Channel 9, Tbilisi-based television stationed, owned by PM Ivanishvili’s family, will be closed down on September 1, sixteen months after it was launched ahead of last year’s parliamentary elections.
Info-9 news website also owned by Ivanishvili’s family will also be shut down on September 1, the PM said in a written statement on August 19.
Ivanishvili cited upcoming presidential elections as the reason behind the move, saying that by relinquishing media outlets he wants to avoid a “perception” that these media sources would give advantage to Georgian Dream presidential candidate, Giorgi Margvelashvili, in the October 27 elections.
“I’ve always believed and still believe that country’s leadership should not have a television station in ownership… Me and my family took a decision to close down Channel 9 and Info-9 from September 1,” PM Ivanishvili said in the statement. “Me and my family wanted to sell Channel 9 TV company and Info-9 news agency immediately after the election victory [in October, 2012], but because of our responsibility before and respect towards journalists and employees, we prolonged operations of these media outlets for ten more months.”
“Throughout this period we have been searching for a buyer, who could have operated these media outlets. Last [potential] buyer declined [to purchase Channel 9 and Info-9] on August 16,” he said without specifying who the potential buyer was.
“As the elections loom, it is the duty of the media outlets to cover electoral process objectively and the government should provide level playing field for all the presidential candidates. That is the very reason why it is essential to relinquish these media outlets – to avoid a perception within voters that media sources owned by the leader of [GD] coalition will give [GD] coalition’s candidate an advantage and put him in a privileged condition.”
“I am sure that [GD’s presidential candidate] Giorgi Margvelashvili, who is a dignified candidate who has no alternative, will definitely gain victory even without any privileges,” Ivanishvili said.
In the same statement, the PM also stressed that possibility to buy Channel 9 and Info-9 for third of their market value on the condition that new owner provides these media outlets’ further operation would remain open till September 1.
“If there is no buyer before September 1, we will have to cease operations of Channel 9 and Info-9,” Ivanishvili said, adding that employees of these media outlets would receive two-month salaries in compensation.
Channel 9 TV station was launched in late April, 2012.
A television station with the same name was founded and funded by Ivanishvili till April, 2004 when Ivanishvili unexpectedly closed it down. After going into politics, Ivanishvili said that his decision to shut down his television station after the Rose Revolution was his mistake.