The current owners of Rustavi 2 TV company, which has been in an ownership dispute in the courts since August 2015, expressed their readiness to give 51% of the company’s control package to the company’s collective body of employees. The TV channel’s general director, Nika Gvaramia, who has been the public face fighting to keep control of the company, suggested to owners Levan and Gia Karamanashvilis to give the control package of their company LTD TV Georgia, to the collective body of Rustavi 2. The control package of LTD TV Georgia is the owner of 51% of Rustavi 2’s control package.
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.
Rutavi 2 owners Levan and Gia Karamanashvili initially offered on March 23rd to pass 40% of Rustavi 2’s control package to the collective body. General director Nika Gvaramia refused the offer on behalf of the company’s collective body, stating that “it doesn’t change anything in this situation.”
At a special briefing on March 23rd, Nika Gvaramia stated that “we the employees of Rustavi 2 are suggesting an initiative to get ownership of LTD TV Georgia. It would be the only way to change the situation in the company. LTD TV Georgia isn’t sequestrated. A third person’s approval is not needed for its alienation and it owns the control package of Rustavi 2. By passing it to the collective body, for the first time in Georgia’s media history, the owners of the company will be its employees themselves.”
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 Rustavi 2 ruling received wide international attention from diplomatic organizations and members of European Parliament. The EU Delegation to Georgia and the U.S. Embassy Tbilisi issued official statements raising concerns regarding freedom of media and freedom of speech in Georgia.
The ECHR decision to suspend the implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision on Rustavi 2’s ownership is unprecedented. The suspension mechanism was never used regarding cases of freedom of expression; it has previously been used by the Strasbourg court when a human life is in danger.
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 of Georgia.