TBILISI, DFWatch–Activists from Georgia’s former ruling party gathered in front of the Supreme Court building in Tbilisi on Friday to support their TV station, Rustavi 2, in a private lawsuit that could dampen down its criticism of the government.
The activists marched down Rustaveli Avenue to the Supreme Court building near parliament, where the main speaker Nika Melia urged people to gather there every day.
Melia said on Wednesday that UNM had received information that the court would issue its decision sometime between February 10 and 15.
UNM activist argue that if the current owners of Rustavi 2 are forced to give up control, it would silence an opposition media outlet.
The Rustavi 2 case is a private lawsuit filed by one of the company’s former owners, Kibar Khalvashi, who claims he was forced to relinquish ownership of the TV company during the Saakashvili presidency. He won in Tbilisi City Court and also in Appeals Court.
If the businessman wins the case in the Supreme Court, which is the final recourse in the country’s judiciary, he will take over the company.
Khalvashi has been accused of acting on the orders of, and with backing from, the authorities; winning the lawsuit might therefore mean that Rustavi 2 loses its editorial independence, according to UNM and some analysts.
But others see it is as an affront that the company is claiming to be a victim of government pressure considering its complicity in the former government’s crimes while its favored politicians were in power.
During the nine years the UNM rule, Rustavi 2’s editorial line was strongly supportive of that party and its figurehead, ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili. That loyalty continued after UNM lost power in 2012, and the channel is now the most effective critic of the Georgian Dream movement and its leader Bidzina Ivanishvili.