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Rustavi 2 and its fate

By Messenger Staff
Monday, October 5
A couple of days ago, Nika Gvaramia, the director of one of Georgia's most influential TV channels, Rustavi 2, stated that the current Government was “closing the TV channel”.

His statement came after the verdict of Tbilisi City Court, which imposed a ban on the LTD Sakartvelo assets.

The LTD owns a 51% share of Rustavi 2.

The demand has been made to the court concerning the ban by the former owner of the channel Kibar Khalvashi, who is now fighting to be reinstated in his former position.

He has stated that the former government of Georgia deprived him of his shares and turned the channel into a “trumpet of the United National Movement”.

Through his earlier demands, the assets of Rustavi 2 was also sequestered, until the end of the legal process.

Khalvashi stated that if not the ban on asserts the current owners of Rustavi 2 would sell their shares and create problems for him when he “regained his shares”.

When it comes to the assets of Sakartvelo, Khalvashi’s lawyers have stated that they got received information from the Public Registry Agency that the owners of Sakartvelo intended to sell Sakartvelo’s shares to the brother-in-law of Georgia’s wanted ex-Minister of Defence Davit Kezerashvili, Dimitri Chikovani, which would have created problems for Khalvashi in the future.

Commenting on the issue, Gvaramia said that the current government informed Khalvashi over the deal.

However, it should be stated that everyone can get information from the Agency webpage, as most information is public.

He did not hide the fact that Chikovani was intended to put a 6 million GEL investment in the channel.

Gvaramia stated that since banning the company assets, the money was “vitally important” for the channel’s survival.

The Rustavi 2 case is quite complicated. On the one hand there is a legal process, initiated when the former owner demanded his shares, and on the other hand there is the fate of the channel, which is indeed very critical to the current state government, as it is watched by thousands of Georgians.

The Rustavi 2 leadership claims that the channel is impartial, while Georgia’s ruling government claims that the channel is biased towards the former ruling party, the UNM.

About a dozen civil society and media organizations, united in the Coalition for Media Advocacy, said in a joint statement that there are number of indications suggesting possible government involvement in the ongoing ownership dispute over Rustavi 2 TV.

“Although the dispute over the Rustavi 2 TV shares is a private law case that formally excludes direct involvement of the state in it, there are a number of circumstances which cause serious suspicion over the government’s influence on the ongoing process, including multiple statements (in some cases even threats) made by senior officials about Rustavi 2 TV, intolerance and attempts by the authorities to suppress dissent, critical views, as well as recent developments in the media (including simultaneous and unexpected closures of political talk shows in suspicious circumstances on various national broadcasters),” reads the statement.

It should be stressed that Gvaramia and the channel representatives frequently make political statements that should not be characteristic for an unbiased media outlet.

Gvaramia has stated that it is highly likely that the judge leading the Rustavi 2 case was under the influence of the current government.

Concerning the question as to what kind of television channel Rustavi 2 might be if the UNM comes back to power, Gvaramia responded that the channel would adopt a critical stance.

“However, we should have reasons to be critical. We might not be very critical to the pro-Western political forces as the UNM and Free Democrats, but we would naturaly be critical to anyone advocating pro-Russian sentiments,” Gvaramia said.

In any case, closure of the channel will not be profitable for the current government if it is truly involved in the process.

The closure will not be beneficial as it will raise multiple question marks.

At the same time, even if a media outlet undertakes the interests of the opposition, it is less risky for the country’s democratic advancement. If media is controlled by the government it is very damaging to the country’s democratic future.

The government must do its utmost to improve the hard economic situation in the country; in this case it will not (and should not) be afraid of even very tough criticism, as the people are the best judges.