GEO

Rustavi 2's timeline in the aftermath of the 2012 parliamentary elections

17 November, 2015

 

October 4, 2012: three days after the Georgian Dream coalition wins in the October 1 parliamentary elections, 40% of Rustavi 2’s shares are sold to David Kezerashvili’s Media Georgia company for $500,000. Media Georgia which was registered in the Public Register one day prior to concluding the above deal, in turn sells  the shares to Giorgi Karamanishvili for the same price five days later;

October 5, 2012: Rustavi 2’s founders, Davit Dvali and Jarji Akimidze, (they founded the channel together with Erosi Kitsmarishvili in 1994) release a statement claiming they will start legal proceedings for the company;

As of November 13, 2012, Rustavi 2 is owned by the two brothers Karamanishvili: Levan Karamanishvili owning 22% and Giorgi Karamanishvili owning 18% of the company’s shares. 51% of Rustavi 2 shares are owned by the company Sakartvelo TV, 60% of which is owned by Levan Karamanishvili, while 40% is owned by his brother Giorgi Karamanishvili. The remaining 9% of the company’s shares belong to the spouse of the late Giorgi Gegeshidze;

November 15, 2012: Nika Gvaramia, the former Minister of Education and the former Minister of Justice as well as the former deputy Chief Prosecutor becomes General  Director of Rustavi 2;

December 19, 2012: Mr. Gvaramia is arrested on corruption charges, but released on bail after paying GEL 30,000. The Court later acquits Mr. Gvaramia of the charges against him;

December 25, 2012: Erosi Kitsmarishvili, one of Rustavi 2’s founders, holds an extensive news conference focusing on the details of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili's interview with Irma Inashvili, a journalist representing Obiektivi - Media Union.
In the interview recorded by Irma Inashvili in August 2012, the former prime minister  spoke about Rustavi 2’s ownership, Erosi Kitsmarishvili’s political interests, the confrontation  between Erosi Kitsmarishvili and President Saakashvili, and the interests of businessman Kibar Khalvashi, one of the Channel’s former shareholders.

In the interview, the then leader of the opposition, Ivanishvili, openly stated his good opinion of businessman Kibar Khalvashi, and mentioned that Erosi Kitsmarishvili "disappointed" Rustavi 2’s co-founders Dvali and Akimidze.

"I want to tell Mr. Ivanishvili to stare into my eyes when talking about Rustavi 2, since both of us know so many things to reveal which would harm a lot of people" - said Erosi Kitsmarishvili at the news conference.
February 24, 2014: the Revenue Service starts an inspection of TV MR Georgia. For years, TV MR Georgia has been the sole company using “peoplemeters” installed in households to measure TV ratings in Georgia. The Revenue Service demands that TV MR Georgia  disclose the identity of the households in which rating measuring equipment was installed;

March 17, 2014: Gocha Tskitishvili, a TV MR Georgia partner, (Gocha Tskitishvili and Ltd Sakartvelo TV are 50-50% Shareholders of “TV MR Georgia”) says the representatives of only one TV company demanded that he disclose confidential information regarding “peoplemeters”.

“They are appealing to the fact that the channel had a low rating in spite of the large sums spent in it", - commented Mr. Tskitishvili without naming the particular TV channel or person in question;

March 19, 2014: General Director of TV Company Rustavi 2 Nika Gvaramia labels the TV MR Georgia inspection as a campaign against TV channels that have income from advertising.

Mr. Gvaramia claimed that if TV MR Georgia revealed the identity of the households with the  TV rating measurement equipment, the company would have to move the equipment to a different place, which is a time-consuming procedure. At the same time, the Rustavi 2 budget would shrink to half during the period when the ratings were not counted, since advertisement placement for the channel is largely determined by those ratings;

May 6, 2014: Rustavi 2 announces publicly that the government has been illegally wiretapping them, disseminating video material anonymously obtained from the Ministry of Internal Affairs as evidence. The video footage was a recording of a conversation between Nika Gvaramia and his Deputy Nino Shubladze. Nika Gvaramia rejected the investigation’s hypothesis that the surveillance equipment might have been installed by the previous government and accused the new government of installing hidden cameras in the TV channel through its internal "spies";

May 9, 2014: Prosecutor’s office presented a provisional report concerning the secret footage recorded in Rustavi 2. Executive director Nika Gvaramia disagreed with the investigation which concluded that the equipment for undercover recording could have been installed in Rustavi 2 during the Saakashvili presidency. Gvaramia blamed government for installing the equipment through undercover agents.  Nika Gvaramia announced at a news conference that he would publicize other undercover recordings made by the government;  

12 May 2014: Rustavi 2 divulges surveillance materials featuring former and current high ranking officials as proof that the present government is pursuing the same practice of secretly wiretapping people.

