Reacting to the news that Nika Gvaramia, the head of the Georgian pro-opposition TV channel Mtavari, has been released from detention after being pardoned by President Salome Zourabichvili, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia said:
Nika Gvaramia’s release following President Zourabichvili’s pardon is a positive step for freedom of expression and media freedom in Georgia. However, it is deeply disturbing that the director of a pro-opposition TV channel could ever have been imprisoned on groundless, politically motivated charges.
“Georgia has committed to undertake a series of human rights reforms as part of its bid to join the European Union. Yet these commitments ring hollow amid growing encroachment on freedom of expression. This was evident in parliament’s recent attempts to pass legislation requiring civil society organizations that receive 20 per cent or more of their funding from abroad to register as ‘agents of foreign influence’.
“While we commend the President for her decision and efforts to safeguard against deterioration of human rights standards, Georgian authorities must resist the pull to silence critical voices and instead ensure all human rights are upheld, including the right to freedom of expression and by extension, a free press.”
Amnesty International had previously criticised Nika Gvaramia’s arrest as baseless and politically motivated.
The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest have come under increased attack after widespread peaceful aimed at discrediting independent, foreign-funded organisations and media outlets.
In June police broke up several peaceful protests and also arrested several human rights defenders for holding posters, including a blank piece of paper as a sign of peaceful protest.