Rustavi 2 TV head Nika Gvaramia said on Friday that the broadcaster will no longer call on viewers “to rally in defense” of the television channel, which is in a court battle over ownership dispute.
The televised announcement by Gvaramia, who had previously called on viewers to rally outside the Rustavi 2 TV headquarters in defense of freedom of media in Georgia, came after wiretapped recordings of ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili emerged.
Gvaramia made the announcement a few minutes after PM Irakli Garibashvili’s statement on leaked recordings in which he called for “calm”, “restraint” and “unity”. The PM also said that law enforcement agencies will “neutralize and eradicate any possible provocation” and called on everyone “to think carefully and not to become unwittingly a blind weapon in somebody’s dirty plans.”
Gvaramia, whose phone conversation with the ex-president was also leaked, made the announcement before appearing at the State Security Service where he was summoned for questioning in connection to recordings. One of the leaders of UNM, Giga Bokeria, whose leaked phone conversation with Saakashvili was also leaked, has been summoned for questioning along with Gvaramia.
In his statement, Gvaramia said that the government “did everything” to push Rustavi 2 TV into speaking about the need to defend itself after “being deprived of the right to fair trial.”
He tried to distance the broadcaster from political parties, specifically from the opposition UNM party, saying, “Rustavi 2 TV has never thought, is not thinking and will not think about any type of revolution scenarios, change of government or bringing someone into power.”
“Our only interest is to broadcast freely… What the political parties, including the government, is thinking is a secondary issue for us,” he said.
“I was convinced up until now that the authorities would not have crossed the red lines and would not have radicalized the situation. Developments over the past two days have triggered doubts about it. Although the PM has just vowed to provide security for all of us, his assurances are not convincing for me, because he often lies, including in respect of Rustavi 2 TV,” Gvaramia said.
“Our decision is the following: we will ourselves defend the television company to the end; we do not assume responsibility for the security of those people, who will come in our defense – that’s beyond our competence,” he said, and added that “provocateurs” might be “even among us.”
“We do not call on anyone to rally and defend Rustavi 2 – although we’ve been making such calls in recent days… the situation has now changed and we can no longer assume such responsibility,” the Rustavi 2 TV head said.
“There are issues of huge importance at stake – freedom of speech on the one hand, and peace in the country on the other. We will defend freedom of speech with our own resources and let the government protect peace in the country with all the means at its disposal; we will only help them in that and on our part we are doing what we deem is an important step towards peace and which will help to remove tensions,” Gvaramia said.