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State of Emergency Declared in Tbilisi, as Two TV Stations Off Air
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 7 Nov.'07 / 22:59

President Saakashvili has imposed emergency rules in the capital city Tbilisi in the evening on November 7, Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli, said.

“There was an attempt of unrests and state coup; so we had to react on that,” he said in a televised address. “Temporary restrictions are imposed on demonstrations and manifestations, as well as [restrictions are imposed] on calls for unrests and overthrow of the government with use of force through media sources. In other terms freedom of speech is not restricted. As soon as a normal order is restored restriction will be removed and functioning of the media sources will also be restored.”

The parliament has to convene within the next 48 hours and approve the presidential decree, which is already in force.

Two opposition TV stations, Imedi and Kavkasia, have gone off the air, shortly after President Saakashvili accused Russia and "some" political parties in Georgia of staging unrests in Tbilisi. Both television stations were broadcasting extensive coverage of the opposition’s protest rallies.

Imedi TV was put off the air shortly after its anchor announced in the live broadcast that police “broke into the television.”

“They are now trying to break into this studio,” Giorgi Targamadze, an anchor and chief of the Imedi TV’s political programs said. “I want to say that Imedi has always been the only window through which entire Georgia could watch the truth.”

Simultaneously noise was heard from outside the studio; then lights went off and camera was switched off. Imedi radio station was also off the air and the Imedi’s website was inaccessible.

Less than couple of minutes later another opposition TV station, Kavkasia, also went off the air.

Unlike Imedi TV, Kavkasia is a small television covering only the capital Tbilisi.

Imedi media holding, involving the television and radio station is co-owned by the authorities’ rival tycoon, Badri Patarkatsishvili and the News Corporation.

Patarkatsishvili has recently handed over management rights of his shares into Imedi media holding to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. for a one-year term after he announced that was planning to finance the opposition’s campaign.

President Saakashvili said in his televised address to the nation that the November 7 unrests in Tbilisi was “planned there [Russia], financed from there and implemented through the help of their friendly oligarchs” – an apparent reference to Badri Patarkatsishvili.

A spontaneous rally by several dozen of people, living in the neighborhood where Imedi TV’s office is located, gathered outside the television station chanting: “Imedi,” “Imedi.”

Police officers in masks and assault rifles were seen sealing off the Imedi office. A scuffle occurred between the protesters and the police. TV stations’ footage showed policemen beating up a mean. Riot police also used tear gas to disperse protesters outside the Imedi TV’s office.

It is not yet clear how long the state of emergency will last. “It may last for days or weeks,” Giga Bokeria, an influential lawmaker from the ruling party told reporters. “The top priority now is to restore order and to prevent any possible threats.”

"Our sincere wish is Imedi TV to restore its broadcasting as soon as possible. I have many friends there who have become part of this machine of lies," Gigi Ugulava, the Tbilisi mayor, siad. "Emergency rules will not last for several weeks. The challenge our country faced, is actually already overcome."
 
"Guidelines will be sent to each media outlet tomorrow, outlining in details what type of restrictions are imposed on the media sources," Ugulava added.

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