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Rustavi 2 TV channel assets frozen

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, August 10
The assets of one of the most influential TV channels in Georgia, Rustavi 2, have been frozen by the order of Tbilisi City Court, based on the demand of one the former owners of the media outlet, Kibar Khalvashi. Rustavi 2 claims that the decision has been sponsored by the government that is irritated by the channel’s critical broadcasting.

The former owner also demanded the freeze over the bank accounts of the outlets. However, the court did not fulfil the issue.

The court’s verdict bans current owners of the channel to sell shares, as well as to sell or rent out broadcast equipment, vehicles and other property owned by the company.

The Director of Rustavi 2, Nika Gvaramia, said that the court order also bars the channel from having any kind of relation with banks.

“We won’t be able to take loans and we won’t be able to rent out our equipment, which is also one of our sources of income,” Gvaramia said and stressed that the judge Tamaz Urtmelidze who made the solution was affiliated with the ruling Georgian Dream coalition.

“This court order shows that the lawsuit is clearly politicized and has nothing to do with property rights,” Gvaramia said.

Prior to the court verdict Gvaramia said that the judge who had made a negative verdict against Rustavi 2, against the unbiased media, would have received a “mortal affect” on his career.

Now the channel intends to appeal the verdict to higher instances. As Gvaramia states, the channel will use all its “legal and not only legal levers to win the war.”

“Apart from legal levers we have some other means as well we are going to use in the process, as it is not only a legal fight,” Gvaramia said.

The Prime Minister and governmental officials stress that they have nothing to do with the case as the topic is related to the court.

However, the opposition United National Movement party emphasizes that the government is hoping to take revenge on the media that is the most critical and objective in its activities.

“The Rustavi 2 case will turn out to be fatal for the current government,” UNM leader Davit Bakradze said.

The Non- Governmental Organization ( NGO) Transparency International Georgia claims that Between 2004 and 2012, Rustavi 2 changed owners approximately 20 times, often in controversial deals that had a political flavour, involving people with close links to former President Mikheil Saakashvili and to officials of the United National Movement-led government. “Rustavi 2 is now the only major channel that is largely perceived to be close to the opposition: in a recent NDI/CRRC poll, 47% of respondents said the station’s programming reflected the interests of the UNM,” TI said.

Kibar Khalvashi’s lawyers claimed their client purchased the broadcasting company for $7 million USD in 2004 but was forced under strong pressure of the Saakashvili-led government and ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili to concede his property to the new owner in December 2006.

Khalvashi moved to Germany in 2008 as he was granted a political asylum there.

Since Khalvashi made a lawsuit, two other former owners and founders of Rustavi 2 Davit Dvali and Jarji Akimidze are also preparing a lawsuit. Based on the statements of lawyers more details will be revealed in the coming week.

Rustavi 2 was established in 1994 by three shareholders: Dvali, Akimidze and the late Erosi Kitsmarishvili, who was found dead in his car in an underground parking lot in his home in central Tbilisi on July 15, 2014. The Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia is still investigating this case.