General-Director of the Rustavi 2 TV Nika Tabatadze denied that Eka Khoperia, a popular anchor of the political talk-show aired by the television, was pressured by the Rustavi 2 top management or by the authorities.
Eka Khoperia, an anchor of the weekly Tavisupali Tema (Free Theme), announced during the live program on July 6 that she resigns, refusing to follow “unacceptable” instructions.
“A statement made by my friend and colleague Eka Khoperia was an absolute surprise. I categorically rule out that any pressure was exerted on Eka Khoperia by the Rustavi 2 top management, as well as I rule out that there was an attempt to interfere in her program’s [editorial policy],” Nika Tabatadze said at a news conference on July 7.
Sandro Girgvliani's high-profile murder case was the topic of Eka Khoperia’s talk show on July 6. Khoperia announced during the live program that she was instructed to interview Data Akhalaia, ex-chief of the Interior Ministry’s Department for Constitutional Security. Akhalaia has been accused by the Girgvliani relatives, as well as some human right groups and opposition parties of being behind this murder case.
“But the condition was that Akhalaia should have been last [guest] of the program; such conditions are absolutely unacceptable for me. Also I think that when such a murder [referring to the Girgvliani's case] occurs in the country at least the Interior Minister should resign. So this is my last program and I quit this television [Rustavi 2],” Eka Khoperia said.
Tabatadze said that before the program was launched Khoperia informed him about Data Akhalaia’s willingness to be the last guest of the talk-show.
“But Khoperia wanted to interview attorneys of the victim [Sandro Girgvliani] after interviewing Akhalaia… This bargaining about who will be first guest and who – last is a normal part of the working process over the program. Akhalaia was not asking us to be interviewed. The Rustavi 2 requested an interview with him and his conditions was to be the last guest of the program. This is a normal process… that is why I am saying that Khoperia’s statement sounded very strange and surprising for me,” Tabatadze said.
The Rustavi 2 TV chief also said that he talked with Khoperia after the program and now he has “an impression that Eka Khoperia is ready to continue cooperation with Rustavi 2.”
Eka Khoperia has not yet made any public comment after the program.
Khoperia’s statement is a blow not only for the Rustavi 2 TV, but for the authorities as well. The Rustavi 2 TV has often been accused by opponents of perusing an official line of the President Saakashvili’s administration. It has also been widely speculated that the television’s editorial policy was largely determined by officials from the ruling National Movement party. Eka Khoperia’s statement was the first case when a journalist of the Rustavi 2 television spoke out publicly against the pressure.