Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based watchdog, today called for an independent and immediate review of the “unprecedented and probably politically motivated conviction” of Nika Gvaramia, director general of government-critical Mtavari Arkhi TV.
Head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, Jeanne Cavelier stressed that “the severity of the verdict and sentence in a case with such a dubious basis suggests that it was politically motivated with the aim of weakening an opposition media outlet.”
The watchdog also recalled that Gvaramia pans to appeal the Tbilisi City Court’s ruling that found him guilty of abusing power at his previous post as the director general of Rustavi 2 TV, costing the company financial losses.
Cavelier also called on the “Georgian Government to uphold their international obligations to ensure a safe environment for all media in Georgia.”
The statement voiced RSF’s concern “about the growing threats to independent and opposition media in Georgia.”
Alluding to the July 5, 2021 mass violence against journalists covering the homophobic pogroms, the RSF official noted that Georgian authorities have displayed not just a “passivity” when it comes to attacks on the press freedom but “a readiness to obstruct the work of opposition journalists.”
The RSF further said that Mtavari Arkhi TV — the most popular critical outlet in Georgia — has often come under attack from the Georgian Government.
It recalled the TV station being fined GEL 111.3 thousand (USD 38 thousand) for broadcasting videos in support of jailed ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, as well as Culture Minister Tea Tsulukiani and Tbilisi Mayor having “accosted and harassed” Mtavari Arkhi TV reporters.
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The Tbilisi City Court sentenced Gvaramia to 3.5 years in prison on May 16, drawing widespread criticism from local media, CSOs, opposition politicians, and the international community.
The development came as Georgia’s standing had already dramatically declined in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) latest rankings, dropping from 60th place to 89th in 2021.
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