08.09.2015 Author: Henry Kamens

Georgia: Rustavi 2 is the keystone of the UNM’s resilience

3422222As for now, the jury is out and all of Rustavi 2’s assets have been frozen by a Georgian court. Most Georgian obtain the bulk of their information from informal networks, the proverbial grapevine, or from Rustavi2, the most popular TV station in Georgia, as it is geared to a dumb down population that thrives on South American soap operas and “endless reality programs” that sucks what is left out of the brains of Georgia’s once highly educated population.

Now sit back and watch the fight, as if Rustavi2 is fully investigated there will be all kinds of thing surfacing, and who actually stands behind it, and that will be one of the biggest surprises of all. Much more is involve than a lawsuit brought by three former owners to try and get back what the UNM stole to use as their media mouthpiece.

That is pretty much par for the course for this part of the world, and has become the standard in the West. However in Georgia things are a bit more complicated than that: Rustavi2 is the flagship flag-waver of what is left of the old regime of Mikhail Saakashvili, former Georgian president. A lot of hangers on hide behind the protection they get from that TV station – not just political types, but the whole rake of faux journalists who owe their living to the fact that they support Saakashvili’s agenda to regain power – support which is more likely driven through fear of the methods employed rather than through subscription to policies of the former government and the United National Movement (UNM).

The whole problem in Georgia, of the failure of justice, can be blamed in part to the success of using Rustavi 2 to maintain a fearful grip on the bulk of the population, especially those living in rural villages that have few programming alternatives. While no-one wants the media to be controlled by one side or the other – the plain fact of the matter is that Rustavi 2 IS controlled by one party, and that party is still being used to promote anti-state rhetoric aimed at destroying people’s livelihoods just so that the previous government can claim that the duly elected government has failed.

While Rustavi 2 continues to act as their mouthpiece then justice and progress in Georgia will be impossible and, if they were to be successful, then a true reign of terror and retribution would be unleashed which would make their previous tenure seem like a Disney movie. That will be the end of Georgia’s hopes to become the beacon of liberty which, only now, it is so close to becoming.

Things could get really dirty now, but it needs to if justice is to be done.

Already we are seeing the first counterattack being launched by none other than the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović who has severely criticized the Georgian Courts by judging their decision to be “disproportionate and excessive,” under the guise of a thinly veiled excuse that it “may constitute a threat to media pluralism in Georgia”.

In return the Georgian High Council of Justice appears to have given Dunja Mijatović a slap on the wrists, along with other UNM mouthpieces by stating:

“Statements and comments from some representatives of governmental branches against or in favour of the parties put the court proceedings in danger and challenge the court’s authority and prestige, as well as impartiality of the judge and the rule of law”.

Most of the people who support Saakashvili here do so out of fear. The Russians in Odessa could do them a huge favour by assassinating him, but there are still many little snakes running around in Georgia, each carrying their orders from the Europeans in their gang. They need to completely destroy them here and let the likes of Carl Bildt know that their day is over… they should retire, hurt… but otherwise still healthy (and wealthy). Quit with the megalomania.

A court in Tbilisi in early August ordered the seizure of all property owned by Georgia’s biggest independent TV company, as reported by Rustavi 2 reported on its website. That may be a bit difficult and the ownership structure is like a shell game that is out of control, and with offshore interests and nothing is what it appears, based on a report on ownership of the station prepared by Transparency International.

TI’s report demonstrated that ownership changed hands approximately 20 times during the years 2004-2012 through ‘suspicious deals.’

Crying Foul

Rustavi 2 claims that the court’s ruling implied seizure of the company’s shares, though the claimant, businessman and former owner of the TV company, Kibar Khalvashi, was denied the other of his demands: to freeze the TV company’s bank accounts and ban the use of the Rustavi 2 logo by its current owners. According to the Rustavi 2 statement, its owners have been banned from changing statutes and reorganization of the company and dispose of other property.

This is a shame, based on the history of Rustavi-2 of investigative reporting and professional and objective reporting in its early years which help bring Saakashvili to power. It was suddenly transformed into more a governmental station, cutting back or eliminating almost all its political programming and substituting it with reality programs and superficial news reports that were politically slanted. This was part of a larger program of media consolidating, and another station, Imedia “Hope” was taken over by the team of the UNM, and became an aggressive station, heavily involved in the run-up to the 2008 Georgian Russian war. Only with the defeat of the UNP and court proceedings by the family of the deceased Badri Patikishvili, Georgian oligarch, who died under suspicious circumstances, was the station returned to its rightful owners.

Independent Media, Oxymoron

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

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, who is the former Ambassador to Russian, declared that they intended to go to court to get it back. It is the same Kitsmarishvili who was killed earlier this year in a contact style hit, and many consider this to be related to media ownership and insider knowledge of the Georgian-Russian war and various illegal deals of Saakashvili regime.

“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.

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

All of Rustavi 2’s assets have been frozen. Good! They’re fighting back the only way they know how, one look at their website will show you they’re not taking it lying down.

Meanwhile in the hot summers days in Tbilisi most minds have been turned to Barcelona v Sevilla in the big football game but the real spotting event is just lining up, and this may be a blood sport before it is out—it is do or die for the National Party.

Most of the people who support Saakashvili here do so out of fear. The Russians in Odessa could do them a huge favour by assassinating him, but there are still many little snakes running around in Georgia, each carrying their orders from the Europeans in their gang.

Death to the UNM – long live justice!

The “gas” and truncheons comment shows the level of back biting, “I welcome the fact that the TV owners are not being determined with gas, and truncheons,” Tamaz Mechiauri. All the while the government is sitting this one out on the sidelines, and Georgian media reports that the majority in the government, Georgian Dream Party is refraining from making political statements about the apparently legal seizure of Rustavi2″s asset, and letting the courts sort it out.

They need to completely destroy them here (UNM) and let the likes of Carl Bildt know, another others on the payroll, amongst their staunchest supporters that their day is over… they should retire, hurt… but otherwise still healthy (and wealthy). Quit with the megalomania.

All of Rustavi 2’s assets have been frozen.

Good! They’re fighting back the only way they know how, one look at their website will show you they’re not taking it lying down.

A possible slogan for the movement to gain back an independent TV Station, Death to the UNM – long live justice!

Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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