The Court Fulfilled a Political Order by Punishing Nika Gvaramia - the Head of the Critical Media
On May 16, Tbilisi City Court has delivered the guilty verdict against director of TV Mtavari, Nika Gvaramia and his associates. The judge Lasha Chkhikvadze found Nika Gvaramia guilty in committing the crime under the article 220 of the Criminal Code of Georgia (abuse of power) and sentenced him to 3 years and 6 months prison time.
Based on the study of the case materials and observation of the court process, we can conclude that the case is politically motivated. It aims to punish Nika Gvaramia and disrupt the activities of a critical media outlet. The use of the justice system for media censorship and intimidation sends a clear message to other critical media outlets as well. This verdict is a continuation of the political persecution that has been waged against Government’s opponents for years.
Two amicus curiae briefs submitted to the court by Transparency International Georgia’ and the Public Defender’s Office have both indicated that the charges were ungrounded. This is not the first persecution of Nika Gvaramia. He also often spoke about attempts of his bribery, intimidation, blackmail and surveillance of family members.
Recent criminal cases launched against the founders or family members of critical media outlets, the failure to prosecute the organizers of the July 5, 2021 violence, the increasing number of cases of physical retaliation against journalists, and other ineffective investigations have shown that critical media activities have become dangerous.
For years, the politicization of the justice system has been one of the main challenges for the country and an obstacle to the European integration. It is hard to imagine, given Georgia's application for EU membership, that the government has not anticipated the damaging effect that its recent rhetoric, deteriorating media environment and actions against critical media outlets could have made. The consequences that such actions can bring to the international arena of Georgia are completely responsibility of the Government of Georgia.