President Giorgi Margvelashvili said developments over Rustavi 2 TV, where court has ordered to replace management in ongoing dispute over broadcaster’s ownership, “damage the country’s democratic image and international reputation”.
“Tensions surrounding Rustavi 2 TV two weeks ago were defused through active [efforts] of all the segments of the society,” the President said in a televised statement on November 6.
“But today we are again facing difficult circumstances that damage the country’s democratic image and international reputation – the public, non-governmental sector, diplomats, Public Defender, political parties, including part of the Georgian Dream ruling coalition, share this assessment,” he said.
“I call on the ruling coalition representatives to refrain from making undiplomatic remarks and do not limit themselves only by formal statements when assessing the situation,” Margvelashvili said.
“I call on the ruling coalition representatives not to close yourself off and to get to the bottom of the significance of political process; to take efficient steps towards protecting the country’s democratic image; to hold a dialogue with the society and diplomatic corps, which is an active supporter of our country’s democracy, European and Euro-Atlantic integration.”
“We do not enter into discussion of a specific court dispute, but we should admit that the recent developments have a negative impact on the situation internally in the country, as well as on its international image,” the President said.
“It is essential not to leave question marks over judicial independence and quality of media freedom,” Margvelashvili said. “Our responsibility is to ensure and protect the rule of law, fair trial, freedom of media, freedom of speech and expression, inviolability of property and private life, freedom of choice.”
“Our obligation is to strengthen and not to damage the Georgian state,” Margvelashvili added.
When the President said that some within the GD ruling coalition also share view that the recent developments damage country’s image, he was apparently referring to MPs from the Republican Party.
MP Davit Berdzenishvili, who chairs Republicans parliamentary faction, said that his party “strongly distances itself from these processes.” “The government does not need such Urtmelidze-style disservice,” MP Berdzenishvili said referring to judge Tamaz Urtmelidze who ordered appointment of temporary managers in Rustavi 2 TV. “We do not need judges, who are under [someone’s] control.”
Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili also from the Republican Party said that it’s “inadmissible to let political life in the country play out under Saakashvili-Khalvashi scenario” – he was referring to ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili and Kibar Khalvashi, ex-owner of Rustavi 2 TV, who tries to reclaim broadcaster’s ownership. Usupashvili also criticized the way how some of the important decisions are being taken in courts – without holding oral hearings, even though it is not illegal; decision on appointing temporary managers was also taken without oral hearing.
Judge of Tbilisi City Court, Tamaz Urtmelidze, ordered on January 5 as an interim injunction in ownership dispute over Rustavi 2 TV to appoint temporary administrators replacing broadcaster’s current director general Nika Gvaramia and chief financial officer Kakha Damenia. The decision came after plaintiff in the ownership dispute lawsuit, Kibar Khalvashi, filed a relevant motion seeking a temporary remedy in the form of a court injunction pending ongoing litigation over ownership dispute. The injunction will be appealed by lawyers representing current majority shareholders of Rustavi 2 TV.
Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili said in a statement on November 6 court’s decision to appoint temporary management in Rustavi 2 TV “is not justified and violates” broadcasters freedom of speech and expression. The Public Defender said that judge’s decision “not only calls into question n impartiality of a specific judge, but also exposes serious problems in the judiciary system.”