The Supreme Court of Georgia made a decision to grant the Rustavi 2 TV Company to former owner Kibar Khalvashi. It was a closed hearing. The decision of the Supreme Court of Georgia is final. Rustavi 2 has appealed the decisions of Tbilisi City Court and the Appellate Court of Georgia.
The Director of Rustavi 2, Nika Gvaramia, stated after the decision that “A couple of minutes ago we witnessed the loss of democracy in Georgia. The loss of freedom of, loss of justice. We can say that the court system basically doesn’t exist anymore. After this decision, we can’t say that there’s a minimum standard of justice in Georgia.”
The hearing for the Rustavi 2 case in the Supreme Court began today on March 2. Rustavi 2 held a demonstration in front of the Supreme Court of Georgia saying that they will not allow the government to change the editorial policy of the station. Several opposition parties have expressed their support for the TV company.
Movement for Liberty - European Georgia issued an official statement saying that “The takeover of Rustavi2 ownership marks a major escalation in Georgia’s democratic backsliding. It has been the only major media outlet outside the control of Mr Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream which now maintains a constitutional majority. Mr Ivanishvili has jailed his political opponents, prosecuted pro-western parties and endorsed openly pro-Russian actors himself entertaining anti-western elements. The takeover of Rustavi2 heralds an absolute concentration of power in hands of one person – an unelected individual, outside the legal framework and without any accountability.”
During an interview with TV Pirveli, Kibar Khalvashi stated that he's not “the person who needs the television company. This is material property for me, however I can’t promise that the TV company will be in my ownership for my entire life.”
Khalvashi also added that "Under my ownership the channel [Rustavi 2] won’t have the same function as it has today, meaning it won’t be someone’s servant, it won’t be an agitator. In my hands, it will have the function of serving the people. I’m much less dependant on the Georgian Dream or Ivanishvili, compared to how dependant Gvaramia is on Saakashvili. So, it won’t be a ‘party’ television."
Tbilisi City Court and the Appellate Court of Georgia have previously decided to grant 100% ownership of the TV company to former owner Kibar Khalvashi; his sister has been an MP for the Georgian Dream party since 2012. Rustavi 2 applied to appeal the decisions to the Supreme Court. The decision of the Supreme Court of Georgia is the final one and cannot be appealed to another court in the country.
There have been accusations of partisanship and corruption in judging the Rustavi 2 case. Earlier in February, activists from Rustavi 2 and the UNM protested at Tbilisi City Hall when city hall granted 1 million GEL to the brother of one of the judges in the Appellate Court who was ruling over the Rustavi 2 case. The opposition leaders were saying the money is to award the judge for siding with the government’s wishes in the case. Also in February, the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia said they were approached by two judges of the Supreme Court with an investigation request regarding intervention in the judges’ work. The two judges had passed the Rustavi 2 case to the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court in November 2016.