Imedi TV's independent editorial policy is being put at risk, not by the government, but by its co-owner, Badri Patarkatsishvili, according to Gigi Ugulava, the Mayor of Tbilisi and President Saakashvili’s close ally.
Ugulava’s remarks, made on October 11, came after Patarkatsishvili hinted on October 10 that he might enter politics and called on the authorities to stop pressuring him and his media outlets.
“Allegations of restrictions on free speech are absolutely groundless,” Ugulava said at the presentation of new municipal garbage trucks. “We just call a spade a spade – Patarkatsishvili is using his own television station to create immunity for himself.”
He said that Imedi TV had turned into the opposition's “headquarters”, and engages only in “swearing at the authorities.”
Imedi TV’s political talk shows have indeed resembled opposition strongholds, with officials from the Executive and ruling party excluded from debates at the station.
“I watched yesterday how the opposition leaders were looking into Patarkatsishvili’s eyes, as if to say: Badri, give us money,” Ugulava said.
Imedi TV’s late night talk-show On the Air on October 10 hosted Patarkatsishvili, Levan Berdzenishvili, a lawmaker from the opposition Republican Party and Giorgi Khaindrava, ex-State Minister and now an activist with an opposition group, Equality Institute.
Ugulava, in a mocking tone typical of that used by government officials when criticising the opposition in recent days, continued with wordplays containing Patarkatsishvili’s first name, Badri. The opposition, the mayor said, was not at all “GaBadruli” (a Georgian word meaning a smile on someone’s face) – as one of his colleagues had suggested recently – but rather “uBadruki” (meaning a weakling).
A few days ago a lawmaker from the ruling party, Davit Kirkitadze, presented journalists with a cartoon depicting opposition politicians sheltering under smiling Patarkatsishvili's bushy moustache.
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