On March 2 Supreme Court of Georgia decided to transfer the most popular opposition TV station of the country, “Rustavi 2,” to the former owner, businessman Kibar Khalvashi. The court ruled to cancel the registration of shares of the current owners Levan Karamanishvili (22%), George Karamanishvili (18%), “TV Sakartvelo” (51%) and Nino Nizharadze (9%).
Representatives of opposition parties, NGOs, public figures and ordinary citizens continue to gather in front of “Rustavi 2” in support of freedom of speech. In their opinion, the transition of management of the TV channel represents big threat to media pluralism of the country.
Established in 1994, the broadcasting company Rustavi 2 changed ownership numerous times between 2004 and 2012.
Khalvashi filed a lawsuit in 2015 and requested that the court stop the broadcasting until the final verdict be released so as to prevent the current owners from selling their shares.
Khalvashis’ lawyers declared that their client had purchased the broadcasting company for $7 million USD in 2004 but was forced under strong pressure from the Saakashvili-led government and ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili to sell the property to a new owner in December 2006.
until the courts recent decision, the TV channel was managed by Nika Gvaramia, who previously held multiple positions in the Cabinet of Ministers during Mikheil Saakashvili’s presidency.