Nika Gvaramia, Georgia

International Press Freedom Awards

Mtavari Arkhi

CPJ is honored to present its 2023 International Press Freedom Award to Georgian journalist Nika Gvaramia

Georgian journalist Nika Gvaramia served more than a year of a 3.5-year prison sentence before receiving a presidential pardon in June 2023. 

The charges against Gvaramia were widely denounced as politically motivated. He is the only journalist in Georgia to receive a prison sentence in retaliation for their work since CPJ started keeping record of jailed journalists in 1992.  

Gvaramia, who has worked in journalism since 2012, was previously elected to Georgia’s Parliament and held government positions following the country’s 2003 peaceful revolution. A lawyer by training, he served on the legal team defending opposition leader and former President Mikheil Saakashvili between 2021 and 2022.

In 2019, Gvaramia was heading Rustavi 2, then the country’s leading opposition broadcaster, when Georgian authorities enforced a court decision to transfer the station to a businessman believed to have close government ties. After the new owner dismissed him, Gvaramia then founded a new independent broadcaster, Mtavari Arkhi (Main Channel). As a TV presenter, he was known for his sharp criticism of the ruling Georgian Dream party. His show often featured investigations exposing alleged government corruption and abuses and covered allegations of Georgian authorities’ pro-Russian bias.

Within weeks of Gvaramia announcing his intention to found Mtavari Arkhi, police filed charges against him for alleged abuse of office and embezzlement, accusing him of using his position at Rustavi 2 to sign unfavorable advertising deals for his own financial gain. The journalist denied the charges and called them retribution for his journalism. 

In 2022, a Georgian court sentenced Gvaramia to 3.5 years in prison on two abuse of office charges, a move condemned by Georgian civil society and the international community. Reviews of the case by the Public Defender of Georgia, an independent human rights ombudsman elected by Parliament, and by the local chapter of anticorruption group Transparency International, concluded that there were no legal grounds for holding him criminally liable for the alleged actions.

Following sustained advocacy by CPJ and other organizations, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili granted Gvaramia a presidential pardon on June 22, 2023, days after the Supreme Court rejected his appeal.    

Honoring Gvaramia at this year’s IPFA shines a spotlight on the recent deterioration of press freedom in Georgia. CPJ has documented numerous cases of harassment and physical assaults against journalists, decreasing media access to government institutions and the authorities’ attempts to amend national legislation that would restrict press freedom as the country seeks admission to the European Union and democratic principles are fiercely contested in light of Russia’s war against Ukraine.