23 Aug 2019 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 25 Aug 2015 n° 48/2015 Georgia

Georgian TV Channel Rustavi 2 Faces Crippling Court Measures in Civil Case

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ AEJ
Partner EFJ/IFJ AEJ
On 5 August 2015, the Tbilisi City Court issued an order freezing the assets of the country’s largest private media outlet, the television channel Rustavi 2, as an interim measure pending a verdict. The court order concerns a civil lawsuit lodged by Kibar Khalvashi, a local businessman, to recover shares he claims he was forced to give up in 2006.
According to the Independent Association of Georgian Journalists (IAGJ), between 2004 and 2012, Rustavi 2 changed owners approximately 20 times, often in controversial deals involving people with close links to ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili. The TV channel, which is now the only major channel perceived to be close to the opposition, is facing excessive legal threats: over a hundred journalists may lose their jobs and news programs may be suspended.
The court decision, based on an ownership dispute, is disproportionate and may negatively affect media pluralism in Georgia. The journalists’ organisations call on the Georgian authorities to ensure a transparent and fair process in handling the case, without any interference from politically affiliated groups.
Updates
New 23 Aug 2019
On 20 August 2019, the channel's new Director General Paata Salia announced the dismissal of the head of TV’s News Department Nodar Meladze, news producer Giorgi Laperashvili, hosts of political talk shows Eka Kvesitadze and Giorgi Gabunia as well as Nanuka Zhorzholiani, the host of entertaining program due to “conflict of interests.” Diana Jojua, host of Rustavi-2's main news program, Kurieri, later announced on air she was resigning from the station in protest. Her co-host, Mikheil Sesiashvili, also resigned.
New 22 Aug 2019
On 9 August 2019, former director-general of Rustavi 2, Nika Gvaramia, has been charged with abuse of power at the request of a former shareholder, whose rights as a shareholder were ruled invalid by a court decision in 2015 endorsed recently by the European Court of Human Rights.
19 Jul 2019
On 19 July 2019, former Defence Minister of Georgia Irakli Okruashvili filed a lawsuit against Kibar Khalvashi before the Tbilisi City Court, claiming legal ownership of Rustavi 2 and requesting sequestration of the company shares that were registered on Kibar Khalvashi on 18 July 2019.
18 Jul 2019
On 18 July 2019, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the verdicts of the Georgian courts and allowed the return of the Rustavi 2 shares to its former owner Kibar Khalvashi. Accordingly, the Georgian Public Registry Agency has registered the shares on the name of Kibar Khalvashi.
07 May 2019
On 6 May 2019, Nino Nizharadze, owner of 9% of shares of Rustavi 2, filed a lawsuit requesting GEL 28 million (€8.7 million) compensation for damage allegedly incurred to the company by the controlling shareholders and the director general. According to Nika Gvaramia, Director general of Rustavi 2 TV, this new lawsuit against the channel may ‘kill its editorial policy".
17 May 2017
On 7 March 2017, the European Court of Human Rights adopted an interim measure asking the Georgian Government to stay the execution of the judgment given by the Supreme Court of Georgia on 2 March 2017 until further notice.
03 Mar 2017
On 2 March 2017, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled in favour of the former co-owner of Rustavi 2 TV, ordering a change in ownership.
01 Dec 2016
On 10 June 2016, Tbilisi’s Appeals Court upheld a City Court ruling over the transfer of the ownership of the TV station to former owner Kibar Khalvashi. Rustavi’s current owners appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. On 21 November 2016, the three judges of the Supreme Court decided to hand the Rustavi 2 ownership case to the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court.
State replies
24 Sep 2015
Follow-ups
22 Jul 2019
On 18 July 2019, the ECHR rejected the complaints introduced by Rustavi’s owner’s and the channel itself. The Court found no violation of article 6 § 1 in relation to allegations that the judges examining the ownership row had lacked independence and impartiality. The Court also rejected as inadmissible the remaining complaints, including in particular allegations that the proceedings had been a State-led campaign to silence the television channel.
18 Jul 2019
On 18 July 2019, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the verdicts of the Georgian courts and allowed the return of the Rustavi 2 shares to its former owner Kibar Khalvashi.
06 Mar 2017
On 3 March 2017, the European Court of Human Rights suspended, under Rule 39 (interim measures), Georgia's Supreme Court’s decision to transfer ownership of Rustavi 2 TV.
03 Mar 2017
OSCE Media Freedom Representative calls the Surpeme Court 's decision a "disappointing move and huge blow to media pluralism in Georgia".
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