TBILISI, DFWatch – Editor in Chief of the Georgian edition of Forbes blames the magazine’s owner of censorship, after an interview with the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is trying to wrest power from President Saakashvili.
At a press conference March 27, Revaz Sakevarishvili, editor of Forbes Georgia said he was subject to political pressure and as a sign of protest to censorship, he resigned.
The owner of Forbes Georgia has not yet made any comment.
Sakevarishvili told journalists that Gagik Eghiarazarian, president of Forbes Georgia founder company, several times attempted to intervene in his editorial decisions. However ‘he was solving all kinds of harassment and censorship diplomatically until today.’
The conflict became more tense when the American edition of Forbes published a front page article about Bidzina Ivanishvili in its March edition which gave the billionaire room to air his opinions.
Revaz Sakevarishvili as editor in chief considered that only one Georgian representative of Forbes billionaires would have gotten into Forbes Georgia too.
“In such a condition I faced categorical resistance from Eghiazarian – to take the whole planned publication about Ivanishvili by editorship at first and later attempt to intervene in preparing a questionnaire for Ivanishvili’s interview,” he explains.
He suspects that censorship attempt of Eghazariani as founder is conditioned by his personal acquaintances, particuarly that he is friends with Gela Bezhuashvili, Head of Georgia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. Therefore, he claims, Eghiazariani was trying not to publish material that would be unpleasant for the government.
“I consider it impossible to keep on being editor in chief of Forbes Georgia under such conditions. As a sign of protest to the owner’s rough interference in the editorial activity, I resign,” Sakevarishvili said.
He informed Forbes’ head office in New York, where they answered briefly that it might have been better to discuss this incident within the company. However, due to the fact that Sakevarishvili is not sure how the interview will turn out when it is published in the end of week, and whether it will be distorted, he preferred to present the original version to the public.
E-mails between him and Eghiazarian document repeated interventions and censorship of the editorial independence, where the owner demands to conduct the magazine’s editorial policy according to his own views, Sakevarishvili says.
He didn’t publish this material because of corporative ethical principles; however if necessary he may publish it.
Later Media Partners, company which founded Forbes Georgia released comment that they had fired Sakevarishvili before he made this statement.
“…for violation of judiciary and ethical aspects of editorial policy; defending them was his obligation as editor in chief of Forbes Georgia.”
The statement explains that in the interview with Ivanishvili he used ‘a majority of the questions from an article published in Russian Vedomosty on Aprili 7, 2005 ‘I did not think that I would become a billionaire’ (Не думал что стану миллиардером).’
“Publishing a text which was published by another edition is a gross violation of business editorial ethics. Our readers, as well as Russian colleagues who hold the copyright to the original text of the interview, would have been completely right to blame us of plagiarism. No responsible publication which cares about its reputation would allow itself to make such steps,” the statement says.
The Georgian edition of Forbes started publishing in December 2011. Sakevarishvili has been editor since the day it was established. Four issues have been published. The fifth issue is ready and should have been published tomorrow, but it has been stopped because of these events.