Photo: Nika Gvaramia
ECPMF Joins Call on Georgian President to Release Journalist Nika Gvaramia

ECPMF

20 April 2023

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Salome Zurabishvili
President of Georgia
Administration of the President of Georgia
25 Atoneli Street
Tbilisi, Georgia

 

Dear President Zurabishvili,

 

We, the undersigned international human rights and press freedom organizations, congratulate the Georgian people on successfully attaining the withdrawal of proposed bills on foreign agents and applaud your leadership in denouncing the bills and standing up for democratic values. We are writing to you today to request that you take another vital stand for press freedom by using your authority to release journalist Nika Gvaramia from prison.

 

Since May 16, 2022, Gvaramia, founder and director of independent broadcaster Mtavari Arkhi, has been serving a 3.5-year prison sentence for alleged abuse of office during his previous role as director of another broadcaster. The United States Embassy has said that Gvaramia’s conviction “calls into question Georgia’s commitment to rule of law,” and the European Parliament condemned his conviction in a resolution, calling the charges “dubious.” Georgia’s Public Defender (Ombudsman) has concluded that Gvaramia’s case should not have led to criminal liability. As a presenter for Mtavari Arkhi, Gvaramia was known for his trenchant criticism of Georgia’s ruling party, and his jailing has been widely denounced by local and international rights groups as politically motivated.

 

As someone who is committed to upholding Georgia’s international standing, you recognize that the retaliatory jailing of a journalist marks a worrying turning point for your country. Since the Committee to Protect Journalists began compiling data on imprisoned journalists in 1992, Georgia has never previously had a single journalist recorded behind bars. Gvaramia’s jailing, which puts Georgia in the company of repressive, authoritarian states in post-Soviet Eurasia, is damaging to your country’s reputation.

 

As president, you have repeatedly stressed that it is the choice of the Georgian people to seek European integration. In its June 2022 opinion on Georgia’s European Union membership application, the European Commission included the demand to “ensur[e] that criminal procedures brought against media owners fulfill the highest legal standards” among a list of 12 priorities needing to be addressed for Georgia to receive European Union candidate status, in a clear nod to Gvaramia’s case. Ensuring Gvaramia’s release from prison would represent a significant step towards fulfilling Georgia’s European aspirations.

 

We, therefore, urge you to continue the momentum from the Georgian people’s resounding rejection of the foreign agent law and take another important stand for press freedom in Georgia to strengthen your country’s democratic future. We urge you to use your executive power to release Nika Gvaramia from jail immediately and without conditions.

 

We thank you for your consideration.

 

Sincerely,

Committee to Protect Journalists

Article 19

Association of European Journalists (AEJ)

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Human Rights Watch

Justice for Journalists Foundation

Index on Censorship

International Press Institute (IPI)

PEN International

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

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