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Founders of Rustavi 2 claim the channel is opposition’s trumpet

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, August 11
Former founders and shareholders of Georgia’s one of the most influential TV channel, Rustavi 2, have released a special statement that reads that a legal process has no alternative and that Rustavi 2 is a biased channel, serving the interests of the opposition party, United National Movement (UNM).

The two former founders of the channel, Jarji Akimidze and Davit Dvali, made the statement in response to the current claims of the Rustavi 2 Director and the UNM members that the process ongoing in terms of the channel, when its assets were frozen based on the demand of a former owner of the station, Kibar Khalvashi, is ran by the current government.

Similar to Kibar Khalvashi, the two stress that they were forced to give their shares to the UNM officials when they were in power.

“It is cynical when the UNM states that the independent media is being suppressed by the current government, when they had used all the illegal methods since 2004 to grab the shares of Rustavi2 and transform it into its own trumpet.

“We are the victims of violence of the UNM government,” they stated.

The individuals believe that a legal process has no alternative and hope that trials would be transparent and ensure fair verdicts.

In response, Director of Rustavi 2 Nika Gvaramia said that Akimidze, Dvali and Khalvashi serve the interests of the current government and the “real ruler of the country, former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.”

He stressed that Ivanishvili aims at destroying the “independent media outlet and in this way, he attacks democracy in Georgia.”

The view is shared by the UNM members, who stress that the government will have to pay a high cost for its attack on the most influential media outlets.

Meanwhile, the greatest part of the majority representatives claim that it is a legal process and solutions are totally up to the court.

They also remind Gvaramia his position when he was the UNM official and when under the previous government one of the leading media outlets, Imedi TV, was raided and its assets were frozen.

At that time, Gvaramia stated that Imedi was not an independent media and that the relevant bodies and the court should specify the truth.

Commenting on the issue, Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili stated that as a “non- totalitarian President he stands by impartial media.”

The ex-owner of Rustavi 2, Georgian businessman Kibar Khalvashi, announced via his attorneys that he had initiated a lawsuit against the present shareholders of the company.

At a press conference on August 5, 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 himself to concede his property to the new owner in December 2006.

The court also stated that according to Khalvashi demand it froze the assets of Rustavi 2, except the channel’s bank accounts.

NGO Transparency International Georgia (TI) has stated that the court’s verdict lacked argumentation, the high standard evidence that is essential for such high-profile cases.

The NGO appealed to the government officials to refrain from making any statements that might influence the verdicts and addressed to the court to be maximally transparent and fair in its solutions and meet all the international standards.

Now Rustavi 2 intends to appeal the verdict to higher authorities.