The audio recordings are released during the  TV show "Different Accents". The recordings, dating from 2013, contain conversations of parliament speaker David Usupashvili and secretary of the National Security Council Giga Bokeria, then-Defense Minister Irakli Alasania and the former Tbilisi city mayor Gigi Ugulava, as well as many other politicians;

May 13, 2014: Rustavi 2 Deputy Director Nino Shubladze, who featured in the secret recordings made at Rustavi 2, left the channel. Shubladze cited personal and family matters as the reason for her resignation . In June 2015, shubladze was appointed adviser of the healthcare minister.  

May 13, 2014: the campaign "It Affects You" comments on the developments around Rustavi 2 and urges the Georgian government to take effective measures as quickly as possible and explicitly express a strong political will to change the unhealthy system of secret surveillance and wiretapping;

July 2, 2014: the Vice Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze makes a statement on Imedi TV concerning the handover of Rustavi 2 to its real owner. Kaladze states that the time will come when the channel will return to its owner;

July 14, 2014: in an interview given to the newspaper Prime Time, Erosi Kitsmarishvili comments on Kaladze’s statement and notes Ivanishvili’s intention to gain control over the media.

"The government is trying to gain influence over Rustavi 2 by way of achieving a certain alliance with my partners. I do not know what type of alliance it is attempting to achieve. Kaladze’s statement regarding Rustavi 2 is a very interesting detail. He said that the channel would go back to its owner... Concerning Rustavi 2, I can say openly and without being ironical in the least that if any decision is taken, it will be a typical political decision rather than a legal one. "- said Erosi Kitsmarishvili the day before his death;

July 15, 2014: Erosi Kitsmarishivili, one of the  Rustavi 2 founders, is found dead in his car. An investigation is launched under the article of forced suicide; 

February 19, 2015: Parliament approves the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Broadcasting in the third hearing with 65 votes against 33. Rustavi 2 alleges that the changes in the legislation are a campaign directed against it.

Rustavi 2 Director, Nika Gvaramia, says that the adoption of the new regulations are politically motivated. According to him, the new regulations are directed namely against Rustavi 2 as it would be the entity affected the most as a result of the change. Mr. Gvaramia said that the TV channel risked a loss of GEL 6 million annually because of the new amendments to the law.  

Members of the ruling coalition made comments on the amendments to the Law on Broadcasting as well:

Gogi Topadze, majority member in Parliament:

“Rustavi 2, which has been biased in its coverage of the events for years, is one-sided. It is therefore natural that it has been somewhat restricted."

Zurab Tkemaladze, majority member in Parliament:

"All concerns have been taken into consideration, including those of Rustavi 2, except for one. This channel insists like a small child to be allowed to enjoy being privileged for another four years, but this is impossible, consumers need to be protected and Euro directives must also be acceded to";

July 17, 2015: the Kutaisi City Hall refuses to allow Rustavi 2 to hold a free concert, citing ongoing repair works on the square as a cause for the refusal. It is worth noting that the TV channel received a written refusal the day before the planned concert. It is also noteworthy that several other concerts had been held previously in the same square in spite of the repair works. The company had been holding entertainment concerts across the whole country.

July 30, 2015: Rustavi 2 receives another rejection to its request to hold a concert, this time from  Poti City Hall, giving lack of preparedness as the reason. On the same day (i.e. July 30) Rustavi 2’s request to hold a concert by the Alphabet Tower in Batumi is also rejected; Batumi City Hall  noted that its refusal was due to holding another festival in the same area. Rustavi 2’s Director referred to the above decisions of the municipalities as unconstitutional. Despite the problems, the channel managed to hold the scheduled concerts in Poti and Batumi in the same locations but at different times;

August 4, 2015: Kibar Khalvashi, a businessman and former Rustavi 2 shareholder, begins a legal battle to regain his lost shares in the company. The businessman lodged a complaint with the court demanding the reinstatement of his infringed property rights. Mr. Khalvashi requested that the court impose a ban on Rustavi 2 shares before making a final decision;

August 8, 2015: the Court imposes a ban on Rustavi 2’s property thereby restricting the company from communicating with the banking sector, as well as to rent its property (an additional source of income for the station);

October 1, 2015: the court imposes a an asset freeze on the 100% shares of TV Company Georgia at Kibar Khalvashi’s request. The ban was explained by the proposed sale ofTV Company Georgia’s shares in Rustavi 2.  The shares were to be sold for $400,000 based on an agreement which also stipulated that the buyer was supposed to invest $6 million in the Rustavi 2 TV company;

