Undoubtedly, the dismissal of leading journalists at Rustavi 2 TV Company on vague grounds is actually a change of the editorial policy of the channel, – Ten non-governmental organizations said in a joint statement released late on Tuesday evening.
“We, the undersigned organizations, want to express our concern about the staff changes in Rustavi 2 TV that were announced and carried out by its new owner. Paata Salia, the new General-Director of Rustavi 2 TV, dismissed Nodar Meladze, the Head of TV’s News Department, and TV anchor Nanuka Zhorzholiani. Moreover, Eka Kvesitadze, Giorgi Gabunia and Giorgi Laperashvili, the Deputy General-Director, will be fired as soon as they return from vacation,” the statement reads.
“It is noteworthy to mention the statement made by Nodar Meladze, according to which he was contacted through a middleman with a message from Bidzina Ivanishvili which requested support in changing the editorial policy of Rustavi 2.
According to Meladze, his turning down the request was the basis for his dismissal. Nanuka Zhorzholiani’s dismissal took her by surprise. According to Zhorzholiani, Salia discussed with her the plans for the upcoming season the day prior to her dismissal. She notes that the General-Director’s decision to fire her is politically motivated.
It is known that the TV’s new management hasn’t even paid Nodar Meladze and Nanuka Zhorzholiani their salaries, which can be considered as an attempt at indirect intimidation.
Local and international organizations have numerously called on the new management of Rustavi 2 TV to avoid interfering in the channel’s critical editorial policy. The management, in turn, promised that the critical editorial policy would be preserved.
In spite of this, in a few weeks, the new management made unsubstantiated decisions related to the dismissal of Nodar Meladze, the Head of TV’s News Department and the host of one of the most popular investigative TV program, TV anchors Eka Kvesitadze and Giorgi Gabunia, and Giorgi Laperashvili, the Deputy General-Director. Nanuka Zhorzholiani, the host of one of the most popular entertainment TV programs, was also dismissed from work.
The new management of Rustavi 2 TV has recently made repeated statements about the dire financial situation of the channel, which has contributed to the fostering of an unsustainable environment for the company and journalists. On the other hand, the new management decided to fire TV anchors that are highly popular in the Georgian media landscape. This further intensifies suspicions about the political motivations of the actions of the new management. Moreover, the critical editorial policy of Rustavi 2 might have served as an additional reason for the management to make such an abrupt decision,” the statement reads.
The NGOs believe that the developments around Rustavi 2 will have a negative effect on the media environment in Georgia and that it will also negatively impact the freedom of the press, as well as the democratic development of the country.
Several employees were dismissed from Rustavi 2 TV Company on August 20. As Paata Salia, General Director of Rustavi 2 TV Company said during the news briefing, conflict of interests and the financial damage inflicted to the TV Company had served as the reason for dismissal.
The dismissed employees include Head of Information Service Nodar Meladze, Giorgi Laperashvili, Giorgi Gabunia, Eka Kvesitadze and Nanuka Zhorzholiani.
According to Salia, several other employees are planned to be dismissed from work after their return from summer vacations. Journalist Nino Shubladze is presumed to be one of the candidates for the post of Head of TV Company’s News Department.