Tue, 20 Aug 2019

TBILISI -- The new owner of Georgia's main opposition television company, Rustavi-2, has announced his intention to sell it.

Kabir Khalvashi's decision to sell the channel was posted on Rustavi's website on August 12.

In a separate statement, Khalvashi said Rustavi-2 was in a 'catastrophic' financial situation because of its debts and he couldn't 'pull the company out of a deep crisis.'

Khalvashi blamed former director Nika Gvaramia for the financial crisis faced by the station.

Khalvashi's announcement comes less than a month after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld a March 2017 verdict by Georgia's Supreme Court on restoring the ownership of Rustavi-2 to previous owner Khalvashi, who is seen as close to the current government.

Following the ECHR ruling, Georgia's Public Registry transferred the ownership of Rustavi-2 to Khalvashi, who immediately fired Gvaramia.

Critics say Khalvashi's move is an attempt by the government to stifle political dissent in the media ahead of parliamentary polls scheduled for next year.

Also on August 12, Ia Kitsmarishvili, the widow of Rustavi-2 co-founder Erosi Kitsmarishvili, filed a case in court requesting 30 percent of the company's shares.

Rustavi-2's other co-founders, Davit Dvali and Jarji Akimidze, said on August 12 that Khalvashi's announcement is meant to complicate the legal battle over the ownership of the media outlet.

Dvali and Akimidze also said Khalvashi wants to make sure the channel will come under the control of someone close to the leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party, tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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