100% of the SakartveloTV station shares are owned by the Karamanlishvili brothers who also own Rustavi 2 shares. TV Company Georgia, in turn, owns 51% of the shares in Rustavi 2. According to the contract kept in the public registry, Dimitri Chikovani, the former defense minister David Kezerashvili's brother-in-law, intended to buy TV Company Georgia;

October 1, 2015: Nika Gvaramia, General Director of Rustavi 2 calls the court decision to seize the shares an attempt to shut down Rustavi 2;

October 2, 2015:  Ian Kelly, the US Ambassador to Georgia comments on the developments around Rustavi 2.  

“As you know, the United States strongly supports the independence of the media and freedom of opinion and attaches great importance to it.We actively support a pluralistic media and do not want to see a limited pluralistic environment in Georgia. We will monitor the issue quite closely. Although I have been here just two weeks, I have already discussed the issue with the cabinet and parliament members. This is one of the issues we will always raise during our meetings", -  notes Ian Kelly;

October 5, 2015: the High Council of Justice defines the statements made around the court as pressure on the judge and urges the parties to consider the issue in a peaceful atmosphere;

October 7, 2015: Mark Toner, the US State Department spokesperson comments on the developments around Rustavi 2. According to him, actions that limit the freedom of the media or damage media pluralism, are cause for concern. As Mr. Toner said, the United States is closely monitoring the developments in the case of Rustavi 2;

10 October 10, 2015: Rustavi 2’s"Courier" program has a story covering a confrontation  between judge Urtmelidze’s mother and son-in-law. According to the report, the judge's mother allegedly wounded her son-in-law with an ax;

Rustavi 2 questioned the credibility of the trial judge Tamaz Urtmelidze and asked for his recusal. Mr. Urtmelidze is also advised to seek recusal  by representatives of the NGO sector;

October 13, 2015: comments are also made by government members regarding the judge hearing the Rustavi 2 case. Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani calls upon the parties to let the judge conduct his work without making inquiries into his family matters. ;

October 19, 2015: Judge Urtmelidze refuses the Rustavi 2 lawyers’ motion over his recusal;

October 21, 2015:  Nika Gvaramia accuses the government for using blackmail by disclosing private recordings. Gvaramia makes his statement during the 18:00 news program "Courier",which started airing with an 11-minute delay. Gvaramia announces this in the Rustavi 2 studio in the presence of Civil Society representatives, diplomats, and human rights defenders;

At the same time, the non-governmental sector, including Transparency International Georgia calls on the government to respond to the matter in a timely and adequate manner;

October 22, 2015: Gvaramia goes to the Prosecutor's Office for questioning. Mr. Gvaramia says he is ready to name the so-called  mediator giving him messages that contained threats and blackmail from the government. The messenger named by Gvaramia is Alexi Akhvlediani, Chairperson of "Tbilisi - 2015" Youth Olympic Festival Organizing Committee. Akhvlediani, who also came to the Prosecutor’s Office for questioning, does not confirm his role as mediator although he does confirm that he had a met with Gvaramia in his office;

October 22, 2015: President Margvelashvili makes a statement concerning the developments around Rustavi 2. He calls on Judge Urtmelidze to refrain from making a hasty decision;

October 23, 2015: Mark Toner, the US State Department spokesperson speaking at a briefing notes that a closure or a potential closure of the largest Georgian TV channel (Rustavi 2) would significantly restrict the media landscape in the county;

October 29, 2015: a Ukrainian website disseminates a telephone conversation between Nika Gvaramia and the former President Mikheil Saakashvili, in which the former prime minister and Rustavi 2 General Director discuss measures to protect the TV channel, and specifically about arranging barricades around Rustavi 2, mobilizing people, acting in accordance with the “revolutionary scenario" as well as a possible physical confrontation. On the same day, the same website publicizes a recorded conversation between Giga Bokeria and Saakashvili discussing the defense plan for Rustavi 2 in case there was a violent intrusion in the company;

October 30, 2015: Gvaramia and Bokeria confirm the authenticity of the recordings. Gvaramia explains that he had consultations with many people including President Saakashvili, although he did not always share his standpoint. Gvaramia flatly denied a coup attempt being organized by Rustavi 2; Both Gvaramia and Bokeria make statements regarding the case in the Prosecutor's Office.

That same day, following a meeting with the non-governmental sector, the TV company proposes to set up a public board to ensure the station’s editorial independence;

November 2, 2015: the Constitutional Court of Georgia accepts the lawsuit of Rustavi 2, thereby suspending the possible immediate enforcement of the judgement of a court of first instance. This decision prevents the plaintiff, Kibar Khalvashi, in the event the judgment was delivered in his favour, the opportunity to immediately use all the powers that a TV company owner can enjoy;

November 2, 2015: the recording of yet another telephone conversation between Saakashvili and Gvaramia is disseminated through a Ukrainian website; in it Gvaramia is given instructions to talk to and mobilize the Rustavi 2 employees by telling them they would all be fired upon the arrival of the new owner; in contrast to the former recording, Gavaramia does not confirm the authenticity of the latter one;

November 3, 2015: City Court Judge Tamaz Urtlemlidze delivers the decision on the Rustavi 2 case, according to which only two of the seven claims in Kibar Khalvashi’s lawsuit are not granted. However, Urtlemlidze grants the plaintiff’s claims concerning the ownership issue.

The Court ruling abolishes the purchase agreements with Saktsementi Ltd and Geotrans signed by Khalvashi in November-December 2006, which declared Khalvashi the owner of Rustavi 2 TV channel’s 100 shares;

NGOs respond to the court's decision; they express hope that the deficiencies identified in this decision will be avoided by the appellate courts.

November 5, 2015: under Judge Urtlemidze’s decision, powers have been suspended to Rustavi 2 General Director Nika Gvaramia and Financial Director Kakha Damenia.

The judge justifies his decision by the station’s failure to adhere to the major function of the media and explains that the current director [Nika Gvaramia] cannot ensure that the station performs its basic function in the proper way.

“The Court highlights that there is a danger that unless an interim manager is appointed there is a potential risk that the format of the defendant's activities could even be considerably altered under the existing situation: a number of programs could be abolished or modified, including the top rated ones. Subsequently, there is a danger that the focus and concentration of the Rustavi 2 TV company staff might be geared solely to covering the issues dealing with the dispute. This will affect not only the company’s ranking and finances, but also create a serious threat for the medium to lose its primary function and role of safeguarding the public interest "- says the judge's decision;

Furthermore, the court’s decision indicates that station’s managers should be unbiased and independent. Davit Dvali [a founder of the company and a party to the dispute for Rustavi 2 shares] and Revaz Sakevarishvili [the former executive director of Imedi TV Company], are appointed as  interim managers.

November 6, 2015 Davit Dvali and Jarji Akimidze  organised a press conference together with Revaz Sakevarishvili and Kibar Khalvashi. During the press conference, Kibar khalvashi publicly announced that  he is planning to cede part of his share in Ltd “Rustavi 2”  to Davit Dvali if he wins the dispute in court. The interim managers denied the rumors that they are planning to fire any of employees and said that Rustavi 2 will remain critical of the government.

November 11 2015 - Davit Dvali and Revaz sakevarishvili made a statement that they had delegated Rustavi 2 management rights to Deputy Executive irector Zaal Udumashvili;  Udumashvili declined the offer.

November 12, 2015 - The Tbilisi City Court partially granted appeal of Giorgi and Levan Karamanishvili and reinstated the executive director and the financial director of Ltd “Rustavi 2”. The court's new  decision is valid until the 5 November decision comes into force.   

The court based its decision on Kibar khalvashi’s public statement according to which he is going to cede the shares of Ltd “Rustavi 2”  to Davit Dvali. The court emphasized that this statement cast a doubt on Dvali’s status as an impartial person who can act as interim manager along with Revaz Sakevarishvili;

Consequently, the part of the 5 November ruling whereby Davit Dvali was appointed as an interim manager was annulled, while the second part of decision concerning Revaz Sakevarishvili remained in force.

November 12, 2015 - Interim manager Revaz Sakevarishvili applied to the Public Registry in order to reinstate “Rustavi 2” Executive Director  Nika Gvaramia and Financial Director Kakha Damenia;

November 13, 2015 - The Constitutional Court partially granted the appeal by Gia and Levan Karamanishvili and and suspended the provision which the City Court judge had applied to appoint temporary administration in  "Rustavi-2".

Other articles about Rustavi 2:

The TV station of ‘victorious people’: The story of Rustavi 2

Political TV shows’ pre-electing ratings – Rustavi 2 ahead, GPB struggling to remain relevant

NGOs respond to the Rustavi 2 asset freeze

Statement regarding Rustavi-2 TV Station

On the detention and two-month pre-trial detention of the Rustavi 2 supporters

Statement regarding the Tbilisi City Court ruling on the case of Rustavi 2 rendered on November 5

Author: TI Georgia