Media Advocacy Coalition considers the developments surrounding TV Pirveli alarming

10 Feb, 2020

We wish to express our special respect to the TV Pirveli team. Despite the limited financial and technical resources, in the environment of the political polarization of the media, the broadcaster manages to create objective and highly qualified media products. These results are a special achievement that has been positively acknowledged in many domestic/international assessments.

It is obvious to everyone that the existence of a free TV Pirveli significantly changes the media environment in Georgia. However, the work environment of the journalists and management of this channel is not always adequately protected from interference.

On February 06, 2020, a family member of the TV Pirveli’s founder faced a life-threatening danger – his health deteriorated dramatically. According to Vato Tsereteli, the founder of the broadcaster, his father, Avto Tsereteli, had lost his consciousness at work; he was nervous about the ongoing court case and expected to be arrested soon. According to Vato Tsereteli, this is a precedent when life becomes a subject of a bargain. He believes that they are bargaining with the free media – TV Pirveli and Avto Tsereteli could not handle so much stress. He puts the responsibility on the Georgian Dream and believes that before the elections the authorities will exacerbate the fight against their channel even further.

The broadcaster’s team states that, despite all efforts, this channel will remain a critical broadcaster. “We cannot deviate from this duty because of anyone’s whims and demands. We will remain what we are as long as we exist. I am able to claim this owing to the attitude and integrity of TV Pirveli founder Vato Tsereteli, as well as the conscious choice of the journalistic team,” TV host Nino Zhizhilashvili said on air.

The Media Advocacy Coalition reminds the public that in an outspoken letter publicized by the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office on March 6, 2019, two out of the three unconditional demands were related to the needed shifts in the editorial policies of TV Pirveli and Artarea. The Coalition believed that the disseminated information gave the impression of the interference in media operation aimed to undermine editorial independence. The Coalition then called on the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office to pay special attention to the investigation of pressure on independent media so that all questions that existed among the public could be answered in a comprehensive manner. Despite the urgency of the matter, the authorities failed to complete the investigation. [1]

Instead, we witness protracted trials in which, on February 06, 2020, the family of the founder of the TV company was again under attack.

The events surrounding TV Pirveli are one of the alarming signals, as other media managers and founders.of independent media are also on trial.

Independent media is one of the essential tools for the development of democracy in any country. Guarantees for the protection of human rights can only be maintained by securing freedom of speech, and the government is obliged to provide citizens and organizations with these preconditions, vital for the free existence. A particular challenge is to ensure the editorial independence of media and freedom of journalists’ work.

Once again, we call on the authorities to end the risks to media freedom by conducting a speedy and objective investigation.

We call on international organizations to pay particular attention to the crises surrounding journalists and media organizations in Georgia.

Members of the Media Advocacy Coalition believe that the current situation in Georgia poses a serious threat to the development of democracy in the country. We regret that harm to human health has been added to the already existing violations.

[1] Media Advocacy Coalition on Recent Developments around TV Pirveli and Artarea TV