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Thousands Rally In Tbilisi To Support Pro-Opposition TV Station

The rally in Tbilisi in support of Rustavi-2
The rally in Tbilisi in support of Rustavi-2

Thousands have rallied in the Georgian capital Tbilisi to protest what they say is an attempt by the government to shut down a popular television channel.

The February 19 action came one day after Rustavi-2 suspended broadcasts in what a deputy director said was a protest against the government's attacks on media freedom.

News reports said more than 10,000 people jammed the streets in front of the parliament building.

Rustavi's management has accused the government of attempting to seize control with the help of businessman Kibar Khalvashi.

Khalvashi sold a controlling stake in the network a decade ago and is now seeking to win it back through a lawsuit.

The station is Georgia's most popular, and has been caught in an ownership tussle since 2015.

The struggle has sparked fears that the ruling Georgian Dream coalition could be seeking to clamp down on independent media in the South Caucasus nation.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili pledged through a spokeswoman his "full support to all media outlets and especially to Rustavi-2, which has repeatedly been under threat."

With reporting by RFE/RL's Georgian Service, AP, Interfax
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