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Imedi TV Chief Defends Fake Report
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 15 Mar.'10 / 02:30

Giorgi Arveladze, head of Imedi, a television station, whose fake report on renewed war with Russia sparked brief panic in Georgia followed with widespread outrage, said he was acknowledging responsibility but was not considering possibility of quiting the post.

Arveladze, who is a former government members and a long-time ally of President Saakashvili, said he was sincerely apologizing for causing "a shock" with the fake report, which was aired on Saturday evening. The television station made a notice to viewers before the start of the report that it was "a simulation" of what may happen after the May local elections, but there was no caption on the screen indicating that it was fake in the course of the report itself.

"The goal of this report was not to scare the population or to cause panic... But we understand that it was a shock for viewers and we take responsibility for that and sincerely apologize for that," Arveladze said while speaking with public broadcaster's weekly program, Accents.

He said that prior to the airing of the program, there had been discussions among producers and editors whether to run a caption on the screen in the course of the report or simply to make a notice only in advance and in the end of the report. He said that it was decided to broadcast the report in a form in which it was eventually aired.

Arveladze declined to acknowledge allegations that by not running a caption of warning on the screen in the course of the fake report Imedi TV violated code of conduct for broadcasters. He said it was "a matter of interpretation" among lawyers.

The Georgian National Communications Commission, as well as a legal advocacy group Young Lawyers' Association of Georgia said that Imedi TV violated the code, which requires from broadcasters to refrain from airing simulations in their political and news programs. If a broadcaster anyway decides to do so it is required "to clearly explain" to viewers that it is a fiction, according to the code of conduct.

"There are various views on that among lawyers and I do not want to go into polemics about it," Arveladze responded when asked about the code.

But after he was pressed on the same issue by the anchor Arveladze responded: "I do not want to go into legal details, but 'to clearly explain' does not necessarily mean that there should be a caption [on the screen]. It was clearly explained in the beginning of the program."

"Its not now an important issues; important is to say that the goal was not to scare the society; the goal was to talk about those security threats which our country faces," Arveladze continues. "Our goal was to openly lay out the plan prepared in Moscow with all of its painful details."

"As it turned out it was a miscalculation [on the part of Imedi TV] to think that the society would have perceived the broadcast adequately," Arveladze said.

He then said that a major difference between 1921, when Georgia was invaded by the Bolshevik Red Army and the August, 2008 war was that in 1921 the Red Army was led by Georgian Bolsheviks, "but in 2008 Russia failed to find such Georgians."

"But what is happening now it is unfortunate and dangerous; such Georgians emerged today," Arveladze said, referring to ex-parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze and ex-PM Zurab Nogaideli, who have held separate meetings with Russia's PM Vladimir Putin recently and who were among key figures of the fake report as if they were organizers of post-election unrests in Tbilisi, which were then used by Russia to intervene militarily.

"We will do our best to resolve Imedi TV's credibility problem, if such emerged after the report, because we serve the society and first and foremost we serve our country and we will do our best to prevent such events [described in the fake report] from happening in reality - this is our major goal; this is our civil duty and my personal duty," Arveladze said.

"I think that I will be able to do that from the position, which I currently hold... So I do not consider any changes in the staff, neither my resignation. I think we should all try now to save our country's future," he said.

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