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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Journalist Resigns on the Air

ReutersHundreds of people rallying Friday at the parliament building in Tbilisi to protest the handling of Girgvliani's killing.
TBILISI, Georgia -- A top Georgian TV presenter has quit her job complaining of government pressure, reinforcing concern about dwindling media freedoms under President Mikheil Saakashvili since the 2003 Rose Revolution.

Eka Khoperia, head of news at Rustavi-2, a leading private channel, and host of a nightly political talk show, made the announcement live on Thursday night during the broadcasting of "Open Topic." The program then abruptly went off the air after a commercial break. "This is my last program and I am quitting the channel," she said.

Khoperia's resignation came during a program devoted to a high-profile murder trial that ended Thursday with the conviction of four former officers in Georgia's Interior Ministry over the death of a young banker, a case that has become a political scandal.

The four were convicted of causing bodily harm leading to death -- a charge lighter than the murder charge that relatives and friends of the victim, Sandro Girgvliani, 28, had wanted.

Critics accuse the government of making scapegoats of the four former officers, who were widely believed to have acted under orders from higher up.

Hundreds of Georgians protested Friday in central Tbilisi.

Khoperia complained about conditions attached to the appearance of one of the guests she had invited onto the program, Data Akhalaya, a former top Interior Ministry official who resigned earlier this year over allegations that he may have been involved in ordering the killing. "The condition was that Akhalaya should have been the last [guest] of the show; such conditions are absolutely inadmissible for me. Also, I think that when such a murder occurs in the country at least the interior minister has to resign," she said.

Critics say television has largely become a mouthpiece for the government since Saakashvili came to power vowing to combat the corruption that flourished under his predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze, and integrate his nation into the West.