Public Defender Addresses UN Special Rapporteur and OSCE Representative regarding Recent Developments in Adjara TV

The Public Defender of Georgia addressed Irene Khan, newly elected UN Special Rapporteuron the Promotion and Protection of theRight to Freedomof Opinion andExpression, and HarlemDésir, OSCE Representativeon Freedom of theMedia, in relation to the events developed in Adjara TV.

The Public Defender of Georgia provided information to the above persons about the violations revealed as a result of the examination of the events developed in the Adjara TV, which threatens media pluralism in the country and negatively affects freedom of expression. The Public Defender presumes that the ongoing events in the Adjara Public Broadcaster are aimed at changing the editorial policy of the TV station.

The Public Defender of Georgia also emphasized that the existence of a public broadcaster free of interference, especially during the election year, was critical. Prior to the events described in the letters sent to the OSCE Representative and the UN Special Rapporteur, a number of local and international organizations had described the Adjara Public Broadcaster as an impartial TV station that was distinguished by transparent and balanced coverage of the election process.

The Public Defender asked the OSCE Representative and the UN Special Rapporteur to show interest in the information provided in the letter, address the Georgian authorities with a public statement and/or pay an official visit to Georgia as soon as possible to examine the circumstances described in the letter on the ground. The Public Defender hopes that the response of persons with international mandate to the processes ongoing in the Adjara Broadcaster will significantly contribute to the existence of free media in the country.

It should be noted that the Public Defender of Georgia actively monitors the developments in the Adjara TV and Radio and examines the alleged violations of its employees, both on her own initiative and on the basis of journalists' requests: In particular, on December 5, 2019, the Public Defender held meetings in the Adjara Public Broadcaster, expressed full support to journalists in their journalistic activities and promised to closely monitor the events ongoing in the TV station.

On February 19, 2020, the Public Defender visited the Adjara Public Broadcaster during her business visit to Batumi and expressed her opinion regarding the events developed in the Public Broadcaster.

On April 24, 2020, the Public Defender addressed the Director of the Adjara TV with a recommendation on the restoration of the labour rights of former and current employees of the Broadcaster.

On June 10, 2020, the Public Defender submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Batumi City Court regarding the Rules of Conduct on the Internet/Social Networks for the Employee (ies) of the Public Broadcaster’s Adjara TV and Radio, which, in the opinion of the Public Defender, form the basis for disproportionate restrictions on the freedom of expression of the Broadcaster's employees.

In addition to the above, on August 24, 2020, the Public Defender recommended the Director of the Adjara TV to restore the labour rights of former and current employees of the Public Broadcaster, as well as to refrain from discriminatory treatment in labour relations due to different opinion, membership of trade unions and/or other grounds in the future.

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