In an interview with Rustavi 2, Energy Minister and Vice Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze stated that “he does not exclude” that Members of the European Parliament who are speaking out about the Rustavi 2 ownership case might have been given “wrong information by members of the United National Movement.” Vice Prime Minister Kaladze also commented that “it is untrue that media [in Georgia] is under terror. That’s a big lie. We welcome media pluralism in Georgia.”
Vice PM’s Kaladze’s comments come after an official statement issued by the ALDE Group of the European Parliament issued on March 3rd: “The ALDE Group in the European Parliament urges the Georgian government to ensure a free, open and pluralistic media environment in the country and to remain committed to the European values promoted through the Eastern Partnership.
Liberals and Democrats are extremely concerned by the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to grant ownership of Rustavi 2, Georgia’s most popular TV station and the only large media with clearly pro-western editorial policy, to a proxy of the Georgian Government.
MEP, Javier Nart, (Ciudadanos, Spain) ALDE Group’s Vice-President and shadow rapporteur on Georgia, said this will limit access of the democratic opposition’s voices to Georgian broadcast media:
“Democracy in Georgia is threatened due to the political, economic and now media hegemony of one person, who, in consequence, controls the Government, the economy and now the public opinion. The decision of the Supreme Court shuts the door on a free press. There is no democracy without free public opinion, and the elections thus become a mere theatre stage.”
In addition to ALDE Group’s statement, 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.
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 next day on March 3rd, the European Court of Human Rights suspended the Supreme Court’s decision; they then prolonged the suspension on March 8th.
Tbilisi City Court and the Appellate Court of Georgia 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.