Almost all of the participants and jury members of a literary competition in Georgia have pulled out after Culture Minister Tea Tsulukiani appointed a ministry official to the jury.
The Litera competition was cancelled on Monday following the exodus of participants.
Litera was established in 2015 by the Writers’ House of Georgia with the support of the Ministry of Culture. The contest awards prizes in six categories each year, with each winner receiving a cash prize of ₾5,000 ($1,600).
In their statement on Monday, the Writers’ House said that out of 110 books nominated, the authors of 93 had withdrawn from the competition. Four of the five members of the jury had also withdrawn, leaving only the government appointed member, they said.
In previous years, members of the Litera jury were selected by the Writers' House. According to the Writers’ House, on 3 June, Culture Minister Tea Tsulukiani signed an order mandating that at least one member of the jury in a competition receiving funding from the ministry must be a representative of the ministry.
Prior to this, two writers, Toresa Mossy and Mate Saralishvili, had left the competition because of what they termed Tsulukiani's ‘rough policies'.
The appointment of Ioseb Churburidze, an adviser to Tsulukiani, as a juror led to widespread anger and the withdrawal of other competitors and jurors.
‘Society assessed the ministry’s decision as interference in creative activities. Consequently, a large number of writers and publishers refused to participate in the competition and withdrew their applications’, the Writers' House’s statement reads.
Many of the writers also wrote that they were angry over Tsulukiani’s theft of a microphone belonging to a Mtavari Arkhi journalist on 22 July. The minister has yet to return the microphone.