Local CSOs Call on Intl Media Watchdogs to ‘Thoroughly Monitor’ Rustavi 2 Case

A group of 20 civil society organizations have called on international watchdogs specialized in human rights protection and media freedom, to “thoroughly monitor” the developments around Rustavi 2 TV.

In a statement of July 24, CSOs, including Transparency International Georgia, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, Georgian Democracy Initiative, Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics and UN Association of Georgia, said “it is important to preserve the broadcaster’s critical editorial policy and to prevent any violations of the labor rights of journalists.”

The CSOs said the ownership and management change in Georgian media landscape directly affects “broadcaster’s critical editorial policy towards the government,” and might restrict “media pluralism.”

The new owner of Rustavi 2 TV made a statement claiming that there are no plans to change the editorial policy or to dismiss journalists. In spite of these promises, there is reasonable ground to believe that these statements are not convincing and have no substance,” the statement reads.

According to CSOs, the new owner rejected the Rustavi 2 TV journalists suggestion to create civic board aimed to “provide safeguards” for editorial independence and labor rights and did not propose an alternative mechanism “that would provide institutional protection.”

The CSOs statement comes a day after the Rustavi 2 TV journalists released a statement in which they identify the circumstances which they think would constitute an interference in channel’s editorial policy.

These are:

  • Dismissing journalists, anchors, producers and acting head of news service or transferring them to another positions, as well as hiring new staff;
  • Breaching of their contracts or creating financial obstacles;
  • Censoring newscast guests, sequence of newscasts or any other interference that could affect the content and editorial choice.
In its judgement of July 18, the seven-member Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights declared there has been no breach in fair trial guarantees in Rustavi 2 ownership dispute.

On the same day, Kibar Khalvashi registered as a new owner of Rustavi 2 TV, Georgia’s most-watched television broadcaster.

Later on that day, he dismissed Nika Gvaramia as its Director General, appointing his lawyer Paata Salia instead.

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