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Imedi TV License Suspended for Three Months
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 17 Nov.'07 / 00:54

The Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) has suspended Imedi TV’s broadcast license for three months, citing the station's violation of the law on broadcasting. Meanwhile, Rustavi 2 TV aired on November 16 a documentary, which had all the appearances of officially sanctioned, anti-Imedi propaganda.

The GNCC decision to suspend Imedi’s broadcast license is dated November 8; despite suggestions that the license had been suspended, the GNCC, until November 16, had been denying it had taken any such action. The eight-day delay in announcing the decision and the denials have gone unexplained.

The GNCC did, however, explain why it had taken the decison to suspend Imedi's license. At 8pm on November 7, it said, Imedi TV engaged in “obvious disinformation [saying] that law enforcement officers were planning to storm the Holy Trinity cathedral [in Tbilisi].”

“This report created an imminent and real threat of turning on-going riots into large scale massive unrest, which could have eventually led to uncontrollable processes,” the GNCC decision reads.

In a separate judgement, Tbilisi City Court also suspended Imedi TV’s broadcast license. In a ruling issued on November 7, it said that the station had been used by its co-owner, Badri Patarkatsishvili, as “a major tool” for organizing the demonstrations, which eventually got out of control, creating “an obvious and real threat of a forceful overthrow of the government.” As with the GNCC decision, the court ruling was only given to Imedi TV management many days after it had been issued - in this case, six days later, on November 13.

Meanwhile, the authorities have stepped up their attacks on the station, releasing several taped phone conversations between Patarkatsishvili and Giorgi Targamadze, chief of Imedi TV’s political programs, and also between an Imedi producer and journalist.

Nika Gvaramia, the deputy chief prosecutor, said that the taped phone conversations confirmed the authorities’ allegations that Patarkatsishvili had been both “directly controlling Imedi TV’s editorial policy” – despite claims that he had handed over management rights to News Corporation - and that Patarkatsishvili had been  using the station to incite unrest.

In one taped phone conversation, Patarkatsishvili asks Giorgi Targamadze what is happening in Tbilisi during the protest rallies. “There are many people rallying,” Targamadze replies. “The square is full of people now.”

In another taped phone conversation, an Imedi producer, Sopo Chaava, is heard speaking with an Imedi journalist, Eka Kadagishvili. Chaava tells Kadagishvili that a few days before the November 7 unrest she had heard how Giorgi Targamadze, journalist Tea Adeishvili and producer Levan Vepkhvadze were talking about planning unrest and events “similar to that of April 9 [1989]” – when at least 20 people were killed by Soviet soldiers outside Parliament in Tbilisi.

“It's clear from these taped phone conversations that Imedi TV was a weapon in the hands of Patarkatsishvili through which he wanted to create a situation similar to the events of April 9,” the deputy chief prosecutor, Nika Gvaramia, said.

Both Adeishvili and Vepkhvadze have, however, strongly denied having such a conversation with Targamadze.

Meanwhile, Rustavi 2 TV, seen by many as a pro-government media outlet, aired on November 16 a half hour documentary about Imedi TV’s alleged role in the anti-government demonstrations. The documentary was mainly based on an interview with the deputy chief prosecutor, Nika Gvaramia, and provided no counter arguments.

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