United National Movement’s (UNM) protest in front of the Tbilisi City Hall ended with the detention of 13 demonstrators.
Approximately 100 activists gathered on February 13, as part of the campaign launched on February 10, to support media freedom in the country and demand ‘fair’ justice over the ongoing ownership dispute of Rustavi 2, one of the most watched TV channels in Georgia.
Earlier, on February 5, Rustavi 2 reported that the family of Natalia Nazgaidze, who chaired the three-judge panel adjudicating Rustavi 2 TV ownership dispute at the Tbilisi Court of Appeals, received on December 23 land plot and monetary reimbursement worth of one million Lari (USD 375 000) from the state budget in exchange for issuing the ruling against TV station’s current owners.
The allegations were dismissed by Jaba Samushia, deputy chairman of Tbilisi Sakrebulo, who said that money was allocated to Nazgaidze’s brother as a compensation for the land plot that was affected by the 2015 flooding in Tbilisi.
"There is an evidence that a judge was given a bribe worth of one million GEL and there is zero response [from the Government], and on the contrary, they say that it is a lie, but there is a document confirming the fact,” MP Nika Melia, one of UNM’s leaders, told the demonstrators on February 13.
Melia requested to be let in the City Hall building, which was blocked by the guards. Police arrested the demonstrators as they tried to forcefully enter the building.
Tbilisi Mayor’s office released a statement after the demonstration accusing the UNM of “instigating an artificial outcry” and “manipulating” the public.
Current owners of Rustavi 2 are locked in a court battle with its former co-owner Kibar Khalvashi, who tries to regain control over this Tbilisi-based opposition-minded television channel. The TV channel, which claims that former owner’s lawsuit to regain the broadcaster is orchestrated by the government with the aim to seize the channel, lost the battle in the court of first instance and also in the appellate court and took the case to the Supreme Court.