Georgians rally against govt.'s alleged move to silence TV channel
Story Code : 611203
Large crowds of Georgians filled the main avenue in the capital on Sunday to show their support of the opposition-minded and independent television station Rustavi 2, which is reportedly to be transferred to its former owner, Kibar Khalvashi, a more government-friendly owner.
The Rustavi 2 alleges that the government is attempting to seize control of the station via its former owner, who sold a controlling share in the network some ten years ago, but is now thriving to win it back through a lawsuit.
Khalvashi, a 54-year-old millionaire, for his part, says he was forced to sell his substantial stake under the administration of former President Mikheil Saakashvili and now he wants the share back. The country’s biggest television channel has fought the case, which is now before the highest judicial authority, the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Protesters carried banners and held signs in support of the TV network and denouncing government’s alleged move to violate freedom of expression.
“Today we should stay together to tell the government that they can never touch freedom of speech in this country,” said Zaal Udumashvili, the broadcaster's deputy director, addressing the demonstrators in front of the parliament building in central capital.
Rustavi 2 went off air late on Friday in what Udumashvili described it as “the most extreme form of protest” against the government's assault on media freedom.