Influential media and financial tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, who owns the Imedi television station, said on March 29 that the Georgian authorities mounted pressure on his television station and other businesses after the Imedi TV broadcasted some details of the Sandro Girgvliani murder case, which resulted in a scandal involving top-level officials from the Ministry of Interior.
“It is no secret that Imedi television was the first one which reported the circumstances of Sandro Girgvliani’s murder. I am personally – and not journalists – responsible for this truth [reported by the TV on February 12]. This alone became a reason for the authorities’ dissatisfaction, which triggered the financial authorities to actively launch a probe into my businesses and my companies so to force me to mount pressure against journalists at Imedi TV and facilitate the creation of a favorable image of the authorities,” Badri Patarkatsishvili said.
He was speaking at an assembly of the Federation of Georgian Businessmen (FGB), an influential business lobby which is chaired by Patarkatsishvili himself.
Patarkatsishvili said that he will never yield to this pressure by the authorities.
“If I agree to this how can I look into your eyes? How can I look into the eyes of Sandro Girgvliani’s mother, his friends, into the eyes of the society? So I categorically refuse to deceive the Georgian people with the screens of my television station,” Patarkatsishvili said.
“This position taken by me has been described by the authorities as blackmail. They try to disseminate the myth that I am trying to mount pressure against the authorities through this television station because they aren't letting me buy everyone and everything. I want to declare that I am not a person with a disease to make money,” he added.
Recently, some influential parliamentarians from the ruling National Movement party, namely Giga Bokeria, have repeatedly accused Imedi television station of “biased coverage” of the recent political developments in the country.
“But this is your right and this is your editorial policy which you have chosen; but my right is to say that this coverage is very biased,” MP Giga Bokeria, who is regarded as one of the key decision makers among the authorities, said in a live political talk-show on Imedi television station on March 24.
Although there have been numerous accusations against the authorities of interfering in the independent televisions’ editorial policy, this statement by Badri Patarkatsishvili is the first case when the TV owner has publicly accused the authorities of mounting pressure on his TV station.