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Forbes editor resigns, accusing publishers of censorship

By Salome Modebadze
WEdnesday, March 28
The Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Georgia has left his position.

On March 27, Revaz Sakevarishvili spoke about the censorship he endured from the co-founder of the magazine, accusing the President of Media Partners Georgia of interfering in the editorial policy of his magazine. According to Sakevarishvili, attempts to pressure him, suppress his editorial independence, and outright censorship caused him to resign his position.

It was earlier this month when the American edition of Forbes published an article about Georgian businessman and political leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, with the billionaire’s photo on the cover and a title reading "Nobody’s Bigger Than Bidzina". As Sakevarishvili said, this article only intensified his conflict with Gagik Egiazaryan, President of Media Partners Georgia.

As Editor-in-Chief, Sakevarishvili hoped to bring to his readers' attention the Georgian representative on the Forbes billionaire list, as well as his coveted position on the cover of the American magazine. His idea was rejected by Media Partners Georgia.

The former editor of Forbes Georgia suspects that the friendship between Egiazaryan and head of the Georgian Intelligence Service Gela Bezhuashvili might be the basis for this decision, in order to avoid “such types of publication that may irritate the government".

Having personally prepared an interview with Ivanishvili, Sakevarishvili refused to drop the story, or allow the publishers to tweak his questions.

“I found it impossible to continue working as the Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Georgia,” he said, protesting limitations on the editorial independence of the media. Speaking of constant pressure from Media Partners Georgia, he claims that he has electronic evidence in which Egiazaryan demands adjustments to stories to better fit his personal views. “But for the sake of corporate ethics, I won’t publicize this correspondence,” Sakevarishvili remarked, although adding that he will make these exchanges publicly available if necessary.

Suspecting that an edited version of his Ivanishvili story may be published anyway, he has released his version outside of Forbes, in order to set the record straight.

Sakevarishvili has been the Editor-in-Chief of Forbes' twentieth local-language edition since October, 2011. Calling Forbes Georgia a “professional challenge”, he emphasized the great responsibility of working “under the umbrella of one of the world’s leading media brands” famous for its objectivity and high journalistic standards.

He emphasized the importance of establishing such a “trustworthy and authoritative media-institution” in Georgia, in order to improve the media environment and raise the professional level of journalism across the country.

Shorena Shaverdashvili, Editor-in-Chief of Liberal magazine believes that the Georgian media is heavily politicized and called Sakevarishvili’s decision “heroism.” As she told The Messenger, an editor has a responsibility to his or her staff, which Sakevarishvili proved by taking a “principled position” against censorship.

Although this is the first notable case of censorship in the print media, there have been incidents in which television stations were accused of “cooperating” on stories, both amongst themselves and with the government. Broadcasters Rustavi 2, Imedi TV and the Public Broadcaster's First Channel were recently accused of airing identical stories about the death of Soso Kimeridze in the police station in the provincial town of Khashuri.