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Why Has the Chief of Rustavi 2 TV Stepped Down?
/ 20 Oct.'04 / 17:28
Commentary by Ia Antadze

Partner post from RFE/RL Georgian Service

Observers say Erosi Kitsmarishvili
has lost battle with PM Zhvania.

Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nika Tabatadze announced on October 13 at a news briefing that he quits the position and becomes the General Director of the private Rustavi 2 broadcasting company, replacing founder of the company Erosi Kitsmarishvili. What might be the reason of this change?

It is not a secret that the Rustavi 2 television has become a full-range actor of the political processes in Georgia. The TV company has chosen a very risky way, when after the last year’s November 2 parliamentary elections, it sided with by-than opposition and itself became one of the leaders of the revolution. It was clear from the very beginning, that this choice would bring Erosi Kitsmarishvili either great success or total failure. 

During the most difficult period for the country, the TV company acted not as a neutral information source, but as an influential opposition party. Ex-president Eduard Shevardnadze’s and by-then opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili’s political supporters were in a deadly struggle and in case of the opposition’s defeat, the Rustavi 2 should have suffered most of all.
 
However, the revolution gained the victory and Kitsmarishvili managed to strengthen his positions under the patronage of the new authorities. Although Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania publicly declared the Director General of Rustavi 2 as his closest friend, speculations were circulating all the time that Kitsmarishvili was aiming at the Prime-Minister’s position, held by Zurab Zhvania. These speculations were confirmed soon and Zhvania’s former friend turned into his political opponent.
 
Couple of months ago the Rustavi 2 news program aired the story, which accused the Prime Minister of secret lobbying of one of the business groups. One the same day the Prime Minister responded the accusation in the live interview to the Rustavi 2 saying that “a dirty campaign has been launched against him.” It has become clear since then, that Zhvania and Kitsmarishvili parted ways.
 
Since then, the question: who will win the battle – Zhvania or Kitsmarishvili? – was often heard among the political circles. The events have developed as follows: Erosi Kitsmarishvili left the post of the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Trade, which he took over after the Rose Revolution, than sold his shares of the Rustavi 2 television, and finally rejected the post of the Director General of the company. So, everything is clear: Kitsmarishvili has lost the battle with Zhvania, and gave up the most valuable thing for him – Rustavi 2 TV.
 
It appeared from the outset that Erosi Kitsmarishvili made a political mistake when he decided to oppose a very strong opponent – Zurab Zhvania. However, actually everything is differently. It seems that the mistake was made much earlier, particularly when Erosi Kitsmarishvili, the Director General and the owner of the private television decided to overcome a margin of neutral observer in the political processes and interfere in the revolution as an interested party. Although within several months Rustavi 2 managed to gain unnatural popularity, after the reshuffle of the authorities it has quickly lost both the public trust and its own image.
 
This was a quite logical and anticipated process, because when the media company – newspaper or television – gets involved in the political processes as a side, it means a suicide for the media company. Erosi Kitsmarishvili should have thought of this danger. However, he took double hazard: on the one hand, when he opposed Shevardnadze’s regime, and on the other hand, when he joined the political process as a party. Probably, he expected one thing: more valuable award, than an ownership of the private TV company, for example – the post of a Prime Minister.

It was beyond doubt that the history of Rustavi 2 founded, developed and brought up till now by Erosi Kitsmarishvili has actually come to an end. There is no doubt that the company will undergo too many changes soon, since it will be impossible to revitalize the company without drastic reshuffle.

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