(Rustavi 2.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–The original owners of a Georgian TV company whose property was seized a few days ago by a court, claimed on Sunday that it is controlled by the opposition party National Movement and that it ‘has nothing to do with independent media.’

The ownership of Rustavi 2 has a long history. According to its website, it is currently owned by Levan Karamanishvili (23%), Giorgi Karamanishvili (18%), TV Georgia (51%) and Nino Nizharadze (9%).

About two years ago, Transparency International Georgia published a report into the history of Rustavi 2’s ownership, which found that it has changed owners about 20 times during the years 2004-2012 through ‘suspicious deals.’

After the parliamentary election in 2012 and the change of government, Jarji Akimidze and Davit Dvali, who founded the company together with Erosi Kitsmarishvili in 1994, declared that they intended to go to court to get it back.

In Sunday’s statement, the two make it clear that the lawsuit has not yet been ended and express hope that it will be a transparent and unbiased process which will show that since 2004, and during the rule of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, there has been systematic harassment and manipulation directed against Rustavi 2.

“The result was having a propaganda machine under the rule of a single party, instead of free media,” the statement reads.

They believe that Rustavi 2 continues to be influenced by the National Movement, Saakashvili’s party which is now in opposition.

“We think it is immoral by the National Movement to attempt to gloss over an investigation of crime against media outlets and portraying it as pressure on independent media,” the statement reads.

It is cynical when a political force, which did its best ‘to devastate freedom of speech’ in the country during their rule, speaks out about those issues, it continues.

Later on Sunday, Rustavi 2’s current director Nika Gvaramia responded by saying that Akimidze and Dvali are a ‘tool’ in the hands of former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and are being used to attack Rustavi 2.

Gvaramia also claims that before Erosi Kitsmarishvili’s ‘mysterious death’ last year, he told him that Ivanishvili planned to attack Rustavi 2 together with Akimidze, Dvali and Khalvashi.

“A few weeks after this conversation [Erosi Kitsmarishvili] was no longer alive.”