Nika Gvaramia, General Director of the major opposition-leaning TV Channel Rustavi 2, resigned on 8 June.
His resignation has not been officially confirmed by either Rustavi 2 or Gvaramia, but On.ge, Netgazeti and several other local media outlets write that sources within company have confirmed the decision.
The reason for his resignation is not yet known, however on 31 May Gvaramia announced that he would resign in September if he failed to solve the financial crisis at the TV station.
Later on Thursday, the head of the Rustavi 2 news service was also replaced. Giorgi Laperashvili, who had held the post since 2014, was replaced by Nodar Meladze, who previously headed the company’s website. Laperashvili will continue working at the company.
‘I have worked for eight years at the news service. The company’s management saw that I could continue working in this direction, so why not?’ Meladze said.
The station is undergoing a restructuring process due to financial difficulties, which according to Gvaramia were caused by the ongoing ownership dispute over the company. He claims that doubt over the future of the station because of the case has reduced their access to banking and financial services.
Several days ago, deputy director of Rustavi 2 Zaal Udumashvili told journalists that he had received proposal from the opposition United National Movement (UNM) party to participate in the upcoming local election as a candidate for Mayor of Tbilisi; he says that he hasn’t made a decision yet. Udumashvili was in Kiev meeting with UNM members, including former President Mikheil Saakashvili.
‘I haven’t decided if I will be candidate for the UNM or if I will run as an independent candidate. I will let you know my decision in a few days’, he said.
A meeting was held at the offices of Rustavi 2 last night attended by Udumashvili, Meladze and others in which Gvaramia wasn’t present; they declined to comment following the meeting. According to local media outlet Tabula, a number of employees of the station have urged Gvaramia not to go.
Gvaramia was appointed to the post of General Director of Rustavi 2 in 2012. He was previously Justice Minister and Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Georgia under the UNM government.
On 2 March 2017, Georgia’s Supreme Court handed ownership of Rustavi 2 to businessman Kibar Khalvashi, who owned the channel in 2004–2006. The decision was met with concern from local and international media and rights groups. Khalvashi is accused by supporters and employees of the channel as being a pawn of the current administration.
Lawyers for the company have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, who on 7 March indefinitely suspended the Supreme Court ruling until they review the case.