Public Defender Founds Violation of Rights of Four More Former and Current Employees of Adjara TV
The Public Defender of Georgia has completed the examination of cases of alleged violation of the rights of Teona Turmanidze, presenter-reporter of Adjara TV news service, Teona Kharabadze, reporter of the same service, Sophio Zhgenti, head of the online media service, and Malkhaz Rekhviashvili, former presenter-reporter of the evening programme.
Examination of the case materials revealed that the dismissal of Malkhaz Rekhviashvili, restriction of Teona Turmanidze's access to television activities and the substantial change in the terms of Sophio Zhgenti’s employment contract (the type of work to be performed) resulted in the violation of their rights, while the change in the place of employment of Teona Kharabadze represented an intensive interference with her labour right. At the same time, it is noteworthy that the violation of the rights of Malkhaz Rekhviashvili and Teona Turmanidze was caused by unjustified and disproportionate interference with the applicants' freedom of expression.
In addition, the Public Defender considers that discrimination on grounds of different opinion and membership of a trade union occurred during the interference with the labour rights of Teona Turmanidze and Teona Kharabadze.
In view of the above, on August 24, 2020, the Public Defender of Georgia addressed the Director of Adjara TV with a recommendation to annul the orders dismissing Malkhaz Rekhviashvili and temporarily restricting Teona Turmanidze from working as TV presenter and to restore their rights; in the future, in the process of making any kind of staff-related or organizational decision, to strictly observe the requirements of law in relation to these procedures and to ensure the full realization of the rights of the employees whose rights and responsibilities are impacted by such decisions; to annul the decision, on the basis of which, Teona Kharabadze was notified to carry out the duties of a reporter in Kutaisi and to provide her with the opportunity to fully perform her duties; in addition, to refrain from discriminatory treatment in labour relations due to different opinion, membership of a trade union and/or on other grounds in the future and to observe the principle of equality while carrying out activities.
It should be noted that the Public Defender of Georgia has been actively monitoring the recent events developed in the Public Broadcaster’s Adjara TV and Radio and examining the alleged violations of the employees’ rights. In particular, on April 24, 2020, the Public Defender found a violation of the labour rights of Shorena Glonti, former head of the news service, Maia Merkviladze, deputy head of the news service, and Teona Bakuridze, presenter-reporter of the same service.
Later, on June 10, 2020, the Public Defender submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Batumi City Court regarding the rules of conduct in the internet/social networks approved by the Director of Adjara TV in April 2020, separate provisions of which allow for disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression of persons employed by the Broadcaster.
In view of the above, the recent cases have further strengthened doubts about the proper realization of the labour rights and freedom of expression of persons employed by the Broadcaster, as well as the maintenance of a critical editorial policy.
 Other applicants have applied to the court regarding the facts reflected in the Public Defender’s recommendation, due to which, the Public Defender suspended the examination of alleged discrimination on the basis of Article 9, paragraph 1, sub-paragraph “a”, of the Law of Georgia on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination.