Independent Association of Georgian Journalists

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IAGJ Calls to International Organisations for Urgent Interference in Local Media Crisis

Independent Association of Georgian Journalists, member of IFJ, calls all international organisations for urgent actions regarding the crisis in Georgian media caused by unexpected order issued by Tbilisi City Court, which replaced current management of main oppositional TV - Rustavi 2, with persons loyal to current government. 

By this decision Mr. Kibar Khalvashi, ex-owner of Rustavi 2 TV gained authorization from the court to take over management of the TV channel even though ownership remains under its current shareholders as litigation over ownership dispute has not yet exhausted all the avenues of appeal. This raise serious questions about the independence of the judiciary and freedom of the media in Georgia.

Decision is following political campaign against Rustavi 2, which is based more on political motives rather than interests of former co-owners of TV Channel. Prior to Court Decision, there were several open statements made by the government representatives and ruling party leaders pointing their interests in changing Rustavi 2-s editorial policy. 

In its decision Tbilisi Court said that the current management of Rustavi 2 can’t be impartial in its reportages and news programmes, as it is protecting interests  of current management in court dispute. This statement, IAGJ believes, is the open interference in editorial policy of Rustavi 2.  Georgia’s Public Ombudsman Office also issued statement noting that courts interfered editorial independence of Rustavi 2.

US Embassy in Tbilisi and the Delegation of the European Union in agreement with the Heads of Mission of the EU Member States in Georgia, issued statement, expressing their concern related to the appointment of new management at Rustavi 2.  Authors called “on all political actors to refrain from any step or statement that could prevent the Georgian judiciary from ruling dispassionately on this case”.

IAGJ, which represents more than 150 journalists in Georgia, urges Georgian Government refrain from actions which affects decision of the court on Rustavi 2.  While legal dispute is between former and current owners of the company, interest of authorities in this dispute is  also visible. There is no guarantee that journalists at Rustavi 2 will remain at the company and editorial policy of Rustavi 2 will not be affected.  

IAGJ is also concerned with the strong affiliation of current management of Rustavi 2 with former President and ruling party. This links negatively affected Rustavi 2’s editorial independence. 

IAGJ is calling International Federation of Journalists, European Federation of Journalists, Council of Europe, United Nations and all diplomatic missions in Georgia, for urgent interference in the situation over Rustavi 2. 

See also: 

Joint Statement by the Embassy of the United States of America and the Delegation of the European Union in agreement with the Heads of Mission of the EU Member States in Georgia (November 6)

Copy of Court order in Georgian:

Ombudsman Statement: