Current and upcoming metamorphoses of Rustavi-2

Current and upcoming metamorphoses of Rustavi-2

Decision of the European Court of Human Rights to return ownership of  Rustavi-2 TV channel to one of its former owners, businessman Kibar Khalvashi, marks the end of an entire era in the history of Georgia. Since its creation, Rustavi-2 was a bright phenomenon not only in the media field of the country, but also in social and political life, often creating certain agenda.

Employees of Rustavi-2 say that they won't surrender and continue to fight for independent existence. New/old owner Kibar Khalvashi says that he is not going to interfere with editorial policy, but he will appoint his lawyer, Paatu Salia, to the position of director general of Rustavi-2. Nika Gvaramiya, current director general, says that he does not plan to concede his office due to peculiarities of his contract, but if he does have to do it, he will do it for $ 5 million. This is the amount of money specified in his contract. Opposition says about continuation of fight for independent press, about machinations of the authorities, that the law is not always on the side of justice and so on. Authorities, as usual, are silent, and even if they say somethings, they just say that there's the rule of law in Georgia and people must follow it.

There's obvious tragedy and paradox. The tragedy is that during 25 years of its existence, talented TV channel, great professional journalists turned into media personnel serving the interests of the former government - the National Movement. This channel spreads disinformation in order to hurt the authorities. They make fun of pretty worthy projects and actions and always praise the National Movement. Rustavi-2 is always open and accessible to the former president of the country, Mikheil Saakashvili, no matter where in the world he is.

There's also tragedy because of the fact that undisputed leader of the free Georgian press now forces people to raise certain questions - where does freedom of speech begin and where how far can it go? When it comes to recent activities of Rustavi-2, freedom of speech and shameless attempt to achieve specific purposes are so closely intertwined that the country's top-rated TV channel finally turned into a department of certain party, and employees themselves were formal and informal participants in actions and goals pursued by National Movement.

Authorities never liked Rustavi-2, which was always professional and almost always oppositional. They always tried to get rid of it in some way. During presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze, television company was repeatedly besieged by fiscal services, and somehow the public’s actions saved it from financial crisis. Next Georgian leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, who instigated Rose Revolution, actively supported by the TV channel, unexpectedly faced opposition from seemingly friendly and allied media after he came to power. He acted in a more cunning way compared to previous authorities - through various combinations, not always fully compliant with the law, TV channel became owned by people who were absolutely loyal to Georgian president and ruling party. But there was a time bomb in these combinations.

Georgian Dream is the third party that has to deal with Rustavi-2. After actually becoming a department of the National Movement party, without advertising this obvious transformation, leader of Georgian media categorically didn't accept new regime, criticizing it since day one. It became clear that the next clash with authorities is inevitable. After facing the pressure, including financial one, TV channel began to pursue more balanced policy, but on closer examination it became even more cynical.

Paradox of the current situation lies in the fact that fateful changes in Rustavi-2 occurred after huge scandal with Moscow. According to the Rustavi-2 team, Russia is hostile, despite the fact that it didn't take any actions against channel, putting itself above the situation, while judicial authority of the “beloved West” essentially put an end to the current life of TV channel. Even though current owner promises not to interfere with editorial policy.

Today Rustavi-2 demonstrates humility and respect for the law. Most of the programs are dedicated to immediate future, one after another anchors repeat that they are waiting for a meeting with new CEO and that they don't plan to sabotage the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. All of this looks like a memorial service, and it may turn out to be just that.

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Vestnik Kavkaza

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