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Rustavi 2 appeal to public

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, February 21
The Rustavi 2 TV broadcaster, held a rally in central Tbilisi with the background other the channel’s ownership issue.

During the rally, which was held in front of the parliament building, the general director of the channel, ex-Minister of Justice Nika Gvaramia, and a number of TV journalists addressed the gathered audience and members of the United National Movement and European Georgia opposition parties.

The addresses mainly included messages to the current ruling Georgian Dream government, the founder of the Georgian Dream party, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, and the courts.

The channel’s representatives accused the current state leadership and its “informal ruler” Ivanishvili of fighting against the channel, which “unveils the government’s drawbacks”.

They also appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia, to deliver a fair verdict in favour of the current and not former owners of the channel.

Gvaramia stated that the reason of the absence of the current shareholders of the channel at the rally was their presence in Ukraine, as their “lives could be at risk” in Georgia.

In his address, Gvaramia appealed to all to take “Christ’s and not Barabbas’s path and stand by Rustavi 2, on the side of the truth”.

The leader of the European Georgia opposition party, ex-Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava - who recently was released from prison - stated that the current government was repeating the same mistakes in terms of the media as their United National Movement predecessors.

He stressed that clever people learn from the mistakes of others, but the current authorities failed to do this.

The channel, which went black in protest prior to Sunday’s rally on late Friday, resumed broadcasting.

Kibar Khalvashi, who was a co-owner of Rustavi 2 from 2004 to 2006, filed a lawsuit in August 2015 to reclaim his shares in Rustavi 2, saying he was illegally deprived of his company shares under the previous United National Movement (UNM) government, which governed Georgia between 2003-2012.

Tbilisi City Court ruled against Rustavi 2's current owners in 2016, and the decision was upheld by the Appeals Court.

If the Supreme Court delivers the same verdict, Khalvashi will take over the channel.

Rustavi 2 and its supporters claim Khalvashi is backed by the government, which wants to silence the country's most critical television channel.

Rustavi 2 played an important role during the Rose Revolution in 2003, which ended Eduard Shevardnadze’s leadership.

“Between 2004 and 2012, the ownership of Rustavi 2 changed approximately 20 times, often in controversial deals that had a political flavour, involving people with close links to [then] President Mikheil Saakashvili and to officials of the UNM-led government,” earlier research of Transparency International Georgia said.