Timeline of Georgian Dream’s Efforts to Seize Adjara TV
The ruling party intensified its efforts to gain influence on Adjara TV in April 2019 with the unjustified impeachment of Natia Kapanadze, the director of Adjara TV and Radio Company. The impeachment itself took place in the situation when under Kapanadze’s tenure, the broadcaster, according to the assessments of local and international organizations, was seen as comparatively balanced and impartial in the polarized environment. Subsequently, the government took a number of steps to finally gain influence on Adjara TV.
01.11.2018. The Supreme Council of Adjara elected Giga Chkhartishvili as a member of the Advisory Councilof Adjara TV and Radio Company through Georgian Dream’s quota.
11.04.2019. Two members of the Council, Giga Chkhartishvili and Irakli Dartsmelidze (National Movement’s quota) demanded the impeachment of Natia Kapanadze, the director of Adjara TV, accusing her of neglecting the priorities, decline of ratings and mismanagement of public funds. The civil society organizations denounced the decision. Statements were also released by international organizations.
19.04.2019. The Advisory Council supported Natia Kapanadze’s impeachment. Her First Deputy, Natia Zoidze became the Acting Director.
25.04.2019. The Advisory Council announced the first competition to fill the vacant seat of the Director of Adjara TV and Radio. Giorgi Kokhreidze, incumbent director, also took part in the competition. However, the competition was thwarted as no candidates gained enough votes. It is worth noting that none of the previous members of the Council voted for Kokhreidze.
30.04.2019. Natia Kapanadze challenged the Council’s decision on her dismissal in court. However, no court hearing has been scheduled so far. In addition, Kapanadze requested the court to suspend the competition on selection of a new director as well as the act of announcing her impeachment by the Advisory Council pending final verdict, but the court rejected her request.
03.06.2019. Acting Director Natia Zoidze, who was one of the candidates for the director’s position, released a statement, saying that she was warned by the ruling team not to participate in the competition. “Inaction would mean nothing but being the government’s accomplice, because it was clear that the government was preparing a desirable candidate [for the director’s position],” Natia Zoidze said.
03.06.2019. The advisory Council announced the second competition to select the new director. Giorgi Kokhreidze again participated in the competition, but no one voted for him. The Council again failed to elect the director.
15.07.2019. The previous members of the Advisory Council announced a new competition once again. Giorgi Kokhreidze participated in the competition for the third time and unexpectedly received two votes. At least three votes were needed to elect a candidate as the director. The second round was held, but the votes were divided and the competition was once again thwarted.
17.07.2019. Bidzina Ivanishvili, chairman of the ruling party, openly expressed discontent towards Adjara TV’s editorial policy; other top officials echoed Ivanishvili’s stance with Tornike Rizhvadze, the head of Adjara’s government, calling on the TV host “to calm down” and Parliament’s Vice Speaker Gia Volski threatening Adjara TV journalist with suspending accreditation. In addition, Irakli Kobakhidze, former Parliament Speaker and one of Georgian Dream’s leaders, accused the journalist of pursuing the interests of the opposition party.
25.08.2019. The competition on selecting the new director was announced for the fourth time.
24.09.2019. A day before the end of competition, the Advisory Council suspended the competition citing a disputable court judgment. The lawsuit was filed by Giorgi Kokhreidze, who claimed that he had won the third competition and should have been elected as a director. He demanded suspension of the competition announced by the Advisory Council for the fourth time before the ruling into the case entered into legal force. The court accepted this request.
Kokhreidze claimed that three members of the Advisory Council attended the competition for selecting the director with two of them voting in favor of his candidacy. So, Kokhreidze noted that he was elected the director with a majority vote. In fact, the fourth member also attended the interview. He simply did not take part in the voting.
27.09.2019. Acting Director of Adjara TV, Natia Zoidze and part of journalists met with the representatives of civil society organizations. They expressed fear that the government used the court to gain time by suspending the competition to ensure that the tenure of the current Advisory council would expire and the new Council composed of pro-government members would elect the new director.
30.09.2019. Part of Adjara TV journalists made a special statement warning about the risks of possible changes in the broadcaster’s editorial policy: “We have a reasonable expectation that the developments of the past six months are coming to an end and they will trigger changes in the vector of the broadcaster’s editorial policy.”
25.10.2019. The Supreme Council of Adjara elected three new members of the Advisory Council. Ultimately, three out of four incumbent members of the Council have been elected through the Georgian Dream’s quota. Discussions on the issues related to selecting and nominating the candidates, as well as generally to outlining the principles of quotas were underway amid strong confrontation. The National Movement boycotted the process and did not name its candidate. So, the new competition was announced to fill the National Movement’s quota.
18.11.2019. The Court of Appeal annulled the ruling of Batumi City Court, which suspended the competition for selecting the director of Adjara TV and Radio Company based on Giorgi Kokhreidze’s lawsuit. Accordingly, the competition resumed.
20.11.2019. Although the court ruling into Kokhreidze’s case, in which he claimed that he won the third competition, was still pending, he still took part in the fourth competition announced for the director’s vacant position.
22.11.2019. Giorgi Kokhreidze garnered two votes in the first and three votes in the second round, respectively, and became the director of Adjara TV and Radio Company.
22.11.2019. On the very first day of his tenure, Giorgi Kokhreidze reprimanded Adjara TV journalists for their critical tone and noted that “you should not irritate the guests; you should criticize them like your brothers and children.” He cited the TV channel itself as the reason behind public officials’ refusal to participate in its programs.
22.11.2019. During a live broadcast, Giorgi Kokhreidze openly hinted that Natia Zoidze needed to resign from the first deputy director’s position, prompting part of journalists from Adjara TV’s newsroom to make a statement, in which they expressed support to Zoidze and slammed the appointment of the new director as an attempt to change the TV channel’s editorial policy, making it pro-government.
25.11.2019. Adjara TV consultants, Marina Vashakmadze and Zviad Koridze resigned from the broadcaster in a protest against the election of the new director. They both assumed office under Natia Kapanadze’s tenure.
30.11.2019. Natia Zoidze said that the newly elected director threatened her with criminal prosecution unless she distanced herself from the editorial policy.
02.12.2019. Internal inquiry was launched into the alleged fact of the transfer of archival materials by Natia Zoidze to the member of Adjara TV’s Advisory Council free of charge.
03.12.2019. The staff of Hashtag program released a statement in response to the director’s criticism, who accused the TV program of bias. The journalists accused the director of trying to interfere with the TV channel’s editorial policy and demanded an apology from him.
04.12.2019. Part of Adjara TV journalists held a protest rally, holding the posters reading: “Count us,” “Do not interfere,” “Read our articles rather than correspondence.” They called on Giorgi Kokhreidze to stop making groundless accusations, surveillance, blackmail, as well as attacking and discrediting the TV staff.
05.12.2019. Public Defender Nino Lomjaria met with the Adjara TV staff and the director. Lomjaria stressed the importance of building trust between the staff and the director and noted that the rule of composing the Advisory Council should be changed.