A senior counsellor at Georgia’s embassy to the US and former Rustavi 2 journalist has been appointed the new head of RFE/RL’s Georgian service, Radio Tavisupleba, a source in the organisation has confirmed to OC Media. Natia Zambakhidze will reportedly take up the position in Prague on 1 May.
Zambakhidze will replace Radio Tavisupleba’s former head Davit Kakabadze, who was fired as in January reportedly for refusing pushes from RFE/RL’s central administration to partner with opposition-leaning TV channel Rustavi 2.
RFE/RL (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) is a US government-funded broadcaster based in Prague with branches across Eastern Europe, and elsewhere.
Zambakhidze has worked at Georgia’s embassy to the US since 2006, initially serving as first secretary, and since 2011, as a senior counselor, her Linkedin profile reads.
Zambakhidze previously worked at Rustavi 2, leaving the station in 2006.
‘Disagreements with the central management’
In mid-January, website BBG Watch, whose stated aim is to ‘restore good management’ at RFE/RL, published an article citing ‘multiple’ unnamed sources claiming that RFE/RL’s senior management was pressuring Radio Tavisupleba to ‘affiliate with’ Rustavi 2.
Kakabadze confirmed that his firing was ‘due to a disagreement with the central management’, and Bureau chief Marina Vashakmadze subsequently resigned in protest.
BBG Watch reported that staff at Radio Tavisupleba had been united in support behind Kakabadze, and Radio Tavisupleba issued a statement on another Georgian new site, Netgazeti, on 25 January which appeared to confirm this. They claimed Radio Tavisupleba and RFE/RL’s central management could not agree on ‘alternate TV partners’ after GPB stopped airing their shows. This, according to the statement, caused ‘severe controversy’ between Kakabadze and vice-president and editor-in-chief of RFE/RL Nenad Pejić.
Pejić has confirmed that the outlet had been considering partnering with Rustavi 2, but said they no longer were. He visited Georgia on 8 February and spoke with a number of local NGOs, after several organisations signed an open letter calling for answers. They had been concerned over reports that RFE/RL was pressuring Radio Tavisupleba, to cooperate with Rustavi 2.
[Read more about developments at Radio Tavisupleba on OC Media: RFE/RL vice-president says partnership with Rustavi 2 ‘out of question’]