The publisher of the Georgian edition of Forbes, which has been accused by the magazine’s former editor-in-chief of meddling in editorial policy, denied the allegation saying that it has “dismissed” Revaz Sakevarishvili for violating publishing business ethics.
Sakevarishvili, who has been the editor-in-chief of Forbes Georgia since it was launched four months ago, said on March 27 that he was quitting the magazine citing “systematic attempts of censorship and meddling into editorial independence” by Gagik Yeghiazarian, a co-founder of Media Partners, a company publishing Forbes Georgia.
“This story has nothing to do with censorship,” JSC Media Partners said in a statement posted on Forbes Georgia website on March 28. “[It’s] only about legal issues and publishing business ethics.”
The publisher claims that Sakevarishvili “copied most of the questions” for his interview with billionaire opposition politician Bidzina Ivanishvili from the one which the Russian business daily, Vedomosti, published with the billionaire seven years ago. It amounted to “violation of publishing business ethics”, which could have prompted justified plagiarism allegations against Forbes Georgia, Media Partners said in the statement.
The publisher said that for that reason a decision had been taken “to dismiss” Sakevarishvili from the post of editor-in-chief on March 26, a day earlier before the former editor announced about quitting the magazine.
“Revaz Sakevarishvili’s statements that he has quit the post in protest is not true,” Media Partners said.
Sakevarishvili said in a statement on March 27, that the most recent case of “censorship attempt” by co-founder of Media Partners, Gagik Yeghiazarian, came when Forbes Georgia wanted to make Ivanishvili a focus of its next issue. Ivanishvili featured in the Forbes magazine's annual list of the world's billionaires earlier this month with an accompanying lengthy story profiling the billionaire-turned-politician.
Sakevarishvili alleged Yeghiazarian was “meddling” in preparing questions for an interview with Ivanishvili and after interviewing the billionaire, Sakevarishvili claimed, Yeghiazarian tried to “directly and roughly censor” the text of interview. Sakevarishvili disseminated text of his interview with Ivanishvili, recorded for Forbes Georgia, online through various media sources on March 26, saying that he “felt obliged” to do so in order to avoid “improper use” of the text by Forbes Georgia after his departure from the magazine – he was referring to his claim that the original text could have been doctored.
Media Partners also said in the statement that Sakevarishvili’s decision to disseminate Forbes Georgia’s exclusive interview with Bidzina Ivanishvili without permission of the publisher “contains certain signs of violation of law.”
The publisher said that its lawyers were studying the issue and possibility of referring the case to the court.
Former editor, Revaz Sakevarishvili, said in his statement on March 27, that his email correspondence with Yeghiazarian contained evidence to prove his allegations about censorship attempts from the publisher, but would not make them public at this stage citing “internal corporate ethics”. He, however, also added he reserved the right to release the correspondence publicly “if needed”.
Forbes Georgia was launched in December 2011; its publisher, Media Partners, according to Forbes, “is a publishing house established by partners that have more than ten years of industry experience in Caucasus and Central Asia."