Rustavi 2 Journalists Release Statement

Journalists of Rustavi 2, one of the largest TV Channels in Georgia, have released a joint statement regarding the latest developments surrounding the company.

In their statement, the journalists explain the criteria they consider as the intervention in the editorial policy of the TV Channel.

"As a result of changing the owners and Director-General of Rustavi 2, the issue of preserving the independence of the editorial policy of the channel became especially important, as we consider that the existence of one of the strongest opposition-minded platforms in the country is now in danger.

The statement of the new owner of Rustavi 2 – Kibar Khalvashi does not create the illusion that the free speech and editorial independence of the pro-western TV channel is under question. Therefore, we, the journalists of Rustavi 2, address all the authoritative local and international organizations which represent the guarantee of democracy in the country, to help us preserve the editorial independence of the channel. Here, we explain the criteria which we consider as an intervention in the editorial policy of the TV Channel.

1. Dismissal of journalists, TV anchors, the current head of news service and producers, changing their positions and bringing new employees is yet another mechanism to change the editorial policy. Prior experience shows that such a scheme - closure of the existing TV shows or changing the format - is frequently used in the Georgian media environment.

2. Suspending the working contracts of the above-mentioned persons is considered an intervention in the editorial policy of the TV Channel.

3. Guest censorship, determining the sequence of reportages and any other kind of interference that will affect the content and accents of the programs.

4.Creation of financial problems - If the channel managed to operate in the hardest conditions of the seizure, and not only paid salaries to employees but also created new top-rated media products, the suspension of the seizure should only contribute to increasing income and not vice versa. Therefore, not fulfilling the financial obligations under the contract towards employees will be considered as a form of pressure and leverage to take Rustavi 2’s editorial independence.

5. Bringing a foreign media manager alone cannot be considered a guarantee of preserving editorial independence. Both Georgian and foreigners can become media censors. We have seen such a practice on other TV channels. Foreign media managers cannot be leverage against changing the editorial policy. Additionally, we clearly see foreign journalists working on Kremlin’s propagandistic channel "Russia Today”, who spread pro-Russian narrative”, reads the statement.  

On July 18, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a verdict in the ownership case of one of Georgia’s largest TV channels, Rustavi 2.

According to the Court’s judgment, there were no violations of any Article of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of Rustavi 2. Additionally, the rights of Rustavi 2 and its owners were not violated in the Georgian courts. Rustavi 2 can appeal the case in the Grand Chamber of Strasbourg.

The Strasbourg Court suspended a temporary measure whereby the mechanism of suspending the judgment of the Supreme Court of Georgia no longer exist. Accordingly, the TV company was re-registered to shareholder Kibar Khalvashi, as it was decided by the courts of three instances in Georgia. 

On the same day, Nika Gvaramia has been dismissed from the post of Director-General of TV Company Rustavi 2. The TV Channel now has a new head - Paata Salia, the lawyer of the current owner of Rustavi 2 - businessman  Kibar Khalvashi. 

According to Kibar Khalvashi, the current 100% shareholder of Rustavi 2 TV Company, he is looking for a European or American media manager with high reputation and expertise for the TV Channel.

Related Story: Rustavi 2 Might Have European or American Media Manager

By Ana Dumbadze 

24 July 2019 11:24