Protesters are holding a demonstration in front of the Rustavi 2 TV building in Tbilisi, in support of the broadcaster and against a Supreme Court decision to grant ownership of the TV company to former owner Kibar Khalvashi. Opposition members and civil society activists are among the protesters; several minutes ago, the crowd was joined by the First Lady of Georgia, Maka Chichua.
“It is a matter of principal importance for Rustavi 2 to continue its functioning,” the First Lady stated. “I believe that critical television and freedom of speech have always been one of the main principles of democratic countries. Development is impossible without freedom of speech.”
Earlier today, President Giorgi Margvelashvili also spoke about the importance of the station: “Rustavi 2 is not just a business like every other media outlet; it represents an important part of our societal-political life; it is a possibility to express critical and opposing opinions, which itself is very important for a democratic society and for Georgia’s European future."
On March 3, 18 NGOs issued a joint statement saying that the Supreme Court’s decision “damages not only the further democratic development of Georgia, but limits freedom of media, pluralistic media environment and threatens Euro-Atlantic integration process.”
The case received wide international attention from diplomatic organizations and members of European Parliament. The EU Delegation to Georgia and the U.S. Embassy Tbilisi also issued official statements raising concerns regarding freedom of media and freedom of speech in Georgia.
Rustavi 2 already appealed the Supreme Court’s decision in the European Court of Human Rights. Rustavi 2’s lawyer, Tamta Muradashvili, explained that “This is a request to the European Court of Human Rights to suspend the implementation of the Supreme Court’s March 2nd decision until the time our appeal is discussed in [the Strasbourg] court. We will submit the appeal in the nearest future.”
On March 2nd, the Supreme Court of Georgia made a decision to grant ownership of the Rustavi 2 TV Company to former owner Kibar Khalvashi. 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 final and cannot be appealed to another court in the country.