Rally in Support of Nika Gvaramia Held in Tbilisi

A rally “Freedom to Nika” in support of Nika Gvaramia, the director of the Mtavari Channel, was held today near the Presidential Palace, in Orbeliani Square. Gvaramia’s supporters, Mtavari channel staff, journalists from other media and politicians took part in the protest. The rally participants called on the President of Georgia to use her pardon power and release Nika Gvaramia, whom they call Bidzina Ivanishvili’s personal prisoner.

Recently, President Zurabishvili has been vocal in criticizing the government’s anti-Western policies, including in her his speech 26 May at an Independence Day event. The rally participants appealed to the president to add pro-European actions to her pro-European rhetoric.

The rally participants signed the placard “We Choose European Future Without Political Prisoners” in a sign of protest against the opposition TV director’s imprisonment.

Signatures in support of release of Nika Gvaramia, May 27, Tbilisi, photo credit: Sergi Kapanadze

More than a year has passed since Gvaramia’s arrest. Public Defender, international and local CSOs and Georgia’s international partners have since been expressing their concern regarding the imprisonment of Mtavari channel director calling the imprisonment politically motivated and stating that his arrest is an impediment on Georgia’s EU integration path.

Nino Jangirashvili, director of of TV Kavkasia, who came to support her colleague said: “By imprisoning Nika, the authorities have crossed the red line, saying “we can do whatever we want, imprison anyone we want”. In the last year we have seen that the country is heading straight towards Russia.” She said she believed the president understood how damaging Nika Gvaramia’s imprisonment was to the country. “She should talk to us, explain why she is not taking this decision [to pardon him].- she said. Jangirashvili stressed that Gvaramia’s imprisonment has had a “chilling effect on the media situation” and that media freedom has regressed since then. She also said that the media were “in a very difficult financial situation” and that his imprisonment had also had an impact on business, noting that the “advertising market had shrunk” because companies don’t bring advertisement to the opposition channels, while the profits of pro-government channels had increased.

Giorgi Targamadze, Formula TV anchor said: “This is a solidarity not only with Nika, but also with our EU path.” He stressed that Gvaramia’s case has been a case of political imprisonment from the very beginning, “only the President has the means to reverse this situation.” He said it is crucial that the President makes a political decision and pardons Gvaramia, noting at this point he abstains from additional criticism of the President preferring to believe that she can make independent decision, as opposed to acting on behalf of Bidzina Ivanishvili, “in which case the venue for rally has not been chosen correctly.”

Levan Khabeishvili, the Chair of UNM stressed that the President has no other functions, that the power of pardon is her only instrument. He said she has an instrument to release director of the Mtavari channel as well as the third President Mikheil Saakashvili.

He stressed: “One thing is what she says, the other is – what she does. When these two don’t coincide, legitimate questions arise.”

Giga Bokeria of the European Georgia noted that the President’s positioning has changed recently, noting that “if she does not take the minimum steps that she can, she will go down in history as a shameful president”. He stressed: “The only power she has is that of the pardoning, and she is not using this power” adding that “unless she uses this instrument, she’s on their [authorities] side. She can save her reputation if she makes the decision [to pardon Nika Gvaramia].

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