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. The implementation of the decision was then suspended by the European Court of Human Rights on March 3rd. Otar Kakhidze of the Movement for Liberty - European Georgia wrote on his Facebook page explaining the importance of ECHR decision:
“What does the ECHR decision mean:
- [Former Prime Minister Bidzina] Ivanishvili’s order is blocked and the Supreme Court’s decision cannot be implemented until the suspension mechanism is in force.
- The Strasbourg court directly restricted Ivanishvili’s government in making any kind of intrusion in Rustavi 2’s editorial policy.
- This is an unprecedented decision for this type of case, as before now, the suspension mechanism was only used on cases concerning life, torture or extradition of prisoners;
- ...Today, the European Court of Human Rights came as a guarantee that Rustavi 2 won’t have the same destiny as NTV and the Putinization of Georgia won’t happen.
- Georgia has a shameful government under Ivanishvili’s leadership, under which the Strasbourg court made an unprecedented decision of suspending the intrusion in the editorial policy of an independent television.
- Rustavi 2 has amazing lawyers, who at a very high level managed to prove the necessity of the suspension mechanism.
- The suspension mechanism is in force until March 8th; the Court will review its extension later. The Rustavi 2 case was prioritized by the court, which is also quite rare for such a case.”
Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani also commented on the ECHR decision saying that: “According to the letter sent from the Strasbourg court, the decision was made individually, by the judge on duty; the surname we do not know (that’s the procedure), and in a way that we, the answering side, were not informed about and no information was asked from us.”
On March 3, 18 NGOs issued a joint statement saying that the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the ownership of Rustavi 2“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.
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 Georgia.