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Natia Zoidze, former deputy director of Ajara TV (file photo)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says the resignation of a Georgian regional public TV channel's deputy director this week is the latest example of "political pressure" undermining media pluralism and free speech in the South Caucasus country.

On February 2, Natia Zoidze announced her resignation from Ajara TV, based in the Black Sea port city of Batumi, saying it was the result of a "political process."

She had accused the TV channel's new director, Georgi Kokhreidze, of applying pressure for a change in editorial policies.

Zoidze's resignation is "indicative of the growing political pressure on state-owned media in Georgia," Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement on February 5.

Meanwhile, "government allies are increasingly getting control of critical or independent media," said Cavelier, who called on the Georgian authorities to guarantee media independence and pluralism in the run-up to the October parliamentary elections.

Georgia's TV channels suffer from "politically biased government measures," according to the Paris-based media-freedom watchdog.

It cited the case of a popular opposition TV station, Rustavi-2, which "turned into the government's mouthpiece" following a change in ownership last year.

The change led to the departure of most of Rustavi-2's staff. Director-General Nika Gvaramia has been fired and prosecuted on a charge of "abuse of power."

Georgia is ranked 60th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) (file photo)

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says Iranian security forces have raided journalists’ homes in recent days in an attempt to intimidate critics ahead of next month’s parliament elections.

Members of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) raided the Tehran homes of journalists Maziar Khosravi, Yasaman Khaleghian, Moloud Hajizadeh, and Yaghma Fakhshami, CPJ said in a statement on February 5, citing news reports and a person familiar with the cases.

According to those sources, documents were confiscated and equipment was seized in the January 26 and February 3 raids. The IRGC agents did not make any arrests or declare a reason for the raids.

The raids come weeks before Iran is scheduled to hold general elections on February 21.

“Raiding journalists’ homes in the run-up to an election shows that Iranian authorities are intent on stifling discussion and intimidating critics,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour.

“If authorities want to show that the country’s elections are open and fair, they must allow journalists to work without fear,” he said, calling on Iranian authorities to cease raiding reporter’s homes and return laptop, phones, notebooks, and all other material confiscated in recent raids.

The person who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity said that IRGC agents told all four the four journalists they would be contacted for questioning in the coming days.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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