Co-founders of Rustavi 2 TV and the channel’s co-owners in 1994-2004, Davit Dvali and Jarji Akimidze, disabled the television’s web domain Rustavi2.com on April 2 claiming that it has been owned by them since the day of its registration and that they will now use it as a platform for conveying their positions on the ongoing court dispute over the channel ownership.
“This website and this domain belonged to us and therefore, we got it back … We need an outlet to balance Rustavi 2’s active propaganda against us, the founders. So, our own website will not work against us any more,” Davit Dvali said at a press conference on April 3.
Giorgi Gabunia, the Rustavi 2 TV host, said live on April 2 that Davit Dvali, whose friend’s name the website address was registered, disabled the domain without any prior notice.
“Technical works are underway and the official website of Rustavi 2 will be available at a new address Rustavi2.ge,” Gabunia added then.
On April 2, Davit Dvali and Jarji Akimidze placed a statement on the old web address Rustavi2.com, according to which “the goal of this website is to present to the society a consistent analysis of recent developments around the company Rustavi 2, the information available to us, as well as our view of the process in general.”
The ownership dispute over Rustavi 2 TV, Georgia’s most-watched television channel, is still underway.
Current owners of Rustavi 2, including brothers Giorgi and Levan Karamanishvili, have been entangled in a court battle with its former co-owner Kibar Khalvashi, who tries to regain control over the television channel, which he co-owned in 2005-2006.
The TV channel, which claims that former owner’s lawsuit to regain the broadcaster is orchestrated by the government with the aim to seize the channel, lost the battle in the court of the first instance and also in the Appeals and Supreme Courts. But the European Court of Human Rights decided to suspend the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s decision.
Davit Dvali and Jarji Akimidze, who also claim that they were forced to sell shares, appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office in 2012 seeking to reclaim ownership of the channel, but the investigation yielded no results. In 2015 Dvali and Akimidze voiced their support to the lawsuit of Kibar Khalvashi, saying that the process would also help their intention to claim back shares in the broadcaster.