Recent Developments at Adjara TV Aim at Changing Editorial Policy
Recent developments around Adjara TV have once again confirmed our doubts that the main purpose of recent organizational or staff changes initiated by the broadcaster’s management was to change critical editorial policy, exert pressure on journalists who are critical of the management and restrict their independence.
Under the management of Natia Kapanadze, former director of Adjara TV, local and international organizations assessed the broadcaster as a balanced and impartial television operating in a polarized media environment. However, against this backdrop, the Advisory Council dismissed Kapanadze through unjustified impeachment. The new director of Adjara TV was elected after a series of failed attempts and following the composition of the new Advisory Council six months later. The process of the selection of new members of the Advisory Council went under strong confrontation. Ultimately, three out of four incumbent members of the Council, who supported Giorgi Kokhreidze’s nominee, were elected through the Georgian Dream’s quota. On his very first day in office, Giorgi Kokhreidze reprimanded journalists for their critical tone. Deputy Director Natia Zoidze also faced certain problems, stating on several occasions that she was being pressured. Later, the terms of her labor contract were amended, and she left the television. The international organization Reporters Without Borders responded Zoidze’s resignation assessing it as an example of “political pressure.”
It emerged on February 24 that Maia Merkviladze will no longer participate in news planning. She was the deputy head of Adjara TV’s newsroom, but Adjara TV Director Giorgi Kokhreidze, with the approval of the Advisory Council, abolished the positions of deputy heads pledging to offer them suitable alternative jobs. According to reasonable doubts, the management wanted to get rid of undesirable people in the newsroom and it managed to do so. Maia Merkviladze accepted the proposal to become a talk show producer and/or deputy head of radio. Controversial disciplinary proceedings are underway against the head of the newsroom, Shorena Glonti. Amid recent developments, journalist Nino Khozrevanidze left the television in protest. There are other facts of pressure exerted by the director. For example, according to the TV staff, the director is urging one of the anchors of “Hashtag”, Malkhaz Rekhviashvili, to resign because the latter is the chairperson of an alternative trade union at Adjara TV. Meanwhile, the alternative trade union, uniting about 70 employees, has launched relevant procedures for a strike.
The recent developments confirm that the purpose of ongoing processes is to change the television’s editorial policy. Regrettably, by their actions, the Advisory Council members elected through the ruling party’s quotas promote further escalation of the situation at Adjara TV and do not protect journalists’ rights.
We call on Adjara TV’s Advisory Council and management to cease all actions that aim at restricting journalists’ independence and interfering in editorial policy. We also call on the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the facts of alleged pressure on journalists, as well as on the Supreme Council of Adjara Autonomous Republic to respond to the developments at Adjara TV and hold a public discussion.
Transparency International Georgia is closely following the developments around Adjara TV, expresses solidarity with all employees who are fighting for their own rights and professional dignity, and stands ready to provide relevant legal aid to journalists.