Rustavi 2 TV Apologizes for Their Journalist's Statement about Jesus

Georgia’s most opposition-minded TV station, Rustavi 2, has apologized for their TV anchor, Giorgi Gabunia’s statement about Jesus, saying he [Christ] made a “huge mistake” when he went to Israel 2000 years ago.

“Instead, Jesus should have arrived in Georgia’s Adjara, where he would not have been crucified, as there are no trees left. All of them have been taken to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s garden,” Gabunia stated on March 18, referring to tycoon Ivanishvili, founder of Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party and ex-PM, who is famous for his tree-collecting hobby.

Gabunia’s statement was followed by harsh reaction from the ultra-nationalist and radical group of Georgians, called Georgian March, who demanded an apology from the Journalist, and held a protest rally at Rustavi 2 headquarters on Monday afternoon.

The protest turned into a confrontation, when the activists of the radical group attacked Gabunia’s car with Gabunia and Rustavi 2 lawyer Tamta Muradashvili inside it.

As Rustavi 2 claims, the protesters damaged the car and inflicted physical injuries to Rustavi 2 journalist Davit Eradze, who is in hospital now.

In total, 6 protesters were detained by the police during the March 19 rally at the broadcaster headquarters.

The Interior Ministry launched an investigation into the fact under the Article 126 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which means violence.

Rustavi 2 Director General, Nika Gvaramia apologized for Gabunia’s statement later on Monday, saying the broadcaster’s Ethics Commission discussed this issue and reprimanded the journalist because his statement contradicts the editorial policy of the channel and it also “hurt” religious feelings of Christian believers.

However, Gvaramia added that the TV management cannot make Gabunia apologize, as his statement falls into the principle of freedom of expression.

“Gabunia will express his position later, if he finds it necessary. The channel can only express its editorial attitude,” Rustavi 2 Director General said.

Moreover, Gvaramia condemned the attack on a Rustavi 2 journalist, saying the abusers cannot be considered as the followers of Christ.

Several NGOs have also commented on the issue, saying freedom of speech and media freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia, as well as by the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Forms of expression of protest should not exceed the standards established by law and should not include the use of force,” the NGOs stated and called on the law enforcment agencies for effective investigation into the incident.

By Thea Morrison

20 March 2018 10:10
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