A group of more than 30 civil society organizations and media appealed to the President of the European Council Charles Michel on 7 November, requesting that he urge President Salome Zurabishvili to pardon imprisoned Mtavari Arkhi TV chief Nika Gvaramia.
The letter follows the Tbilisi Court of Appeal’s decision on 2 November to uphold Gvaramia’s sentence of 3 years and 6 months in prison. The decision was criticized by the opposition, international partners, media watchdogs, and civil society organizations alike.
The group emphasized in their letter their “strong belief that this is a politically motivated case” and that charges against Gvaramia “are groundless,” while pointing to past assessments made about the case by the Public Defender’s Office and several CSOs.
“We believe that Nika Gvaramia is in prison only because of his vocal criticism of the government and his influence as an opinion-maker,” they stressed. “It is also a fact that Mtavari and other TV companies are under constant attacks and pressure by the government.”
The organizations expressed confidence that Gvaramia’s “politically motivated imprisonment is a serious obstacle on Georgia’s EU integration path.” “The resolution of the European Parliament on violations of media freedom and the safety of journalists in Georgia clearly condemned Nika Gvaramia’s imprisonment and called on genuine reforms,” they added.
Pointing to the backdrop of “grave challenges in the judiciary and the Georgian Dream’s aggressive policy against critical media,” the organizations noted that they “do not expect” Gvaramia’s rights to be defended in the Supreme Court of Georgia, and emphasized their belief that a presidential pardon is “the only remedy to end his unjust imprisonment.”
“Several political and public groups have already addressed the President of Georgia with the request to pardon Nika Gvaramia,” they said.
In that context, they addressed President Michel, “you are a staunch supporter of Georgia’s democratic development, and we sincerely hope that your call on President Zourabichvili could encourage her to take this step, pardon the director of a critical broadcaster and a political prisoner.”
“President Michel, we are confident that your engagement will be a major contribution to the freedom of the media in Georgia; moreover, it will empower Georgian people in its unequivocal aspirations towards Europe,” the group concluded.