On September 25, after over a month-pause, Rustavi 2 TV’s newsroom went on air again with its main news program “Kurieri” at 9pm, which will be hosted by Natia Lazashvili, who served as the anchor of “Kurieri” for 11 years till 2006.
“I returned, because I think this television should not be suspended, and this studio – darkened. I returned, to motivate journalists and staff working on this TV to do their beloved job freely, to make news according to their conscience, but at the same time through protecting others’ dignity,” Lazashvili said in her short introductory speech.
Prior to Lazashvili, Executive Director of Rustavi 2 TV Irakli Imnaishvili welcomed the audience, saying the 25-year history of the television continues, and that the channel will retain its criticism.
He said, from today, the values of “Kurieri” will not “take the side of any political or business team, will not lie or manipulate with facts.”
Rustavi 2 TV programming and staff
Rustavi 2 TV resumed its full programming on Wednesday. According to its promotional video released on its Facebook page a day earlier, almost all of the old programs will be aired again.
Nino Shubladze, who served as Deputy of then Director General Nika Gvaramia several years ago, as well as a host of a political talk show, will lead the newsroom. After quitting the channel, she served as an adviser to the Minister of Healthcare.
Paata Salia, Rustavi 2’s new Director General, presented Irakli Imnaishvili as the TV channel’s Executive Director on August 27. Imnaishvili lived in London for over past 13 years, working for BBC together with his wife, Natia Abramia. Following the government change in 2012, he served as a consultant at Imedi TV. His wife, Natia Abramia serves as a consultant at the President Salome Zurabishvili’s Administration.
Khatuna Berdzenishvili, former head of European Georgia’s PR service, has become the chief producer of Rustavi 2 TV’s news program. Previously, she served at the same television, as well as TV channels Mze and Georgian Public Broadcaster. In 2013, Gigi Ugulava, then Tbilisi Mayor appointed Berdzenishvili as the head (Gamgebeli) of capital city’s Krtsanisi District.
As almost all of the newsroom’s journalists quit the TV channel on August 20, Rustavi 2 TV experienced scarcity of human resources. Media outlets reported that Rustavi 2’s new management tried to return its journalists and to attract journalists from other televisions as well. As a result, number of journalists returned to Rustavi 2 and also, some others moved in from Georgian Public Broadcaster, Imedi TV and Iberia TV.
On July 18, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that there has been no breach in fair trial guarantees in Rustavi 2 ownership dispute. Changes were launched at Rustavi 2 TV following the ECHR ruling.
Initially, the new management promised not to replace the TV company’s staff and not to change its editorial policy, but broke the promise and launched staff changes.
Journalists quit Rustavi 2 TV in protest, after the new Director General announced the staff changes, dismissing several leading journalists, including the head of News Department Nodar Meladze.
In his first explanation after the staff changes, the TV owner Kibar Khalvashi said he will spare no efforts “to save” and “rehabilitate” Rustavi 2 as soon as possible, and return “Kurieri” – its main news program – on air.
Natia Lazashvili, new anchor of Rustavi 2 since September 2019, was one of those who quit Rustavi 2 TV in 2006 as a sign of protest as then Director-General was sacked during Kibar Khalvashi’s TV ownership. She cited “commitment to the principles” as the reason behind her decision.
Several years after quitting Rustavi 2 TV, Natia Lazashvili became the anchor of Channel 9’s main news bulletin, launched by Bidzina Ivanishvili, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, before the 2012 parliamentary elections. However, Lazashvili quit Channel 9 in November 2012, almost two months after the Georgian Dream party assumed power in October 2012.
During 2018, Lazashvili first worked at the government administration as a freelancer. Later in August 2018, she changed her job and started to serve as an adviser in strategic communication issues at the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia. Her husband, Giorgi Pruidze is a member of the Georgian National Communications Commission.
Georgian Young Lawyers Association explained to Civil Georgia (Civil.ge) that Lazashvili becoming Rustavi 2 anchor may become the ground for her husband’s impeachment as the commission member. According to article 11 of the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting, a conflict of interest may arise if a member of the Commission “concurrently carries out any work in return for payment for a person whose activities fall within the scope of regulation of the Commission.”