Sacked Outspoken Journalists to Sue Public TV

Journalists sacked by Georgian Public Broadcaster after speaking out against alleged pro-Russian censorship, among others, announced today they will launch a lawsuit against the state-funded TV network. 

Former anchor of the weekly analytical show “Akhali Kvira” Imeda Darsalia said today that he and two journalists — Tamta Janadze and Sopo Zedelashvili — fired them on April 29, over “false and unfounded statements made publicly.”

In the press conference at the Transparency International (TI) Georgia office, Darsalia said that the dismissals were signed by the General Director of the GPB, Tinatin Berdzenishvili, who he claimed was aware of the “gross interference” in the show’s editorial policy before the journalists went public with the accusations.

“Unfortunately the General Director and the management of the channel with this shameful decision chose to deal with the problem by getting rid of us, instead of sacking the people revealed to be behind the attempt at censorship,” Darsalia noted.

He argued that the sacking confirmed the journalists’ initial suspicions the GPB management in December 2021 took their analytical show off-air over its “critical” coverage. 

The former anchor said the dismissals serve as a cautionary tale to “every journalist that will dare to publicly discuss problems” existing at the GPB. “This is a message to every employee that they should be silent, or they will lose their jobs,” he added.

Janadze meanwhile said that with the lawsuit, the three “only want to prove the truth” in the Court. 

“The Public Broadcaster should belong to the public and not to the Government or a person close with any of the political forces, who currently sits on the GBP’s management,” Janadze added, presumably referring to the recent appointment of Vasil Maglaperidze, former Deputy Chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party, as the chair of the TV network’s board of trustees.

TI Georgia, Media Watchdogs on Dismissal

TI Georgia will represent the sacked journalists in the court dispute. Mamuka Andguladze, a program manager at the corruption watchdog argued the GPB has dismissed the three “unlawfully.” 

“Unfortunately the Public Broadcaster has now become a symbol of censorship,” Andguladze asserted at today’s conference, claiming that the TV network opted to “punish” Darsalia, Janadze and Zedelashvili instead of addressing their concerns.

The watchdog’s lawyer, Teona Zakariashvili argued that the arguments and grounds cited in the dismissal orders contravened the relevant legislation and violated the three journalists’ labor rights.

In the lawyer’s opinion also, the sackings would have a “chilling effect” on other employees at the state-funded TV, dissuading them from speaking out.

The Media Advocacy Coalition, uniting over a dozen media watchdogs, stated today that the firings saw the “practice of discrimination and persecution” of employees at the GPB continue. Besides violating human rights, this creates “threats to the notion of a public broadcaster,” the group added.

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