Imedi TV staff and management said the television station was “temporarily suspending” broadcasts in an attempt “to distance ourselves from dirty political games” and in protest against both its owner and the authorities.
The announcement follows allegations that Imedi owner and presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili was plotting a coup. Imedi TV has suspended broadcasts only two weeks after it was re-opened following a police raid on November 7.
In a live televised address made from the Imedi TV studio, Giorgi Targamadze, head of the television station’s political programs, said that Imedi would resume broadcasts after the station had changed hands.
“We are considering several options in order to allow the station to survive and the major [option on the table] involves transferring ownership to either the station’s staff or a respected group whose impartiality would be beyond doubt, and in this regard, we are considering our partner, News Corporation,” Targamadze said.
He said this was “quite a real possibility” as consultations were already underway both with Patarkatsishvili and News Corporation, which, as he said, “manages the television station.”
“But until the station’s legal status in respect of ownership is clarified, we are temporarily suspending broadcasts,” Targamadze said. “It does not mean shutting down the station; we are only temporarily suspending broadcasts.”
“By doing so we are distancing ourselves from dirty political games. This is our protest both against the authorities, which have spared no efforts to blackmail Imedi TV staff and against the misunderstanding which the participation of the television station’s owner [Patarkatsishvili] in upcoming elections has caused. Scandal surrounding [Patarkatsishvili] has put the television station staff in an extremely difficult situation.”
Targamadze’s comments were re-echoed by journalist Merab Metreveli, but in a much more forthright fashion.
Speaking on behalf of the station’s news journalists, Metreveli said: “It is unacceptable for us how an Interior Ministry official was trying to arrange the murder of Badri Patarkatsishvili with a Chechen warlord. But, those methods by which Badri Patarkatsishvili tried to come to power are also absolutely unacceptable for us. We want to state clearly that such methods are unacceptable for us.”
Earlier on December 26 six journalists from Imedi TV’s popular weekly program Droeba announced that they were quitting the station; some other journalists have also quietly quit the station.
Targamadze said that he hoped Imedi would resume broadcasts "after New Year." He didn’t, however, say when exactly.
Meanwhile, the Patarkatsishvili campaign office said in a statement that the suspension of broadcasts was as a result of “pressure by the authorities.”
Givi Targamadze, an influential lawmaker from the ruling party, however, said the decision was taken because “leading journalists decided to quit.”
Mamuka Katsitadze, a lawmaker from the opposition New Rights Party, said that “Imedi TV, a free media outlet, has become a victim of violent confrontation between political forces,” a reference to the authorities and Patarkatsishvili.
Meanwhile, Georgian PM Lado Gurgenidze said on December 26 that he would get in touch with News Corp., a co-owner of Imedi TV, to inform the company about the recent developments involving Patarkatsishvili.
He also said that it was up to News Corp. to decide its future plans in respect of Imedi media holding.
“But I do not rule out that in light of recent developments, News Corp. may be unwilling to continue [its involvement in Imedi TV]. Nothing is ruled out. This is no ordinary situation,” Gurgenidze said.