TBILISI, DFWatch–A member of parliament from the National Movement party was fined 50 000 lari (USD 30 000) on Monday for defamation of businessman Joseph Kay.
Kay is the investor who took over the control of Imedi TV after the owner, Badri Patarkatsishvili, died in 2008.
Imedi played an important role in the uprising against former president Saakashvili in 2007, but after Kay wrested control of Imedi out of the Patarkatsishvili family’s grip, the TV station became supportive of Saakashvili, even going so far as staging a controversial hoax news show a few weeks before the local elections in 2010 in which opposition leaders were portrayed as treacherous Russian stooges.
The court found MP Giorgi Vashadze guilty of libel when he February 24, 2013, called Kay a fraud. The comment was made after the government had published part of the testimony made by Kay, in which he said that the previous government forced him to give away his shares in TV Company Imedi.
In his testimony Kay said that he had negotiations with Mayor Gigi Ugulava, President Mikheil Saakashvili and former Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili about Imedi TV before giving shares away. In the testimony he claims that they threatened him and that was why he agreed to cede control over Imedi.
Kay sued him for defamation and demanded USD 30 000 for moral damage after which the Prosecutor’s Office seized the MP’s house.
Imedi was returned to the Patarkatsishvili family after the change of government in 2012.
Vashadze did not appear in court at the hearing December 13. He did not give the court any reason for his absence. The court announced a break in order to give time for the MP to come, but he still didn’t appear.
The court also made a decision that Vashadze must say on Rustavi 2 and Imedi TV that he retracts the statement he made on February 24, 2013, regarding Kay.
Vashadze’s lawyer plans to appeal Tbilisi City Court’s decision as his client is ill and couldn’t come to court. The lawyer says he thinks the statement about Kay was a matter of freedom of speech, not a libel issue.
“I expressed a subjective opinion and called Joseph Kay a fraud, but I think this is my subjective opinion and I have a right to express my opinion in accordance with the law on freedom of speech,” Vashadze said last summer.