PM Irakli Garibashvili called for refraining from “dramatizing and politicizing” court dispute over Rustavi 2 TV ownership.
In remarks made after the Tbilisi City Court ruled in favor of Rustavi 2 TV ex-owner Kibar Khalvashi, who seeks to reclaim onwership of the broadcaster, the PM told Georgian TV reporters in Tallinn, Estonia, where he pays a two-day visit, that it is not interesting for him who will be the owner of Rustavi 2 TV.
“Of course, I am not familiar with the details of the case. I know that the dispute over Rustavi 2 TV has been ongoing for months – not only for months, but for even for years already. I know that owners of Rustavi 2 TV have changed twenty times already in the past. So, I do not really find it interesting, who will be an actual owner of Rustavi 2,” PM Garibashvili said.
“Most important for me is that you, journalists of Rustavi 2, to be protected – we, as the state, declare that you will be fully protected,” he said.
“Second, it is important for me that the media to be fully protected in Georgia, that nobody manages to restrict media freedom,” Garibashvili said.
“And third, this is a dispute between two private entities and our involvement in this dispute is absolutely ruled out,” the PM said.
“This is a court ruling and in a modern, democratic, civilized Georgia – the country, where we implement reforms that are in line with the EU – we should all get used to obeying court verdicts. We, the government, do not have the right to make any comments, no matter whether or not we like court rulings. We may like it or not, but we, as law abiding citizens, are obliged to obey court verdicts,” the PM said.
“Of course, the parties in this dispute can appeal the court ruling. Yesterday we saw that the Constitutional Court made a decision according to which… a court ruling can only be enforced after it goes through all the three levels of court [system]. So, this is an ordinary democratic process,” Garibashvili said.
Fearing that the plaintiff, Kibar Khalvashi, could have sought an immediate enforcement of the court verdict, Rustavi 2 TV lawyers filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court challenging the clause in Georgia’s civil procedure code which allows for an immediate enforcement of the court decision in certain cases even if the verdict is appealed to a higher court by one of the parties in dispute. On November 2 the Constitutional Court ruled as an interim measure to suspend the application of the disputed clause in Georgia’s civil procedure code.
“I want to call on everyone that it is not necessary to dramatize and politicize the process,” Garibashvili continued.
“I want to address journalists from Rustavi 2 TV that you are professionals. I want to openly demonstrate my respect and support to you, because your coverage of developments in Georgia is distinguished – like those of other journalists,” Garibashvili said of a television station, which previously has frequently been criticized by many GD ruling coalition figures, as well as ex-PM Bidzina Ivanishvili for being opposition UNM party’s “propaganda and lie machine.”
“Politicization of journalists and media outlets is inadmissible and all politicians should refrain from politicizing media as much as possible. I am strongly against it,” he said.
“Of course, you have your political opinions and your sympathies, but it should be your personal sympathies, your opinions. I cannot force you to be supporters of Georgian Dream or personally of me, our government, but you have your constitutional right to do your job as you do it,” Garibashvili said.
“I want to tell everyone that today the state is much stronger than it was three years ago. Why? Because today we are a democratic state, where the rule of law will always be observed and not a single citizen will stand above the law – neither kindzi [a Georgian word for coriander] nor anyone else,” Garibashvili said apparently referring to remarks in one of the recently leaked wiretapped audio recordings in which a man, purportedly Saakashvili, tells his friend to call him “kindzi” if his prediction of “bloodshed” in Georgia turns out to be wrong.
Referring to those audio recordings, Garibashvili said smiling: “Of course we cannot comment seriously on statements made by kindzi.”