The Tbilisi City Court has found that Rustavi 2 TV unlawfully dismissed former News Department chief Nodar Meladze and entertainment show host Nanuka Zhorzholiani following the controversial change of the channel’s ownership in 2019.
Transparency International (TI) Georgia, which represented Meladze and Zhorzholiani in their separate disputes against Rustavi 2 TV, told Civil.ge today that the Court ordered the channel to pay a compensation of GEL 80 thousand (USD 26 thousand) to the former news service chief and GEL 62 thousand (USD 20 thousand) to the former show host.
Rustavi 2 TV will additionally have pay to Zhorhzoliani her unpaid salary of GEL 20 thousand (USD 6.5 thousand), an amount that will accumulate interest of 0.07% every day until payment, TI Georgia’s lawyer Teona Zakarashvili told Civil.ge.
The Tbilisi City Court handed out the ruling today in the case of Meladze, and on April 21 in Zhorzholiani’s dispute.
Meladze said in a Facebook post today that the verdict has confirmed that he had fulfilled his duties “scrupulously to the last minute” and that the new management at the TV station fired him over a “fictitious reason.” Zhorzholiani commented on the post that she would disclose further details about her case later.
Rustavi 2 TV General Director Paata Salia told Civil.ge that the company management would appeal the decisions in the second instance.
Rustavi 2 TV dismissed Meladze, Zhorhzoliani as well as news producer Giorgi Laperashvili and political talks show hosts Eka Kvesitadze and Giorgi Gabunia on August 20 over “conflict of interests.”
The decision came some month later after businessman Kibar Khalvashi took over the ownership of the Rustavi 2 TV on July 18, the same day as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declared there had been no breach in fair trial guarantees the Rustavi 2 ownership dispute.
Prior to that, Khalvashi had won a lengthy court battle in Georgia against brothers Giorgi and Levan Karamanashvili, then-owners of Rustavi 2.
After assuming the ownership of the TV station, Khalvashi promptly sacked General Director Nika Gvaramia and replaced him with Paata Salia, his own lawyer.
Amid the change of ownership and management, a large chunk of Rustavi 2 TV staff from news shows as well as entertainment programs left the channel, subsequently branching off into two new TV networks – Mtavari Arkhi and Formula.