The Georgian pro-government TV channel, POSTV, has run a series of negative stories on a woman who was found to have been sexually harassed by the channel’s founder, Shalva Ramishvili.
It comes as Ramishvili faces an onslaught of new allegations of sexual harassment from at least six more women.
Last week, the channel accused Tatia Samkharadze of taking money from the opposition United National Movement party (UNM) in exchange for ‘organising a campaign’ against Ramishvili.
Samkharadze, a former employee of the channel, won a civil suit against Ramishvili for sexual harassment in 2018. At the time, she said that many more women had had similar experiences with Ramishvili.
[Read on OC Media: Georgian pro-government media owner hit with sexual harassment allegations]
On Friday night, POSTV said that based on an ‘anonymous source’ they believed Samkharadze had now been kidnapped by UNM member Dimitri Chikovani. The pro-government channel Imedi reported similar information.
After POSTV arrived at Chikovani’s home and said they had called the police, police conducted a search of his house.
Writing on Saturday, Samkharadze denied having been kidnapped. She accused the security services of ‘act[ing] in unison with POSTV journalists to intimidate and silence women victims.’
‘Unfortunately, instead of the investigative agencies taking a serious interest in these serial crimes that Shalva Ramishvili has been committing against women for years, they are setting up hybrid special operations together with the police, as if I were abducted’, she wrote.
‘I am addressing Georgian Dream; today, you are represented by a blackmailing sexual maniac.’
On Monday, she addressed president Salome Zurabishvili for her help, after POSTV journalists visited her home.
‘Even now, several groups are standing near the entrance! People, how long should I be kept in this captivity?’, she wrote.
Dimitri Chikovani also accused POSTV of making a false police report.
On 25 March, the Special Investigation Service said they had opened an investigation into illegal interference in a POSTV journalist’s work after the channel accused Chikovani of punching one of their journalists.
On Monday, a number of opposition parties, including the UNM, Strategy Aghmashenebeli, and Droa, expressed solidarity with Samkharadze, and other alleged victims of Ramishvili.
A slew of accusations
Since 20 March, at least six more women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Ramishvili.
On Saturday, Formula aired a recording of what they said was Ramishvili harassing Anania Gachechiladze. Formula said the recording was dated from 2018, when Gachechiladze was 22 and working as a journalist at TV Pirveli, and Ramishvili was 47.
Despite Gachechiladze making clear she was not interested in pursuing a sexual relationship with him, the man identified as Ramishvili is heard continuing to make sexual advances.
‘Don’t you like it when a man touches you like a father touches his child?’ he asks. ‘Do you mind if [a man] beats you while fucking?’
‘You’re stubborn, you’re a little girl and a mindfuck’, he says.
‘Get on all fours and you will be just fucked’.
The recording continues.
After coming under fire for not responding to the allegations sooner, on Monday, the newly appointed Public Defender, Levan Ioseliani, said he was prepared to investigate if the victims made an official complaint.
The Public Defender also said that a number of statements by members of the public and politicians were reinforcing stereotypes towards victims of abuse.
The ruling Georgian Dream party has lept to Ramishvili’s defence since the new allegations emerged.
On 20 March, Nino Tsilosani, who chairs parliament’s Gender Equality Council, made a statement condemning sexual harassment in general but warning against identifying a perpetrator through ‘the moral police instead of the law’.
‘We should all understand that this sort of crime is very grave, but that making rushed conclusions and accusations is equally grave’, wrote Tsilosani.
In a statement on Monday, President Salome Zurabishvili attacked the government for what she described as complicity in violence against women.
‘The government does not distance itself from violence, even verbally’, she said.
‘On the contrary, it encourages the perpetrator and repeatedly abuses the victim. This does not belong in our country. You should be ashamed.’