s imprisonment was a scary but “logical continuation of the repressive policy pursued by the Georgian authorities in the past few years against the media beyond their control.”
The media outlet cited unchecked homophobic violence on July 5, 2021, which left more than 50 journalists attacked, the ruling Georgian Dream’s media-critical statements, the authorities “providing less public information,” and restricting critical journalists’ attendance at various events, among persisting problems, in lead up to opposition TV chief’s prison sentence.
On its part, on My 18, Publika’s editorial team proclaimed that “the actions of the Prosecutor’s Office and the court did not serve justice, but a political motive, which is an attempt to silence the media undesirable for the government.”
“Over the years, the government has been moving step by step on a path we can boldly call a declared chronicle of the fight against media,” Publika noted.
45 regional outlets united by the Georgian Alliance of Regional Broadcasters also condemned the court’s decision, saying that it is impermissible to convict the head of a media organization for a managerial decision under the criminal code.
Nika Gvaramia, a former Rustavi 2 TV director that later went to establish Mtavari Arkhi TV, was sentenced on May 16 on abuse of power charges while managing Rustavi 2 TV.
A fierce critic of the Georgian Dream government and ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, he denies charges as politically motivated.
Journalists organized a supporting rally on May 18 which started on Republic Square and moved down Rustaveli Avenue in the center of Tbilisi.
Concerns over media freedoms have steadily grown in the country, with Georgia’s ranking dramatically declining from 60th place in 2021 to 89th in 2022 according to Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based press freedom watchdog.