A group of leading and long-time journalists of the Tbilisi-based Rustavi 2 television station announced on September 8 that they are quitting the station to protest the dismissal of Rustavi 2’s General-Director Nika Tabatadze.
Journalists Nana Lezhava, Tengo Gogotishvili, Tamar Gvinianidze, chief of news service Tamar Rukhadze, producer Dudu Kurdgelia and Natia Lazashvili, who has been an anchor of the Rustavi 2 TV’s news program Kurieri (Courier) for past 11 years, announced their resignations.
Koba Davarashvili, who previously led the advertising company Sarke, replaced Tabatadze as Rustavi 2 Director-General on August 28. The Georgian media speculates that Davarashvili is a close friend of Giorgi Arveladze, Chief of the President’s Administration, and there are rumors that the latter masterminded the change of management in the television station.
Businessmen Kibar Khalvashi, reportedly a close friend of Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, owns the TV company, which critics claim is government-controlled.
“In the past two weeks we have not heard a single argument justifying the decision to sack Nika Tabatadze,” long-time producer of the Courier news program Dudu Kurdgelia told Rustavi 2 TV on September 8.
“This decision [to quit the station] is an expression of faithfulness towards our principles… This is a choice of free people,” Natia Lazashvili, who anchored the Courier for the last time on September 8, said.
“I’ve been working here for 12 years and I have never thought of quitting, because here I always had conditions for being impartial in my reporting. But now, unfortunately, me and some of my colleagues have been left with two options: we had to make a choice between professional principles and the job; but I don’t want a job of this kind,” Nana Lezhava said.
“This is my protest against what I think was a very strange and unjustified decision [to sack Tabatadze],” Tamar Gvinianidze said.