Washington D.C. – The McCain Institute at Arizona State University expressed its deep concern today about the erosion of press freedoms in Georgia, in the case of Nika Gvaramia. Today, one of Georgia’s Appellate Courts decided to continue, as expected, the imprisonment of Mr. Gvaramia, the founder and director of pro-opposition news channel Mtavari TV.
“As the independence of Georgia’s judicial institutions face increasing scrutiny, Georgian authorities should release Mr. Gvaramia and allow him and all other press members in Georgia to work freely and unencumbered from arbitrary detentions or heavy-handed fines,” said Pedro Pizano, Manager of the Institute’s Human Rights and Democracy Program, who was just in Georgia for our sixth Tbilisi Conference with EPRC and the Bush Center. “A free press is one of the hallmarks of a free and prosperous society,” he continued “and Gvaramia’s arrest, trial, conviction, sentence, and now appeal, seem arbitrary and contrary to the rule of law.”
The international community, including the U.S. State Department and leaders from civil society, have expressed deep concern about this case from the start, including about the timing and charges, as well as the conviction and sentence. Additionally, unjust arrests and imprisonments, like the case of Mr. Gvaramia, weakens the Georgian public’s trust in its rule of law and institutions.
Pizano has been in touch with Mr. Gvaramia’s lawyers, which have given him permission to publish this legal advocacy memo, prepared by them with no edits from us, which outlines and details some of the procedural and legal history as well as the charges. In addition, Pizano published a short blog post about Mr. Gvaramia today with his colleague Luke Englebert: The Georgian DREAM of Press Freedom – The Case of Nika Gvaramia.
No U.S. politician advocated more for Georgia than Senator John McCain. He warned everyone for years about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression toward Eastern Europe. Georgia has also been an important country to the McCain family, as shown by Senator McCain and Ambassador Cindy McCain multiple for diplomatic and humanitarian trips.
In 2008, Senator McCain remarked, “What the people of Georgia have accomplished in terms of democratic governance, a Western orientation, and domestic reform is nothing short of remarkable.”
While Mr. Gvaramia’s arrest represents a step in the wrong direction for Georgian human rights, rule of law, and democracy, The McCain Institute will continue to support media freedom and the judicial reforms that are necessary to build the democracy that Senator McCain spoke of and that the Georgian people deserve.
We call on the Supreme Court of Georgia to reverse the decision and acquit him of all charges, if that’s where the evidence leads, and/or the Georgian President to pardon Nika Gvaramia to secure his immediate release. Georgia’s press freedom is at stake.
Contact Pedro Pizano at [email protected] for media requests, interviews, and further information as well as relevant contacts about Nika’s case.