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More Rustavi-2 TV Journalists Quit After New Owner Fires Colleagues

Rustavi-2's new director-general, Paata Salia.
Rustavi-2's new director-general, Paata Salia.

TBILISI -- More journalists at Rustavi-2 TV have quit their jobs to protest a decision by the channel's new owner to fire several of their colleagues.

The journalists announced their decision to leave on August 21, a day after the channel's new director-general, Paata Salia, fired five leading reporters and anchors.

The developments came days after the new owner of what was once Georgia's main opposition television company, Kibar Khalvashi, announced his intention to sell the media outlet.

Khalvashi said on August 12 that Rustavi-2 is in a “catastrophic" financial situation because of its debts and blamed the channel's previous director, Nika Gvaramia, for the situation.

Khalvashi's announcement came 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 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 that Khalvashi's actions at the television station are an attempt by the administration to stifle political dissent in the media ahead of parliamentary polls scheduled for next year.

Khalvashi, however, has vowed to make the former opposition station independent, both politically and financially.