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Officials comment on Rustavi 2 case

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, October 23
“For us, the main principle remains unchanged - this is media freedom and I want to underline once again that the government has nothing to do with the recent developments around Rustavi 2 TV,” the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili, stated before the government sitting.

According to Garibashvili, behind the supporters of Rustavi 2 stand the members of the opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), and they are trying to drag people into the case.

“I was told that Rustavi 2 supporters are going to gather at the Court but in reality, they are members of the UNM. I want to call on them to stop these provocations, otherwise they will get what they deserve if they violate the law,” stated the PM.

It should be noted that the businessman Kibar Khalvashi, who co-owned Rustavi 2 TV in 2004-2006, filed a lawsuit in August claiming that he was forced to give up his shares in the broadcaster about nine years ago, and now wants to reclaim his shares in Rustavi 2 TV. For its part, Rustavi 2 TV claims that Khalvashi is acting on behalf of the government and upon instructions of the former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili, who wants to take over the most popular and opposition-minded TV channel.

The Chief Executive of Rustavi 2 TV, Nika Gvaramia, stated on October 21 that he received a threat from the government to leak a video of his personal life if he refuses to stay away from the case. He also said that from the person who is threatening him, he learnt that the Judge Tamaz Urtmelidze is going to pass a verdict in favour of Khalvashi.

Gvaramia’s statement caused sharp reactions among the people and officials.

Moreover, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office said it launched an investigation into allegations voiced by head of the Rustavi 2 TV. According to the Prosecutor’s Sffice, Gvaramia will be summoned to give an official statement.

Following the statements of the PM, the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili made a comment.

According to him, the statements of Garibashvili caused more tension and unrest.

“I call on everyone to stay calm and refrain from strong emotions, in order to defend civil peace. I call on the judge not to make a harsh decision, which could escalate the situation. I plan to start consultations with political parties, non-governmental organizations and the diplomatic corps in order to maintain civil peace and the stability of the constitutional order in our country ", said the President.

It should be mentioned that the situation between the government and the UNM supporters continues to worsen.

On Wednesday, a pro-government group in western Georgia brought a small welding machine at the local offices of opposition UNM party in the main cities and welded the doors shut.

The next day, the activists painted the doors of the UNM offices red in western and eastern cities of Georgia.

Meanwhile a group of people gathered outside of the Constitutional Court, supporting Rustavi 2 and protesting the “farce staged by the government”.