Imedi ‘No Longer a Threat,’ Can be Reopened – Burjanadze
/ 3 Dec.'07 / 16:02
Civil Georgia

The Prosecutor’s Office and the courts will unfreeze Imedi’s assets in two days and there will be no obstacle to the resumption of broadcasting by Imedi TV and radio stations, Nino Burjanadze, the acting president, said on December 3.

“Despite the fact that talks on Imedi TV are still on-going and that Imedi TV still remains under the ownership and control of one of the presidential candidates [Badri Patarkatsishvili], we, the Georgian government, have in any case taken the political decision to request that the General Prosecutor’s Office consider the possibility of unfreezing Imedi’s assets,” Burjanadze said in a televised address.

She said that “the threat, based on which Imedi’s assets were frozen, no longer exists.”

Tbilisi City Court suspended Imedi TV’s broadcast license, claiming that the station's coverage of the November 7 unrest amounted to incitement to overthrow the government. The courts also ruled that the station's assets be frozen.

“In two days, I am sure all the procedures by the prosecutors and the courts will be finalised and on Wednesday [December 5] Imedi [technical] staff will be able to enter the station to prepare for the resumption of broadcasting as soon as possible,” she said.

Imedi was shut down late on November 7 after police raided the television station’s premises in a suburb of Tbilisi. Imedi management has claimed that equipment was smashed during the raid; the authorities have denied the allegation. Imedi management has also said that they couldn't say when it would be technically feasible to resume broadcasting, as they hadn't been allowed into the studio to determine the extent of damge to equipment.

Burjanadze also said that talks with News Corporation were still on-going, with the Georgian authorities waiting for the company’s response to conditions put forth by the government. She said they expected a response by Friday, December 7.

“We have set Friday as a deadline for the end of this process, but if News Corp. is ready to finish these procedures earlier than Friday, we would welcome that,” Burjanadze said.

News Corp. bought a share in Imedi TV and radio stations last year from business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili. Last month, Patarkatsishvili, after he had announced his intention to finance the opposition coalition, handed over management rights of his shares to News Corp. for a year. The Georgian authorities, however, have claimed that the deal was a fiction, with Patarkatsishvili continuing to manipulate the TV company’s editorial policy for his own political ends and to incite unrest in the country.

The Georgian authorities, in talks with News Corp., made it clear that they wanted the company to be the sole owner of the Imedi media holding.

“We want News Corp. to be the 100% shareholder of Imedi and we do not want the company to play some kind of unclear role in Imedi,” Lado Gurgenidze, the Georgian prime minister, said on November 28.

Burjanadze also said in her televised address on December 3 that a free media was essential for a democratic electoral campaign in Georgia.

“I ask that media outlets be as unbiased as possible; there shouldn't be appeals for unconstitutional actions or violence. The election campaign of every major candidate should be given equal coverage by media outlets,” Burjanadze said.

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