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ECtHR’s extends interim measure on Rustavi 2

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, March 10
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has extended the interim measure on the Rustavi 2 case for an indefinite time, which means the former owners of the channel will not get back the 100% of the channel's shares, as Georgia’s Supreme Court ruled several days ago.

“We have won,” Nika Gvaramia, Director General of the channel, stated shortly after the European Court aired its solution on March 7.

The opposition and a number of NGOs congratulated Georgia on the decision, evaluating it as a lever to protect Rustavi 2 and other media outlets in Georgia.

The former owner of the channel, Kibar Khalvashi, says the case's discussion in the European Court may continue for several years, which will financially damage him.

Meanwhile, several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have expressed concern over the Rustavi 2 case and send a letter.

MEPs called on the President of European Commission and the High Representative of the European Commission to critically assess the Georgian government’s actions towards the free media.

"Change of the channel’s ownership rights and possible changes in its editorial policy – which will turn Rustavi2 into another government friendly media outlet – would seriously impede the quality of democracy and free media in Georgia. This would undermine Georgia’s ability to comply with the obligations it has undertaken as a signatory country of the Association Agreement with the European Union," the letter reads.

Representatives from the Georgian Dream party stated the Rustavi 2 case was a dispute between its former and current owners and had nothing to do with the government.

Responding to the MEPs’ letter, majority MP Gia Volski said the letter was written only by several members. Majority MP Gia Zhorzholiani added that “not all European Parliament members enjoy high qualifications”.

Founded in 1994, the broadcasting company changed ownership about 20 times between 2004 and 2012, Transparency International Georgia said.

Former owner Khalvashi filed a lawsuit in 2015 and stressed that his property had been illegally seized from him by the previous United National Movement government.

He stressed he purchased the company for 7 million USD in 2004 but was forced under strong pressure to concede the company to a new owner in December 2006.

Members of the ruling Georgian Dream Government, who describe Rustavi 2 as an opposition TV channel, stressed it was an ownership dispute and they had nothing to do with the court’s 'independent solution'.

The Government vowed to support media pluralism and free media in Georgia.

Meanwhile, the opposition are accusing the government of fighting against Rustavi 2 and making an illegitimate decision in terms of the channel's ownership.

The European Court of Human Rights suspended of the court’s verdict until it discussed the issue widely.